El Santuário de Chimayó

"Santuário de Chimayó," oil on panel by Melwell Romancito, 8x10

Up in the mountains of Northern New Mexico is a little church where the idea of miraculous healing nd pilgrimage is still alive. The church receives up to 300,000 pilgrims who line up to scoop a handful of holy dirt from a little hole in the ground. It is like a well that dispenses dirt and miracles instead of water.

The miracles that have been effected by the holy dirt are not recognized by the Catholic Church but apparently it works well enough to have a supply of tons of it each year for the faithful who step up for a handful – they line up for a piece of heaven on earth.

The prayer room to the side of the church is filled with crutches and walking sticks of the healed and there are little shoes for Santo Niño. It is said his little foot prints were visible in the snow one night so the supplicants bring him shoes for his nighttime ramblings.

The light of a hundred holy candles flickers in the dim room, while outside, the pilgrims shuffle along and through the grounds all day long.

There is a lot to recount – why the dirt is special and why the church has two bells, the many healings and the nighttime visits by the holy infant.

I have been to this church in person twice. I even grabbed a handful of dirt. It is sitting in a box somewhere with some of my other religious artifacts and souvenirs of my Christianity. I have never made the pilgrimage during Easter Holy Week, though I understand the kind of piety a pilgrimage like that would require. I have friends who have done it and their fervor lights them up inside like a lantern.

If you ever have an opportunity to make the trip. Get yourself some holy dirt and come away with a small understanding of how mysticism is rendered in the high mountains of Northern New Mexico.