Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chimayo

"One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek:
To dwell in the Lord's house all the days of my life,
To daze at the Lord's beauty, to visit His temple."
(Psalm 27:4)


Frankie and I were given a great gift over the Memorial Day holiday to travel to Taos and Chimayo New Mexico. Thank you Lia and Roberto! Frankie took some beautiful pictures. This one is especially amazing because of the stillness of the photograph. The day we were there, perhaps because of the holiday, there were hundreds of people here, there and everywhere around the Santuario. It is absolutely miraculous how this photo was taken without one tourist walking past. Now for Chimayo's extraordinary story. The Santuario is part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe or (Holy Faith). It is absolutely beautiful. The Chapel of Santo Nino is where the posito or little dirt hole can be found. Absolutely no photography is allowed in the inside of the Shrine or the Chapel. Unfortunate because both are amazing.


El Santuario (The Shrine) was built between l8l4 and l8l6. The "miraculous" crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas was found around l8l0. There is no written testimony concerning the apparition of Our Lord in the Chimayo area. What we have is tradition passed from one generation to another by the people of El Potrero. Here is one account of a "true" story as told by the storyteller.
One tradition recalls that during Holy Week on the night of Good Friday, Don Bernardo Abeyta, who was a member in good standing of the Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus el Nazareno (Penitentes) was performing the customary penances of the Society around the hills of El Potrero. Suddenly he saw a light springing from one of the slopes of the hills near the Santa Cruz River. Don Bernardo went to the spot and noticed that the shining light was coming from the ground. He started to dig with his bare hands, and there he found a Crucifix. He left it there and called the neighbors to come and venerate the precious finding. A group of men was sent to notify the priest, Fr. Sebastian Alvarez at Santa Cruz.



Upon hearing the extraordinary news, the priest and people set out for Chimayo. When they arrived at the place where the Crucifix was, Fr. Sebastian picked it up and carried it in a joyful procession back to the church. Once in the church, the Crucifix was placed in the niche of the main altar. The next morning, the Crucifix was gone, only to be found in its original location. A second procession was organized and the Crucifix was returned to Santa Cruz, but once again it disappeared, The same thing happened a third time. By then, everyone understood that El Senor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, and so a small chapel was built. This picture is of one of the many colorful gifts left behind by a grateful pilgrim. It is decorated by others as well who have hung milagros, flowers and crosses. This piece of art needs a beautiful name. How about: Mexican Resurrection?



El Santuario de Chimayo is now known as the "Lourdes of America." The crucifix still resides on the chapel alter, but for some reason its curative powers have been overshadowed by El Posito, the "sacred sand pit" from which it sprang, which gapes unevenly behind the main altar. Over 300,000 people visit this posito every year. Many, many people including this amazed traveler take a bit of this sacred dirt home. The hole never gets bigger. It remains the same, never changing like God's love for us.




The Prayer Room, which is located in the sacristy of the church (next to the pit), is filled with discarded crutches, braces, and handmade shrines that include photos of loved ones who have been healed of their illness. There are so many candles lit in this prayer room. There are petitions for healing. People have returned with their testimony or gift to be placed on this wall of gratitude. While I was there, I could actually see the priest offer Mass. We were that close to the alter behind a wall sheltering us from the rest of the church and the participants.


The Shrine is very simple but beautiful with huge retablos covering the three of the four walls. The simplicity of this beautiful place is a lesson itself in the power of humility and grace. On the left side of the Shrine where the Chapel to El Santo Nino is there is a window and I wanted a picture of this window because I saw birds had made a happy home inside. We were there on such a beautiful day. The end of May and everything was green and the sun danced on every flower and plant. It was such a blessing and a privilege to actually visit this holy place.


This is the shrine to St. Francis. He is my most favorite saint. It is a mosaic and it is just beautiful! Saint Francis is Francisco and Frankie's patron saint. I asked the twins to stand on each side of this beautiful work of art. Can you guess which twin is Francisco and which is Lorenzo. They really loved our time in Chimayo.

We told the boys, "This saint has the same name as one of you boys." " Really, what is his name?" they asked.
"This is San Francisco," we said.

These four year old already know their prayers. They also do weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for one hour each Friday evening. It is amazing to see little ones learn to adore Jesus and to be still and quiet in His presence for such a long period of time. Did you guess which one is Francisco? He is the one closest to his patron saint. He is on the left.

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