El Santuario de Chimayo Shrine
Chimayo, New Mexico
Sometime around 1810, a Chimayo friar was performing penances when he saw a light bursting from a hillside.
Digging, he found a crucifix, quickly dubbed the miraculous crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas. A local priest brought the crucifix to Santa Cruz, but three times it disappeared and was later found back in its hole. By the third time, everyone understood that El Senor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, and so a small chapel was built on the site. Then the miraculous healings began. These grew so numerous that the chapel had to be replaced by the larger, current Chimayo shrine -- an adobe mission -- in 1816.
El Santuario de Chimayo is now known (at least locally) as the "Lourdes of America." The crucifix still resides on the chapel alter, but for some reason its curative powers have been overshadowed by El Posito, the "sacred sand pit" from which it sprang, which gapes unevenly behind the main altar. Over 300,000 people visit this dustbin o' heaven every year.
The Prayer Room, which is located in the sacristy of the church (next to the pit), is filled with discarded crutches, braces, and scary, handmade shrines that look more voodoo than Catholic.
Also in proximity to the site is a restaurant, a burrito stand (Leona's de Chimayo), and gift shop that sells everything from souvenir T-shirts to refrigerator magnets. But no miracle sand-in-a-bag -- at least not yet.
Update - October 2004: Another perspective on Chimayo from reader Danise Koppenhaver: "I don't know about any other miracles but I do know that my daughter (on her 15th birthday) was diagnosed with a rare cancer and we were told she had approximately three months to live. She had over 21 sites in her bones with tumors. She remembered a school trip made two years prior to this church in Chimayo and asked if we could take her. We left her back brace, and a picture. We took the dirt home and weeks later she woke in the middle of the night with pain in her right tibia. Not wanting to walk on it, she took her saliva and mixed it with the dirt on her leg. The next scans showed that this particular tumor (lesion) was gone and the doctor could not explain it. He said even if a tumor is gone, it takes years for it not to show up on a scan. We were in shock. That was 11 years ago and she is a happy and healthy young lady, married, a cellist in the Philharmonic, and healthy.
"Believe it or not, a miracle has occurred with this sand --and maybe many more. but we don't want to appear to be one of the TV show evangelists. We choose only to believe and to cherish this gift God has given us."
June 2004: Sacred dirt imperiled? The Shrine is in dire need of a new septic tank system. Maybe you can help with a few dollars.
March 1997: Lola writes: "Having visited this site, made the walk from Santa Fe during holy week and prayed prior to a very serious surgery, (in which I was told by doctors that I would be retired on disability, best possible outcome)...well, I am healed, and the doctors can not technologically explain why...Let me just say, that this is a very holy place in New Mexico, and it may seem voodoo-ish to you...trust me, it's not. I have left my rosary beads there, and photos of ill family members, who have been life sustaining, against doctors' diagnoses.
"I can not logically explain what is going on at El Santuario, but our Lord is there, and he listens."