Life of the sisters

THE INFANCY STAGE OF THE LARRAINZAR SISTERS:

María Enriqueta, was 3 years old when her sister was born Maria Ernestina, the next day, she was baptized in the fount of the Palace Ruspoli, by that time her family lived in Rome, Italy since her father had served as an ambassador to the Holy See and had a mission to carry, a Concordat between the Holy See and the Mexican Nation, a role that he could not make it before the signing of the Concordat with the Conservative Party to which he belonged, was replaced by the Liberal party. He and the family had to leave Rome.
The Holy See made him the subject of great distinction. In the farewell audience granted by Pope Pius IX, Maria Ernestina had just 10 months old, is taken in the arms of His Holiness and begs for her in a special way, the blessings of heaven. This remained as a mark for the family and she was always reminded of it later at home saying "You have to be good because from since your birth you were consecrated by the blessed hands of the Vicar of Jesus Christ." As they left Rome for Mexico they took along with them a young lady named Fermina highly recommended and virtuous who was responsible for the formation of the two girls. Now living in Mexico their mother would carry them to the temple daily. Since she heard that the Virgin Mary was consecrated to God at the age of three, she wanted to imitate her. These were her words: “Not understanding what I was doing, I said to God,” “as the Virgin Mary was devoted to you at this age, I also have to do the same like her, so I consecrate myself to your service like her."
The Liberal Party which was in power decreed the secularization of the Religious. Fermina, (our house maid) carried us to see the Nuns of Saint Teresa marching out of the convent. Maria Ernestina, thus expresses this difficult time through which the Religious experienced: "Seeing them wrapped in black veils, clutching a crucifix in the arms and hearing their grieves and tears falling down their cheeks, we were so impressed that from that moment we never stopped of thinking about them and all our plays were in imitation of the nuns, with dolls we built up a convent, arranging little altars, ornaments, religious sermons and similar games were all our hopes and charm". The government changed so; the Conservative Party took over. Our dear father was a Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical having this advantage the nuns returned to their convents without further delay. Once again our faithful Fermina accompanied us to see the nuns returning back. We could not resist the attraction we had for them and we stated to the superior our desires. Although my sister, Enriqueta was eight years old and I was five they put us on formal test and after few months of testing we were recognized and admitted as suitors in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa. We were so happy and from this day we dared to begin a new life. All what pleased us was to visit the convent instead of going for a walk and play in the garden with the other girls. We would go to the monastery and spent long hours talking with the nuns climbing and standing on the chairs in order to reach them. Besides the rules which the superior was giving to us, in addition she also gave us small wooden crosses to embrace when sleeping as the nuns were doing. She also gave us sack cloth so that on Friday we could put them on as a way of in practicing mortification and penance. With a lot of enthusiasm we practiced what we were feeling in our innocence, we already imagined ourselves being Religious Sisters and we were feeling that all what belonged to the world was horror to us, so much so that when our parents took us for a drive, we cried and we begged them that they could leave us in the house. 

By this time my sister and I we always dreaming in the convent, since my sister was older than me, she intended to try my vocation. She often locked me in a closet or in the big box where we had our toys´ house and covering it with a cloth left me there for a long time so that I could feel what cloistered life was. Fermina could sense my absence and then she could rescue me out. Other times my sister made me to eat bitter herbs, give me coffee without sugar or put for me too much salt in my food to see if I liked mortification. Since I liked to be faithful to my calling, I did all this with good taste. 

