Mother Mary’s Garden

mother marys garden

An invitation

to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.

mmg rock and flowers

Mother Mary’s Garden

is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.

statue mother mary

I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.

ceremonial firepit

Pathways

radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.

labyrinth

Walking the labyrinths

and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.

Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.

Plan your pilgrimage:

http://www.mothermarysgarden.org/visit.html

 

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La Santisima Trinidad, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

la santisima trinidad, arroyo seco, nm

Blanketed in the first snow of the season, La Santisima Trinidad radiates hope to the surrounding community of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Built in 1834, the historic church stands as a monument to the families who originally settled the area. That the Catholic faith thrived during a period when there were very few priests available to serve the faithful in the rural southwest, is hope to us in these uncertain political times here in the United States.

cupola, la santisima trinidad, nm

The ancient brotherhood of the penitentes is primarily responsible for nurturing the faith during this period, though their methods came under scrutiny by church authorities. Nevertheless, despite the severity of some of their practices, there continue to be many Catholics in the mountains and plains of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

graveyard, la santisima trinidad, nm          cemetary, la santisima trinidad, nm

On the day we visited La Santisima Trinidad, we found the church was locked. No one came forth to open it, so we explored. We enjoyed wandering the churchyard and examining the grave markers. They fill the area around the church. The building has obviously been lovingly restored. Learn more about that at the following link for inside pics. Several well-placed benches hint at a pleasant garden in warmer seasons.

graveyard benck, la santisima trinidad, nm

Click here to see some lovely pictures of the inside of La Santisima Trinidad:

http://altbuildblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/inside-la-santisima-trinidad-church-in.html

Once the snow flies and cabin fever sets in, a day trip towards Taos, New Mexico is always fun. Just 80 miles from Santa Fe, the Arroyo Seco area is full of historic sites, alternative housing, and breathtaking scenery. The town of Arroyo Seco, just 7 miles from Taos, hosts a number of boutiques and several eating establishments. Plenty of activity to satisfy the casual tourist despite inclement weather.

la santisima trinidad nm sign          historic church, la santisima trinidad, nm

Call to verify Mass and Confessions at the historic church and its missions, listed here: http://www.visitseco.com/arroyo_seco_catholic_church.php

 

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The Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Amid our walking tour of downtown Santa Fe, we detoured to take in Loretto Chapel. The last time we were here, I foolishly left my camera in the car. This time, I made sure I had it.
 
Loretto Chapel is famous for its circular stairway which is believed by many to have been constructed by St. Joseph, himself. Regardless of the validity of the claim, there is no disputing that the stairway is a marvel, not only for its time, but even now.
 
According to legend, the architect and builder of the chapel both overlooked the access to the choir loft until the chapel was nearly complete. None of the options to correct this were acceptable to the nuns who had commissioned the chapel, so they began a novena to St. Joseph, asking for a solution to this problem.
 
On the final day of the novena, a mysterious stranger appeared out of the desert and built the beautiful staircase, then disappeared without even collecting his pay.
 
 
The 1998 movie, “The Staircase”, starring Barbara Hershey and William L. Peterson offers an entertaining version of this legend and is available through the chapel gift shop, as well as other retailers.

 

 
The Miraculous Staircase, now over 130 years old, has been closed off for many years. The wear and tear of so many tourists ascending and descending its steps would surely destroy it if it wasn’t.
 
Fanciful windmills grace the gardens of the chapel, while the sandstone and volcanic rock of its construction allow the beautiful stained glass windows to stand out. The interior of the chapel is simple and serene. Although the Blessed Sacrament is no longer housed here, it retains an atmosphere of holiness. Voices are hushed and photographers are almost stealthy.
Sitting still in the quiet of the chapel, I relax and breathe in the prayers of those holy women who, less than 50 years ago, still knelt here, received the sacraments and instructed the daughters of Santa Fe in the joy of the Catholic faith. I wonder what it would have been like to be privileged to climb that staircase and sing in the choir. I believe, whoever he was, the hand of God worked through the hands of the man who built the Staircase.
 
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Santo Nino de Atocha, Chimayo, New Mexico

 

On the same road trip to El Santuario, Chimayo, we discovered another chapel I hadn’t seen before. Just a few hundred yards from El Santuario is the Chapel to Santo Nino de Atocha. According to legend, when loved ones were imprisoned, the Christ child would come and take food and water to them. When the families saw the worn out shoes on the statue of little Jesus, they would replace them with new ones, which would soon become worn out as well, as Santo Nino continued to bring provisions to their imprisoned loved ones.

 

 

Santo Nino de Atocha Chapel is dedicated to children. Its whimsical décor is reminiscent of childhood, with carved trees, birds, flowers and fanciful sculptures. A nearby shrine holds hundreds of pairs of tiny shoes, thank you tokens for miracles received. A Milagros chapel inside the shrine holds hundreds of other tiny gifts, left in gratitude for healings received.

 

 

During WWII, many National Guardsmen from this area of New Mexico died. Survivors attributed their lives to the intercession of Santo Nino de Atocha. Devotion to Jesus as Santo Nino had been encouraged by Severiano Medina, who built the chapel near El Santuario, in gratitude for healing from a severe illness. 

 

 

 

Today, the chapel is fully restored and a delightful dessert to the serious meal of El Santuario de Chimayo. One does not have to walk very far from either one for some distinctive New Mexico chile.

 


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El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico


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 is  cooked into a delicious cereal or drink.

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