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Saint Joseph the Worker - Feast May 1

Miraculous Staircase Header

 

The early history of the American Southwest is marked by sublime and truly heroic adventures of ardent souls seeking to expand the Kingdom of Christ. The intensity of their faith and efforts is made manifest in the convents, chapels, and schools they founded—and sometimes in miracles God worked on their behalf. One such miracle, a permanent one, took place in what is now the state of New Mexico.

 

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Miraculous Stairs built by St Joseph

The Sisters of Loretto and their chapel
After three grueling months of travel by river and rail from Kentucky, four religious of the congregation of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of Cross reached Santa Fe in 1853. There, at the request of the bishop of Sante Fe, John Baptiste Lamy, they opened a school for girls. This seed, sprouting and flourishing, exerted a great influence on the life and history of the city.

By 1873, to better accommodate their community, the sisters undertook construction of a new chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Light. With its lancet arches and stained glass windows, it was to be reminiscent of the luminous Gothic splendor that arose in medieval Europe under the inspiration of the same Catholic Faith that the nuns were fostering in New Mexico.

But as construction neared completion, the sisters faced a problem.

Relative to its length of 75 ft. and breath of the 25ft., the chapel was high at 85 ft, so a staircase to the choir-loft could not be built according to the customary patterns. One of the architects directing the project had died, and the original plans could not be found. Various carpenters and other building specialists consulted for a solution did not know what to propose.

There was even talk of pulling down the choir loft. But nuns are known for their dauntless faith and trusting recourse to heaven when natural means fail. They decided to make a novena to Saint Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth.


St Joseph StatueA carpenter knocks
No sooner was the novena completed than a man knocked at the convent door. He had heard of their predicament, he explained, and, being a carpenter, came to offer his help.

The sisters immediately accepted his offer.

With the few primitive tools, a saw, a hammer and a T-square, which he brought with him on his donkey, he set to work. Some sisters also remembered some tubs of water to soak the wood to make it pliable.

Laboring quietly and diligently, the unknown carpenter soon completed a beautiful spiral staircase. Made entirely of wood held together with wooden pegs, having neither nails nor screws, it ascends to the choir loft in two complete 360-degree turns with no central axis for support.

When he had finished the essential part of the staircase—everything except a handrail—the carpenter departed before the sisters could pay him, and never returned. The Mother Superior tried to locate him in the area, but looked and inquired in vain. No one knew him at all. She visited the local lumber yard to pay for the wood but they knew nothing of such an order. The grateful sisters, though disappointed that the carpenter had slipped away, were not surprised; had they not prayed to Saint Joseph?


Puzzled Experts
But architects, carpenters, and the like were certainly mystified. They came in increasing numbers to examine the technique that allowed such a tall staircase, with two complete turns, to stand with no central axis! They marveled further on hearing that the stairs were being regularly used by the sisters and pupils. According to the professionals, the spiral should have collapsed the minute the first person tried to climb it! And so the stairway continued to be used for a century.

The experts also admired the geometric perfection of its design, obtained solely with manual skill and rudimentary tools. They were no less perplexed at the wood used, unknown to them and the area.

One aspect of the staircase may have added to the musings of the specialists or may have been overlooked, but the sisters noticed and understood it completely. The staircase has 33 steps, significantly corresponding to the “perfect age” at which Our Lord expired on the cross for our redemption.


Silent Witness to this Day
In 1968, due in part to the crisis occasioned by progressivism, then already taking a serious toll on the Church’s religious communities, the Sisters of Loretto reduced their activities in Santa Fe. The School of Our Lady of Light closed its doors. Its building, sold three years later, was remodeled and opened as a hotel.

The chapel remains intact, but now a museum. Visitors, who must purchase tickets to enter the chapel, can listen to a recorded history as they contemplate its interior. While curiosity and analysis lead many to admiration and piety, skeptics are left in silent perplexity.

In 1984 Professor Mary J. Straw published a comprehensive study on the chapel entitled, Loretto, the Sisters, and their Santa Fe Chapel. And tourist guides still point to the chapel as the site of a miraculous staircase.

Whatever the present status of the chapel, the staircase stands in silent and admirable witness to the faith and efforts of those pioneering sisters who dedicated their lives to raising hearts and minds to God.

 


  

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 27, 2020

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face, love Him abov...

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May 27

 

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face,
love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence
that God is better than all creatures combined.
This love will never pass away.
Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but
“charity never falleth away.” I Cor. 13:8.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Augustine of Canterbury

His ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfill...

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St. Augustine of Canterbury

One day, the story goes, Gregory was walking through the Roman slave market when he noticed three fair, golden-haired boys. He asked their nationality and was told that they were Angles. "They are well named," said Gregory, "for they have angelic faces." He asked where they came from, and when told "De Ire," he exclaimed, "De ira (from wrath)—yes, verily, they shall be saved from God's wrath and called to the mercy of Christ. What is the name of the king of that country?" "Aella." "Then must Alleluia be sung in Aella's land."

This brief encounter in the Roman Forum between the monk Gregory – later Pope St. Gregory the Great – and the English youths planted in him such a desire to evangelize England that having secured the blessing of Pope Pelagius, he immediately set forth with several monk companions. This ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfilled by himself but by another.

Augustine was prior of a Benedictine monastery in the Eternal City when Pope St. Gregory the Great asked him and another thirty monks to take up the evangelization of England, a project close to the pontiff’s heart.

England had been Christianized before the seventh century, but the Saxon invasion had sent Anglo-Christians into hiding.

As Augustine and companions made their way to the isle, they heard so many stories of the cruelty of their future hosts, that by the time they reached France, they decided to turn back to Rome. But Pope Gregory who had heard differently, including the fact that King Ethelbert had married the Christian-French princess Bertha, respecting her religion, insisted on the mission being carried out.

On arriving in England, King Ethelbert in fact received the monks respectfully and allowed them to preach. In 597 the king accepted baptism, and although, unlike other kings of the time, he let his people free to choose, conversions began to happen.

Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and ruled wisely, stepping carefully around the prevalent pagan practices, Christianizing old temples, and keeping certain holidays as feasts of Christian saints.

The holy prelate had more success with the pagans then with the old Christians who had taken refuge in Cornwall and Wales. They had a strayed a little from the teachings of Rome, and though Augustine met with them many times trying to bring them back, they could not forgive their Saxon conquerors and chose bitterness and isolation instead.

St. Augustine was primate of England for only eight years, and died in May of 605.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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