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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.

 

Miraculous Stairs built by St Joseph

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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.

 


  

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DAILY QUOTE for November 13, 2018

Men do not fear a powerful hostile army as the powers of hel...

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November 13

 

Men do not fear a powerful hostile army
as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.

St. Bonaventure


T-shirts — the new billboard for BLASPHEMY?

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

“No, Monsignor, not that. The Pope sent me here, and here...

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St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Born on July 15, 1850 into a family of Italian farmers near Lombardi, Frances was the youngest of thirteen children. Her parents, Augustine and Stella Cabrini, died in 1870 when she was eighteen, and Frances lived with her sister, Rosa. Though she was always a devout child, Frances became truly close to God as she grew older, and she became renowned for her holiness.

Around the year 1874, Frances was invited by her parish priest to assist at the House of Providence, an orphanage where she remained for six years. In 1877, she and seven of her close friends took their first vows. That same year, the Bishop asked her to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. She and her seven followers organized themselves at an old Franciscan friary at Codogno, and there Frances wrote a rule for the sisters to follow. By 1887, the process for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to become officially recognized by the Church had begun, and houses were founded all over Italy.

In 1889, Pope Leo XIII asked Frances to travel to New York with six of her sisters to work among the Italian immigrants. When she arrived on March 31, she discovered the plan had fallen through: there was no building in which to teach, no orphanage and no home for the hard-traveled nuns to stay. Archbishop Corrigan apologized and suggested the nuns return to Italy, to which Frances replied, “No, Monsignor, not that. The Pope sent me here, and here I must stay,” and within a few weeks, she made progress with her mission, ultimately establishing schools, hospitals, and orphanages.

In 1892, Frances completed her most well-known achievement: the Columbus Hospital in New York. This success led to houses and schools being opened in Brazil, Chile and Europe. By 1907, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were officially recognized by the Catholic Church. Their small community had grown to over a thousand, and free schools, orphanages and convents had been established in eight countries.

Her body had been failing for six years, but Frances’s death came suddenly. She died in the convent in Chicago on December 22, 1917. She was canonized in 1946.

WEEKLY STORY

The Rosary Saves Soldiers in Kuwait

The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Vero...

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The Rosary Saves Soldiers in Kuwait

Veronica first learned of the Rosary as a small girl watching her father fingering the beads. At first she thought he was “playing” with the shiny strand, but later, realizing the full meaning of her father’s action, and under the promptings of Grace, she became a devotee of the Rosary as well.

The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Veronica, who felt the Blessed Mother’s protection in her life. But then, when her youngest son, Randy, was stationed in Kuwait during Desert Storm, the devotion was to play a crucial role.

While attending a convention of Catholic Women, and greatly concerned for her son’s safety, she confided to a presiding priest that Randy was serving overseas. The good priest then suggested she and others in the group join him in praying a Rosary for Randy’s safety and other pressing intentions. Something compelled Father and the ladies not only to say five decades, but to persevere for several hours.

Two weeks later Veronica received a letter from her son in which he described that he and fellow soldiers had been in a harrowing conflict. As the bullets whizzed by, he feared for his and his buddies’ lives and prayed with all his heart. Suddenly, a great calm came over him and he heard a voice, “from the sky” that assured him they would be alright.

Conferring dates and times, mother and son marvelled at finding that the time in which he and the others were in dire peril was the same day and hour Father, Veronica and her friends were persevering in reciting the Rosary.


Note: Based on a story from 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

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The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Veronica, who felt the Blessed Mother’s protection in her life.

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