by Jerry Skrzynear
Do you believe in miracles? El Santuario de Chimayo Shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico either confirms or challenges your beliefs.
It started out as a beam of light seen bursting out of the side of a hill in 1810 being seen by a Chimayo friar doing penances. When he dug into the hill he found a crucifix, and dubbed it the crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas. Another local priest took the crucifix to Santa Cruz which is a little south of Chimayo. The crucifix disappeared and it was found back in its hole. Twice more the same thing occurred but by the third time someone must have figured out that it wanted to remain in Chimayo.
The fact of the crucifix returning to its place three times on its own qualified as a miracle in itself and a small chapel was built at the site to celebrate this event. But then the crucifix was found to have curative powers, and it wasn’t long before miraculous healings began. These healings and the visitors grew so numerous that the chapel had to be replaced by a larger adobe mission, the current Chimayo Shrine.
It wasn’t long before another miracle eclipsed the crucifix. It was found that the sand pit from which the crucifix sprang also had healing powers. These two features of El Santuario draw over 300,000 people each year.
The Prayer Room, which is in the sacristy of the church, is filled with the discarded crutches, braces, and canes attesting to those who have been cured of their afflictions, and are typical of what is to be seen in Lourdes, France.
The sand pit contains trowels so that a person can help himself to the sand. Legend has it that this sand cannot be depleted no matter how many people help themselves to it.
The gift shop at the site does sell glass vials to put the sand into, or you can bring your own container. There is no charge for the sand.
The Chimayo Shrine is surrounded by gift shops, restaurants, and vendors selling everything from Santos to tortillas. If you’re lucky you can find a parking spot in the chapel lot, otherwise you may find that you have to park along the roadside and walk.
This is the place to come to challenge or confirm your belief in miracles. But can one really believe in a crucifix that always came back, or sand that never gets depleted?
No matter what you think, it’s worth the trip.
(See for yourself. Go through Ft Garland and Taos and turn left (N.M. 76) at the McDonalds in Espanola Or go to Santa Fe on I-25, take exit 282 and head north on U.S. 285-84 to Espanola.)