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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 July 4, 2020

Many people [in authority] oppose us, persecute us, and woul...

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July 4

Many people [in authority] oppose us, persecute us, and
would like even to destroy us, but
we must be patient.
As long as their commands are not against our conscience,
let us obey them, but when the case is otherwise,
let us uphold the rights of God and of the Church,
for those are superior to all earthly authority.

St. John Bosco


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Frassati beat the intruders off single-handedly, chasing the...

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Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Pier Giorgio was born on April 6, 1901 in Turin, Italy, of a prominent family. His father, an agnostic, owned the liberal newspaper, La Stampa, served in the Italian Senate and later became an ambassador to Germany.

Of a different frame of mind and stance of soul than that of his father, young Pier Giorgio was deeply spiritual. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary were the two devotions around which revolved his prayer life, a life he never hesitated to share with his friends.

While pursuing a mining engineering degree, he became involved in Catholic youth groups, the Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Action and was a Dominican Tertiary. He helped establish the paper Momento based on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum. In 1918, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and spent much of his time helping the poor by sharing with them his allowance and even the clothes off his back.

Pier Giorgio was strongly anti-communist and anti-fascist and never hid his political views. In a Church-organized demonstration in Rome he rescued their banner from the hands of the police and, holding it high, used the pole to ward off blows. Arrested with the demonstrators, he refused special treatment because of his father’s position, and was jailed along with his friends. On another occasion, when a group of fascists broke into his family home, he beat them off single-handedly, chasing them down the street.

The young man loved art and music, and often frequented the theater, the opera and museums.  One of his favorite sports was mountain climbing, and he often organized expeditions with his friends, never failing to lead them to Mass or in the Rosary.

Just before receiving his engineering degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, possibly caught from the sick he tended. After six days of terrible and intense suffering, the holy young man died on July 4, 1925.

His funeral was a triumph. His family was amazed as throngs of the poor and needy of the city lined the streets, many of whom in turn were surprised to realize that their “angel of mercy” was the heir to the influential Frassati family.

When on May 20, 1990 Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio, he called him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phon...

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Miraculous Recovery

I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phone, a worried look on her face.

“What is it, Mom?”

“It was your sister. She said one of the ambulance drivers for the medical office she works for is in a deep coma because of a gas leak in his trailer last night.”

“Wow… Will he recover soon?” I asked hopefully.

But as the weeks wore on, the young man failed to give any sign of life, and the doctors began to lose hope. The next time my mother asked after him, the decision had been made to disconnect life support.

Hearing of this decision, I felt a sudden rush of confidence: I remembered America Needs Fatima was launching a national drive to promote the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, a special devotional given to St. Catherine Labouré in an apparition of the Blessed Virgin in 1830. Coined to the exact specifications of Our Lady, so many blessings, graces and miracles have been granted to those who wear it, that it has consequently become known as the “Miraculous Medal.” 

“We need to get a Miraculous Medal to him!”  I told my mother. She enthusiastically agreed. My sister thought it a good idea, and asked a colleague of the sick man to deliver a medal to the hospital to be placed under his pillow (regulations forbade any metal on patients).

As we prayed, and shortly after the devotional was placed under his head, something incredible happened: the comatose began mumbling! The decision to disconnect life support was put on hold.

A few weeks later, the young man was released from the hospital and soon returned to work. He warmly thanked my sister for sending him the devotional and confided in her that he believed the Miraculous Medal saved his life.

By Andrea F. Phillips

 

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I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phone, a worried look on her face. 

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