El Santuario De Chimayo, the "Lourdes of America"
December 18, 2006 7:42pm CST
El Santuario de Chimayo (New Mexico) is known for its sacred, healing, holy dirt. I had the honor of writing the 2006-2007 Visitors' Guide for The Espanola Valley, and this poem plus the article following are included in that guide. A Visit to El Santuario de Chimayo, Northern New Mexico A sense of the sacred permeates these grounds where El Santo Niño de Atocha walks A sense of the truly holy infuses the wind in the air, the leaves in the wind & that holy wind breathes itself into You, the traveler here in search of a miracle A soft and single splash of water kisses your praying hands, then sparkles down into the healing, blesséd earth that gives beneath your resting knees and you realize you are in the middle of a shining, gentle rain Your heart and mind stretch heavenward and deep into your soul as you continue your prayer, kneeling, as you are, on this holy, sacred land Then a clean, clear drift of shimmering, silent snow brushes your face, your heart, your mind and soul with a singular grace and beauty And you gaze dreamily up in wonder, with strong and joyful tears of truth and comprehension baptizing your uplifted, enraptured face As you know, and as you feel throughout your entire being, that you are healed, forgiven, and ever, forever belovéd (c) 2006 El Santuario de Chimayo and the Sacred Earth Set among piñon pine, El Santuario de Chimayo is located in Northern New Mexico in a small town noted for its weavings, apples and red chile. It is believed by many to be one of the truly holy places in America. Long before the Spanish arrived, this part of New Mexico was the center for many points of pilgrimage and prayer. Called Tsimayo-pokwi by Native Americans, the entire valley was believed to be holy. El Santuario is famous for "holy dirt" -- dirt which is known to have brought about miraculous cures – witness the many crutches, braces, etc., left behind by those who have experienced such miracles. It is also famous for the "Crucifix of Señor de Los Esquipulas" carved from a wood unknown in NM, and for El Santo Niño de Atocha. There are documented testimonies that the extraordinary has occurred in this tiny town, dating as far back as the 1800’s and even earlier. Fr. Sebastian Alvarez wrote a letter to the Episcopal See of Durango, dated November l6, l8l3, stating that there were hosts of pilgrims coming from far and near seeking cures for their illnesses and afflictions. And as the news of ever-growing cures spread, more and more kept coming. The Crucifix of El Señor de Los Esquipulas According to one version of the legend of El Santuario, a farmer named Don Bernardo Abeita had a vision while working in his field one day that told him to dig beneath his plow where he would find earth with great healing powers. The farmer did as he was commanded and discovered a cross and pieces of cloth belonging to two long martyred priests. Thereupon the farmer built a rough adobe chapel to house the cross. The year was 1813. Another version of the legend, passed down from generation to generation, recalls that during Holy Week on the night of Good Friday, a Chimayo friar was performing penances when he saw a light bursting from a hillside near the Santa Cruz River. When he went there, he noticed that the shining light was coming from the ground and started to dig with his bare hands. Lo, he found a Crucifix, which was soon named the miraculous Crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas. He left it there and called the neighbors to come and venerate the precious finding. A group of men was sent to notify a local 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 in Santa Cruz, where he placed it reverently in an alcove on the main Altar. Then he closed the church for the evening. The next morning, the Crucifix was gone, only to be found in its original location in Chimayo. A second procession was organized and the Crucifix was returned to Santa Cruz, but once again it disappeared, When the same thing happened a third time, everyone understood that El Señor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, and so a small chapel was built on the site. Then the miraculous healings began. These grew so numerous that the chapel had to be replaced by the larger, current Chimayo Shrine -- an adobe mission -- in 1816. El Posito, the "sacred sand pit" where the miraculous Crucifix was found, gapes unevenly behind the main altar of the Santuario. It is to El Posito that the lame and the blind come, seeking miracles, The soil is believed to produce a mud that, when eaten or applied to the skin, has miraculous healing powers. The crippled, blind, and those afflicted with other diseases come to be cured when all other treatments have failed. El Santo Niño de Atocha WEAR OUT YOUR LITTLE SHOES TRAVELING AT NIGHT PERFORMING MIRACLES PATRON: Pilgrims, Prisoners, Poor Here also is where El Santo Niño de Atocha (The Holy Child of Atocha) lives, although He is sometimes called Santa Niño Perdido (The Lost Holy Child) because He is absent from the church at night. It is believed that Santo Niño travels throughout the country at night while performing miracles. Frequently, villagers and visitors place pairs of their loved ones’ tiny baby shoes at the feet of El Santo Niño as offerings to replace the pairs He wears out during his nightly travels. Many villagers believed that the Santo Niño image was found in the hole where the sacred earth is found. As the story has been passed down, a farmer and his daughter were plowing his fields with oxen, when suddenly the girl heard what she thought were church bells ringing beneath the ground. She beseeched her father to dig and retrieve them, which he did. He not only found the bells, but a wooden statue of Santo Niño de Atocha. The fame of El Santuario grew as its miraculous healing powers came to be attributed to the Infant Jesus as well as to Our Lord of Esquipulas. Devotion grew to such great proportions, that another church was built next to the Sanctuary in 1850, in honor of Santo Niño de Atocha. Both churches, open daily are filled with the many letters, pictures or retablos of those healed, and photos of those saved in serious car accidents. As you behold the crutches left, read the testimonies shared, catch the sweet fragrance of candles burning, you are filled with the awesome sense of the everlasting gratitude, faith and trust that fills the visitors who have been coming here for centuries. El Santuario has been a place of worship from the beginning - a place to pray, to thank, to ask, to meditate and to experience peace of mind as well as of body. Today, as many as 300,000 pilgrims visit the Shrine each year, some carrying crosses, some fulfilling promises, and all paying homage to their Savior. They come seeking peace, healing and miracles for themselves, their families and the world. (c) 2006