Blog Template Theology of the Body: The Miracle at Loretto, and Other Cool Moments in Santa Fe

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Miracle at Loretto, and Other Cool Moments in Santa Fe

I am in Santa Fe for a very old and dear friend’s wedding; and I am pleased to report a generous mood of charity and, for the most part, ecumenical momentum between my devout PCA friends and their Roman Catholic environment. Could it be the Spirit’s working with the architecture? Read on…

Between pre-wedding jitters, the bride and I explored San Miguel, one of the oldest chapels in the United States. It was built in the early 1600’s by the Franciscans, dedicated to St. Michael in the hope for his help in driving out the demons of an unfamiliar culture, and houses the typical, colorful high altar piece found in all the Franciscan churches which sprung up throughout Mexico and the SW in the 16th century.

Note to self: Rome sent out lots and lots of evangelizing missionaries before the Reformed ever thought of getting their missiological act together, and praise the Lord for it- The Church’s original “evangelical” culture is to be found in mendicant communities of itinerant Catholic friars…

…But the main sight seen is the breathtaking, and frankly, chill-inducing famed miraculous staircase of the Loretto Chapel, where the wedding of my precious PCA friends took place. The stair is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The story goes that in the early 1800’s, a small band of religious sisters arrived in Santa Fe to establish a school for young women. Their meager funds did not afford the completion of the chapel which they had planned to attach to their school, such that they were left with a gorgeous sanctuary modeled on France’s St. Chapelle, but with no choir loft. Seeking to complete their sanctuary for God’s glory, the sisters engaged in nine days of prayer for divine intervention in their architecture.

Then on the eve of the ninth day, and unknown carpenter mysteriously appeared at the sisters’ door, bearing the meager carpenter’s tools of a hammer, a bucket, and a saw. He offered to construct the loft, with a staircase leading to it from the ground, without payment. He labored for months; and when his staircase was complete, the mysterious stranger disappeared.

That staircase took my breath away. The chapel was dedicated to St. Joseph the Carpenter from its initial construction. Whoever the mysterious carpenter was, he fashioned this masterpiece ascent without nails, pegs or any external support. The shape is that of the most exquisite double helix, like a strand of DNA, with a sense of mastery that even the 19th century Antonin Gaudi, who sought to replicate such natural forms to God’s glory in his Spanish architecture, in no way approaches. Apparently it is modern engineers and architects who have designated the structure as “miraculous” and inimitable; the groom of said wedding, who is an engineer, concurs. (You can look up the skeptic response here. So sad.)

Is this for real?!?!?!?

Note to self: Wow. May we all mark the miraculous in our modern age as well as did the good sisters of Loretto (and speaking of, praise God for the Loretto miracle of Oliver and Summer Jeromin too- the now Mrs. Jeromin was always teaching me to believe in miracles.