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.




Theotokos.  The very word conjures up a fiery, terrifying Galadriel-like image that exudes power.  Not the humble, Middle-Eastern peasant maiden, lying on the hard barn floor, next to a manger in which she has just lain her swaddled newborn, that she may have a few moments rest from the labors of childbirth.

Theotokos, Greek for “God-bearer”, is one of the titles we Catholics give to Jesus’ Mother.  The one we celebrate on January 1st.  Though my own image of Mary is far more human.  

There is a theory that Mary did not experience labor pains, but that Jesus issued forth from her womb painlessly, closing it back up behind Him, angels attending them, while Joseph was off doing something foster-fatherly.  I have a problem with that.  I have far more respect for a Mary who experienced all the physical, emotional and hormonal difficulties that we women do, yet, in her perfection, was able to master her responses and act in a holy fashion.  The Mary who stood in agony at the foot of the cross, dying inside as her son died physically.  The Mary who “pondered these things in her heart” for 3 days and was the first to rejoice in the resurrection.  The Mary whose only goal has ever been to lead us to her Son, not to garner worship and praise for herself.  This is the woman I can call to when I am suffering.  The woman whose life I can meditate on when I need direction in my own.  The queen whom I follow.

My Theotokos.

Happy New Year!!


Come Aside and Rest Awhile

I went to daily Mass with my parents the other day. They still go to the same church I grew up in, though the building has changed. The readings and homily were about the Sabbath. The Old Testament reading about how the Jews were to keep the Passover, and the Gospel about the Jewish leaders reprimanding Jesus’ apostles for pulling grain heads on the sabbath because they were hungry – this was considered “work”, not allowed on the sabbath. Father Ted’s teaching on that day’s Word addressed the preoccupation we tend to have these days with work. How we rarely take time to rest anymore. Frequently we don’t rest until illness or disability overtake us. We’re in a hurry to fulfill our Sunday “obligation” so we can get back to work. How even sometimes priests will rush through the Mass to get people out in a timely manner.
How often I have complained about this very thing when attending Masses in the “big city”. I’ve called it the Speed Mass. To me, there is a very mechanical feel to it, a seeming lack of reverence. I am so grateful that some of these same priests have since slowed the pace a bit. After all, those who come to daily Mass are really there by choice, and not because of “obligation”. Also addressed in that day’s homily was this sense of “obligation”. For years we were taught that Sunday Mass was a requirement, and that missing it was a mortal sin. Well, it still is, but see it through the teaching of Father Ted: rest is a natural part of the rhythm of life. Rest is necessary in order to keep working. We are given this great blessing of rest and spiritual refreshment time one day a week.
My thoughts on this – someone bigger than our boss says we need a day off once a week, to relax and refresh our minds, rest our bodies. Can we refrain just one day a week from unnecessary work and come together as community to give thanks and praise to our Creator? Love and support to one another? Not “obligation”, but a joy and pleasure. A treat. One day to clear our minds so that we can think better the rest of the week? One day to rest our bodies (or maybe to exercise our sedentary ones) so that we can work better the other six? Is it more important to make money in the short term by working (for money) on Sunday? Or is it better to make just that one day holy, to care for our bodies and minds and souls, for better health in the long run, and eternal life at the end of our mortal days?
I spent many years working on the Sabbath. I see now I had other options. It took more years than I will admit to here for me to come to the conclusion that I will keep Sunday holy. Since that time, Mass has not ever been an “obligation” for me. It has been joyfully anticipated and gladly celebrated. I jealously guard my Sunday rest time, and allow myself the indulgence of an afternoon spent reading or lying around. Of course, there does come the occasion when I have to round up goats that have escaped from their enclosure, or tend to a sick animal, family member or friend. But Jesus addresses that issue in later Gospel readings. Today He asks us to “come aside and rest awhile”.