Our parents casually laughed at us, but since we were little children they let us go free with our inclinations. Every night we played as if we were in the convent: I was the superior and Henrietta was presenting the community, trying to change her voice more than 20 times and kept me awake until "all the nuns could give me a good night" In this atmosphere of piety and religion my years of childhood were spent."
Their basic and higher grade studies were conducted at home, they were never left alone, innocent and clever they grew. Their greatest liking was of visiting the nuns, offering them flowers according to each liturgical season. Ernestina had a prodigious memory, at the age of three she could read very well. Anecdote (something of impact): a certain day in the graveyard, one lady heard Ernestina reading clearly at this tender age. She cried out like a woman of the Gospel: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that fed you...! Her mother wept with tenderness and later shared that this was one of her greatest satisfactions.
She suffered a lot her sister Henrietta received the First Communion, she being smaller was denied that privilege, however, she begged, cried, ... and the parents seeing her so sad and heartbroken, consulted the priest to whom she had confessed. He offered to examine her to see if she knew what she wanted and he realized that she was well prepared and could receive the Sacrament.
Let us read her own words which she relates on the meaning of the gift of FIRST COMMUNION:"In the octave of Corpus Christi, I had the incomparable joy of welcoming the infant God to my heart, who is Love and Goodness, my pen is not able to record the immense joy that flooded my soul to know that I was allowed to make my First Communion. On the eve of the big day I could not sleep longing for the dawn. I can´t explain my feelings, It seemed as if I was dwelling in the sky, full of enthusiasm and joy. Shortly after this I received the sacrament of Confirmation. Having received these two sacraments, both Enriqueta and I were living united with God with our hearts inflamed in Divine Love of Jesus. We dedicated our childhood entirely to godliness without finding any taste in the worldly things, but very inclined to mortification and penance with the idea of imitating the lives of the Saints."
Their father retired from politics for a while and later on he was called by the Emperor Maximilian to play new positions in his public life, his mother also appeared in court as a Maid of Honor of the Empress Carlota, they lived a time of the luxury, showiness and lavishness, but the interest of these children was not on that kind of life. Their father (Manuel Larráinzar) was named: Diplomat Extraordinary and ambassador to represent Mexico in the Courts of Russia, Sweden and Denmark, on this occasion they left the country and lived in Europe for five years, although they were very small, they enjoyed this adventure, privileged to know all these countries. The Palace Court of Russia was beautiful so the family continued living the life of luxury and lavishness. María Enriqueta and Ernestina were suffering the withdrawal from Mexico the life style, people and customs which were very dear to them.
At this time, with nothing to stimulate them, it cooled the fervor except for some few stories about saints which Fermina could narrate; however, they could go for Mass on Sundays. Maria Ernestina defines this time of her life as "sad and unattractive", therefore, recorded in her heart that, "it is not wealth, or honors, or the comforts of life, which can meet the requirements of a human being, nor the aspirations of the soul”.
As the supremacy of Maximilian declined, so was of Manuel Larráinzar for having been serving the Empire, they confiscated all his property in Mexico, the entrance into the country was banned, everything doomed to exile and they were unable to return to Mexico. They remained for some time in Austria, Germany and Belgium and eventually they took up residence in Paris. The two children were very happy, being surrounded by distractions and attractions. In this place the family met Mr. Piñol, Archbishop of Guatemala who also suffered the Banishment Act like them. They soon formed a good relationship with him, which later served to drive the family to Guatemala the homeland of Manuela (Mrs Larráinzar), rom this point life begins to change and the Foundresses defined it as "a horrible transition" which was hard and painful to them. "From the animation and majesty of Paris we entered in the solitude of Guatemala" a city that could be viewed from 5th or 6thcategory in comparison to the former.

ADOLESCENCE AND YOUTH STAGE:

This same event helped them to know the hospitality and the beautiful feelings of Guatemalan society; they reigned in good faith, simplicity and sincerity, qualities that surpassed beautiful and attractive material enjoyments. The Foundresses were already entering into adolescence; their family in Guatemala was one of the high ranks. The environment of sweet talks, surrounded by flattery and attractive things, “enveloped them into social pleasures". ... "This was a dangerous stage, the devil tried to turn us away from God and remove from our hearts the holy purpose of consecration to Him”. Fermina realized that their interests were changing, she always reminded them of their pious practices as infants, which helped them to keep that flame burning but sometimes it turned off. It was by the mercy of God that some events helped them to rekindle the fire. The custom of visiting the sisters also helped. Maria Ernestina says, "Sometimes we could go the convent and peep through the fence in order to see the nuns. They were very affectionate, happy and peaceful. The desire to abandon the world and to join Religious Life was reawaken in our hearts”.
However, note that “the worldly pleasures were haunting us and delightful feelings of comfortable life but at the same time we were attracted to the practices of piety." Mother Adelaide, new superior of St Teresa convent, became a good means at that age, considered as "dangerous". we were not full precipitated by the world but triumphed with the grace in our hearts, by this time in which they were strongly attracted by God´s call. They decided to fulfill their potentiality in embracing the Religious state forever. They asked permission to enter the convent and were accepted unanimously. They requested authorization from the Bishop and he agreed in the condition that their parents would agree. They began a fight because their parents opposed the idea, they felt that they were still small to resume such a commitment, for this reason the parents had agreed to any proposal for marriage. Maria Ernestina expressed her feelings: “this was an awesome period of cruel suffering for us, feeling thwarted in our most cherished aspirations and desires." 

