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Gwen Dickerson

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The Loretto Chapel Museum
by Gwen Dickerson   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, May 01, 2005
Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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A visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico's Loretto Chapel Museum and its gift shop.


We sat in a quaint little place called, "The Tea House," enjoying caramel-pecan bread pudding and hot tea. The atmosphere was great. A profusion of candles and the crackling sound from the lit kiva (fireplace), accompanied by the soft melodic sounds of musicians voices and their guitars, provided a wonderful setting that was cozy, relaxed and extremely pleasant.

My daughter Sofiah and I, and a few of her friends, were enjoying ourselves that delightful Friday evening, and as I talked excitedly about the places that I had visited during my Santa Fe stay, Lindsey asked if I had been to The Loretto Chapel Museum? When I replied, "No," she turned to Richard, who was the museum's curator, and asked him to tell me about it.

Richard's demeanor was friendly and warm, and his brown eyes were soft and aglow, as he told me about the history of Santa Fe's Loretto Chapel. I suddenly remembered that I'd previously read about the chapel's mysterious and awe-inspiring staircase, and that I'd also watched a television program about its miraculous construction. I'd been fascinated and interested then too, just as I was that Friday night, as I listened to Richard. Perhaps because somewhere deep within me, I love the unexplained; the thought provoking things of mystery, and those of "so-called" magic and miracles.

In Richard, I had sensed a quality of inner peace and a gentleness that I had seldom encountered. His voice was soft and its tone and words were wonderfully expressive as he told us of an unexplained phenomenon that he had experienced; one that had made a profound impression upon him. Just hearing him tell of it, excited and impressed me also.

I turned to my daughter and enthusiastically exclaimed, "Gee! I wanna see it! I wanna go there! Can we? Will we have enough time to visit there tomorrow before my flight leaves?" She smiled and answered, "Hm, sure mom. I'll take you there first thing in the morning, but we'll have to hurry our visit."

The Loretto Chapel

It was my last day visiting in Sante Fe, an overcast and rainy morning, but I didn't mind, I was eager to visit the chapel museum and the gift shop. We circled around the block a few times but were unable to find a parking space, so my daughter decided to drop me off at the chapel entrance. She told me that she would keep circling a few blocks until she could find parking, then she would join me inside.

I entered the small chapel which was very crowded despite the weather outside. I had my camera with me and I took several pictures, squeezing amongst other visitors, positioning myself to photo this beautiful little chapel, its altar and its famous stairs that spiraled upward to the choir loft without any visible or explainable means of support.

There it stood magnificently, defying explanation, igniting inspiration, and fortifying my faith and belief in mysteries and miracles. The fascinating account of its mysterious construction and its mysterious lone builder, still puzzles scientist, architects and the faithful, even today! I clicked and clicked until all of my film was gone.

I would have loved to have spent some quiet time there, alone or at least almost alone, in order to pray or contemplate peacefully, and to absorb the energy of this lovely, little chapel. Perhaps, someday I shall.

The Loretto Gift Shop

I stepped outside the chapel door and moments later, entered the gift shop. Inside, near the entrance door, there was a stand which held a five gallon water container that had contained free, consecrated water, but alas, it was empty. I browsed around the shop and selected a tee shirt, post cards and some booklets. Then I wandered back near the front section of the shop, near the entrance, where a rack of assorted little bottles caught my eye. The gold lettering on them read, "Holy Water."

"Too bad they're out of water, but I'm gonna buy one anyway," I mumbled, as I selected a pretty little one that was a dollar and fifty cents. I wanted to get it for my daughter, Sofiah, who was still outside searching for a parking space. I knew she could easily have it filled it with blessed water, at a later date.

Yet, for some unknown reason, I went back to the empty five gallon water container. While standing there, staring at the empty container again, I finally got the idea that perhaps the store just might have another container that was full, so I asked a nearby salesperson.

"No, sorry, we're all out," she sang.

I stared back at the empty container, my hands full of my gift items, including the little bottle. "Pardon me," I heard myself say to one of the customers crowding into the entrance of the store, "Will you please help me? Can you tilt this five gallon container for me and help me fill this little bottle with holy water?" I managed to hold the little bottle under the spigot.

"It's empty", said the customer as she looked at the container, but after a pause, she began to tilt the container. "No, there's no more water in it" she announced. Never-the-less, within a few seconds, lo and behold, water flowed out of the spigot ... steadily ... until my little bottle was filled to the brim. Was I happy!

The customer and her friend were surprised and they tilted and shook the container to see if there was anymore water within, but no, it seemed that I had gotten the last drops.

I went to the check-out counter and presented my assortment of items to the cashier. When he picked up the little bottle, he shook it. "Where did you get water from?" he asked, puzzled, "We're out."

"You are now," I said, smiling. "I think I just received a "special" issue of blessed water, to be given to my daughter as a gift."

Armed with humility and amusement, I left the shop, where out front, in the entrance-way, out of the rain, I waited until my daughter's car approached. She had been circling the block in search of a parking space, which she had never found. I opened the door and began to climb in.

"Mom, I'm sorry but I couldn't find a......"

"Guess what?" I interrupted, grinning.

Copyright © 2005 by Gwen Dickerson
All rights reserved.

Web Site: Gwen's Site

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Reviewed by Daniel McTaggart
Gwen, I just happened to see the title of this article and had to read it. I was there in the Loretto Chapel myself just four years ago. My brother got married there and I was able to spend a few quiet moments in there. The smallness of the chapel is misleading of the vastness of its peace, don't you think?
Reviewed by Sage Sweetwater
A huge part of my novel LORAINE LEATHERBOW: THE HOUSE OF SPLEEN is set in New Mexico and I talk about the LORETTO CHAPEL. It was awesome to find out in research which I mention about the stairs in the chapel. Nature provided the carpenter of the "Miraculous Staircase." A mysterious carpenter built the serpentine stairway to the choir loft with no center or side supports. The stairway sparks fascination because the "wood" veneer under the stairs is really painted plaster and the timber of the spiral is unique, given its own name Loretto Spruce by scientists who couldn't match it with a known spruce. It is neat that you have visited. Thanks for this article!

Reviewed by m j hollingshead
nicely done
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
Thanks for sharing!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Steve Patterson
the story and it's descriptive writing both "damn good pardner".
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