Nearly 10 years ago, when I came to El Santuario Chimayo on pilgrimage, it was undergoing major restoration, inside and out. When I returned this past spring, I was impressed with sweet smelling, flowering trees lining spacious courtyards. Restored signage clearly indicates Mass times and Historic information.
Original window gratings and adobe bricks are left exposed in areas, to show the original building style.
A walk through the visitor’s center tells the story of how the Santuario de Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas came to be, the story of the penitente brotherhood and the early church in New Mexico. I reflect upon how much of that early spirituality still pervades the local and surrounding areas, even into Southern Colorado.
Today we are just in time for Mass.Father Casimiro Roca who has spent so much of his life devoted to the preservation of the Santuario is there with us. He now walks across the uneven flagstones with the assistance of a cane and a caregiver.
Outside, cattle graze in the valley below. Their gentle lowing makes me homesick for my little ranch. But I have given up my livestock for this life on the road. I smile at sweet memories and new adventures. From the upper courtyard, I can see the amphitheater below, in front of the shrine to Our Lady. The Stations of the Cross still meander along the river bank.
Today we are more inclined to check out the surrounding area. Tamales and hot drinks are sounding good, but alas, Leona’s concession stand is closed today. We continue up the road to see if we can patronize some of the local businesses that thrive during the tourist season. Maybe we’ll get some chile powder made from the famous New Mexico chiles, or blue atole – blue cornmeal which iscooked into a delicious cereal or drink.