What is a palanca letter and how do you write one?

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Palanca is the spanish word for lever or influence. A palanca letter is written to lift up, support, and encourage a friend or family member. Usually given while on a religious retreat or mission, palanca letters can also be sent to someone in prison. Whoever the recipient, they are incredibly emotional and uplifting for both the recipient and writer. Palanca letters are not terribly lengthy and are always spiritually uplifting.

Palanca letters are written by one person to another and the writer does not always know the recipient. You would never write a palanca letter to a group, even if they are on the same retreat. Your palanca letter can be addressed to the individual by name or it could be addressed according to the specific event. If you are writing a palanca letter to a fellow parishioner who is on a retreat, you can address your letter “Dear Christian Brother”. The writer never signs his full name, nor does he/she give an address or way of contact.

Why write a Palanca letter

  • Epress the effort, service, prayer, concern, and care shown by the recipient
  • Tell how the recipient brought love and joy to you, his/her family, friends, and others
  • Offer encouragement and guidance
  • Spiritual uplift with reassurances of God’s love
  • Include appropriate words of wisdom

Palanca letters can be written to anyone in need of encouragement or spiritual lifting. A parishioner on a religious retreat could receive a palanca from fellow parishioners offering prayers and encouragement for a blessed journey. You could write a palanca to someone in prison as a way of lifting them up in the spirit of the Lord. Most letters include reassurances of God’s love and offers of prayers from the writer. Generally religious, a palanca is spiritual in nature.

Many recipients hold onto their palanca letters forever, referring back to them in times of discouragement or anxiety. Even though you are writing to a person today supporting your recipient’s current journey, your words may be as important or even more so at future points in their life. While writing the letter, you should keep in mind how impactful and helpful your words can be to someone at a low point in their life.

How to write a palanca

  • Write recipient’ name
  • Include a salutation, which could be “Dear Christian Brother”
  • Write why the recipient is valuable and deserves your support
  • Explain how he/she exhibits goodness
  • Offer a gift of prayer or saying a rosary
  • Sign only your first name, never include an address or way to contact you

A palanca letter can include a small, inexpensive gift. It is not a requirement to include a gift, however you could include a bible verse bookmark, or prayer card with your letter. An expensive gift would be inappropriate to include in your letter. More appropriate gifts would be to pray or say a rosary for the recipient or make a sacrifice in their honor, like giving up sweets or read a particular bible verse.

Don’t forget These in Your Palanca Letter

  • Your letter should be short in length
  • You can include a scripture in your letter
  • You could give the recipient a small gift like bible verse bookmark
  • ONLY address your letter to one recipient
  • Do NOT include your last name, phone number, or address
  • You do not have to know your recipient
  • A palanca is a blessing to both the recipient and the sender
  • Many people hold onto palanca letters for years

Your goal in sending a palanca letter is to remind the recipient that God’s love for him/her is so great, a stranger has been moved to express that to him/her. You want to comfort and lift the spirits of the recipient. Life’s journey can be scary, and simple efforts like an encouraging letter from anyone, can have an enormous, positive effect on someone’s life.

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