"This deeply saddened our lives, we lived entirely dominated by disgruntled largest gloom, sustaining only on the motherly advice of Mother Adelaide, who could encourage us saying, “God provided everything for the good of His creatures”."
At that time, one of the impediments to the realization of their vocation was the illness of their brother Alberto who was attacked mentally, unable to recover in Guatemala; they had to return to Mexico on the recommendation of doctors who thought that by returning back to his homeland it would help in the healing. This did not make any solution, the boy had to be admitted into a mental case hospital which was against and it made the whole family to suffer.
Since the fall of the Empire all property was confiscated, the family learnt to live modestly, adjusting to the new life and simple life without the luxury as they had always lived. At this time, their mom wanted them to learn to be good housekeepers; she left them to do the administration, taking turns one month each. This was also a stage where they put aside the desire to consecrate their lives to God because of the parent’s refusal and on the other hand they no longer had the influence of sister Adelaide. They were also frightened in Guatemala that Religious life was banned, by then the monasteries were empty, the sisters lived with their families or neighborhoods, it seemed crazy to keep thinking about this and as she says, "and we could never do it, we should erase this idea from our mind and strive to combat our vocation, erasing it forever from our souls.”
Maria Ernestina is very sincere in retelling the stages of her life, simply and humbly shares that there were times that the two dragged away from religious practices, describing it as follows: "we went slowly engulfing the pleasures of the world, which were intoxicating our heart, involved entirely in the worldly life: fashion, friends, reading novels, outings ... all this were our favorite occupations.” They were also famous in literature and their writings were tasteful and the first editions were soon exhausted. All what they presented was appreciated and attractive. This was flattering and vanity; it produced in us much joy and satisfaction. She comments: "a new life full of attractions completely conquered us, giving us the desire for pleasure and the image of God was almost eclipsed in our soul. We only kept few pious practices like attending the Eucharist and praying the rosary. Our house was the center of meetings and gatherings, Enriqueta and I had pleasant time preparing for these feasts”.                                                                                                                                                                  

In spite of all these adventurous moments, the two, Larráinzar sisters continued visiting nuns. They were finding the two types of life Religious life attractive (Active and Contemplative). They recognized that in the midst of "the attractions of the world, they felt empty and were longing for a life that would fulfill them" and often talked about “FOUNDING an institute that would embrace both kinds of life which are active and contemplative, we had powerful attractions within our heart, feeling touched by the grace and mercy of God to fight against many enemies around us. However, these were feelings but once again we would return to our feasts.
I recognized that my sisters, cousins and I were cheerful and called the attention of young man, but when it comes to me I liked to be proposed be in the company but I never decided to formalize a relationship. This was God´s Providence; she continues “her commentary: "as months pass by we were more involved into amusements, forgetting about God and the pious practices. In order to be the same as my friends I decided to correspond to any of my suitors: Joaquin, agreeing to marry only when he finished his training in two years. In my mind I completely the idea of consecrating me to God had erased. My mind was enveloped with worldly pleasures.
Maria Ernestina was convinced that the two year space of waiting for Joaquín would make the process of their engagement easy to undo, because deep down in her soul it remained printed the desire to devote his life to God. She was so much affected by the sudden death of one the young companion who had attended the colorful party which the two had prepared with tasty. Maria Enriqueta and Maria Ernestina thought that this feast was going to be a memorable day and a lot of fun but ultimately concluded in great tragedy, which left a bitter impression to see how easily we can move from life to death. This made an impact in her life and made her to make a turn her old resolutions. She concluded that she had not been created not for the world but to devote her life to God. The rest of the family discouraged her and told her that she had to forget about this childish illusions except Fermina who kept on encouraging her saying, "the only real happiness was found in God”
Maria Ernestina says how much she suffered at the time: "struggles that stirred my heart, it altered my health of cheerful, and I became withdrawn, moody and melancholy". By chance I learnt that there was a retreat and that would be a good chance to enlighten me in discerning my spiritual walk and this was going to take place in the Sanctuary of the Angels the director was going to be a Jesuit priest, a man "of great virtue and talent".
She narrates of her experience of the retreat: “I found myself in awe of a holy respect, separated from the world and in intimate communication with God for the provisions of my spirit, I was impressed by this saintly exercise and the sensations hitherto unknown to me came into the most delicate fibers of my heart. As I meditated I felt the thick darkness in which I was involved, dissipated, the band fell from my eyes and my whole being was transformed, living in me renewed completely and making me to feel certain happiness penetrating lightly to the unknown regions ... "It was hard for me to return to the" world "to my everyday life. I felt so good and considered it "this was salvation and the beginning of my conversion to return to God whom I had abandoned so criminally. “I decided to break my betrothal with Joaquin and “I abandoned myself completely in the hands of God, surrendering to Him my future so that He could make it whatever could divinely please Him." It was painful to break my promise with Joaquin, I didn´t want to be responsible of what he could come across, because I felt that if we married neither him or I would not achieve the desired happiness so…” All I thought I put in writing and sent to him. Joaquin tried all the means he could to change my mind: "prayers, tears, sending gifts and threats, everything came to nothing, and my decision was irrevocable. I had terrible struggles that tore up my heart and could shed tears. Finally, the power of love and tenderness and managed to change over the tension between us.”
The hard days, setbacks and sufferings that I lived after the retreat seemed sweet and I felt God's comfort, she states: "OH! I do not hesitate to say that it has been the happiest time of my life ". I become true to my holy purposes, my change was complete, no more parties and outings, all froze since I was the promoter of all these events. I withdrew from social life and inclined towards Religious practices helping in the church. I joined a Religious Associations, gave catechesis, and had the joy of receiving communion every day, getting from the Lord his sweet consolation and spiritual delights. “This new behavior strengthened my relationship with my cousins and my sister Enriqueta. The guidance of father Andrew G. Rivas S.J my spiritual director helped me to progress in my spiritual life.

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