New Mexico was, to me, one of those states on the southern border, somewhere between Texas and California. At least until a chance visit to Santa Fe. The air fare was low and the accomodations was free, so what the heck, why not. When I got there, I could not believe how beautiful the city was. And the Tex Mex or Mexican or whatever food that was there was incredible (except for the Chinese food, but even that may have improved by now). One of the greatest surprises in all my travels. Even now, I can see myself living in this town, semi arid, nestled in the mountains. The people are friendly. The arts are alive. And Santa Fe is just plain old beautiful.
And yet, the trip to New Mexico will be remembered for an even more unexpected interlude. A visit to the town of Chimayo. It is one of the few towns that dot the road from Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico. At least that’s what it was on the map. And so, before driving to Taos, I did a little research on the High Road to Taos. I read some mention of a church in a small town that people from all over the world visited, in search of miraculous cures to all sorts of afflictions. Curious, I decided to drop by and visit the church. At the very least, it is an old, historic church in the mountains. It was a good photographic opportunity.
I ran into a man who was friendly and was more than happy to tell me about this special place. His name has been forgotten now, but his story is still in my head. It turns out he is a four time cancer survivor. When he first got cancer, his chances for survival was not good. Guided by faith, he went to Chimayo, took some of the soil from a room in the church (it is freely given to all who visit), and took it home with him to Chicago. He applied the soil like a balm over the afflicted area. And miracle of miracles, or so he told me, his cancer was cured. His cancer would recur three more times, in different parts of his body. Each time, he went back to Chimayo, took some soil, and each time he was cured. I asked him if he was there seeking another cure. No, he said. He was just there to give thanks for the gifts that were given him. A life to be lead, a life that he was able to use for some good, and the grace to be healed of his afflictions.
I was dumbfounded. I always associated miracles with Fatima. Or Medjugorje. Or Lourdes. Chimayo is a beautiful but unassuming town nestled in the mountains, on a road between two major tourist destinations in New Mexico. And yet, it is this town that I always think of when I think of New Mexico. There is something there, a feeling there, that I can’t explain. It’s not something metaphysical. It is this feeling of peace and joy that emanates from this small church. People may visit Chimayo in hopes of a miraculous cure to some sort of physical ailment. To me, though, it gave something else.
When I entered the church in the middle of mass, it was mostly locals attending the mass. After the mass, someone told me something that has stayed with me forever. It was a message that was surprising and uplifting. Even now, I recall the events of those few minutes spent in that church in Chimayo, of that quiet conversation. Grace can come in many ways. You don’t have to ask. Somehow, it just comes to you.
There are special places that leave you with an inner peace. A feeling that stays with you for your entire life. To me, one of those places is this church in the New Mexico mountains, in the town of Chimayo. The window pictured above is in the room that contains the miraculous soil. I can only say that what I remember most from that visit is not the window, not the church, not the town, not the mountains. It was that quiet conversation, wholly unexpected. In that moment, I felt forever blessed.