Writing a Palanca Letter


What is a palanca letter I asked myself as a woman from our congregation passed out a flyer asking parishioners to write one. Oh course, I turned to Google for assistance. Palanca is a spanish word that means lever, an instrument that helps lift something up. The palanca letter is a personal note to someone attending a spiritual retreat and as with many things in life, I was coincidentally being asked from two separate corners of my life to write these letters on the same weekend. One for a stranger, an inmate at a nearby prison and one to my aunt who lives in Texas.

I vaguely recall being asked to do something like this at church before. Whenever there are people receiving sacraments in the Catholic church (like Catechuments or students making their Confirmation), notes are solicited to support their journey and study of the sacrament. Sometimes it’s just jotting a line of support on a slip of paper.  It’s not something I ever recall doing.

This time, I took the flyer and brought it home with the intention of doing it. I put it on the fridge and yesterday I realized it was due this weekend. And then a few days ago my sister sent me a similar request from my uncle because my aunt was going on a retreat and the letters were meant to be a surprise. Honestly, I find writing the letters hard, especially one to a stranger. Even though I spend a lot of time with words, I trip myself up by wanting to find the perfect ones to say, and I’ll go through draft after draft and even then not be happy with it.

For the contents of a palanca letter, the directions were pretty clear. Write it to an individual. For a stranger the salutation might be Dear Friend in Christ. Tell them you are praying they have a good retreat and that you will do something in their honor the weekend of the retreat (say the rosary, give something up, attend an extra mass or do something nice for a stranger). Sounds pretty simple, right?

The letter to my aunt was easier. I have years worth of personal relationship to fall back on and she is a wonderful person, always so peaceful. But I still have the perfection complex to overcome and the writing of the letter takes a while to form.

I wish both individuals a wonderful retreat experience and I now have my own experience writing a palanca. Have you ever been asked to write a letter of support for someone else? How did it make you feel? For me, once I put away the need to do it perfectly, it was a pretty great thing.



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