Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief


El Santuario de Chimayo receives almost 300,000 visitors a year and has been called “no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.”

During holy week alone, 30,000 people make the pilgrimage… many walk from Albuquerque; 90 miles away.

We chose to drive from Taos but that didn’t make the journey any less exciting.

We started out journey at 3:30 giving us two hours before our dinner reservations.

But we got lost…..

quite lost.

I think it might be a requirement that any place worthy of a pilgrimage must be out of the way, difficult to find and on several curvy mountain roads leaving one quite green and slightly nauseated upon arrival.

It was a beautiful drive…..I know this because I was very focused on the horizon in order to prevent a pre-pilgrimage bout of car sickness.

At 5:30 we were still in car. We were on the right road but stuck in construction traffic.

Our dinner reservations were at 5:30 and the sanctuary closed at 6:00.

I was cranky, nauseous and my mother was driving.

“Forget it,” I said. “We don’t need to go to the church. Let’s just go to dinner. I need a margarita.”

“You need to go to the church. We need holy dirt.”

My mother is not Catholic. My mother is Lutheran…..and not a very good one at that. BUT my mother is a very spiritual person and the Chimayo Sanctuary is a very spiritual place and the dirt at Chimayo is known for it’s healing, miraculous properties.

My mother is also very determined.

We bounced up the dirt road and into the sanctuary at 5:45. I ran up to the doors, stopped at the entrance and took a deep breath….we made it.

Inside are photos, prayers, crutches and pictures of those healed by the Chimayo earth. Candles lit the parameter. I picked up a candle for Samantha and sat down to say a prayer.

Odd, I don’t quite know what to pray for anymore.

And so I sat there….waiting for something inspirational to hit me….perhaps waiting for a miracle.

And then the lights went out.

Perhaps I should pray that I do not get locked in for the night.

Apparently El Santuario de Chimayo closes at 5:55, not 6:00.

I found Mom in the holy dirt room. Holy dirt room is an adobe room with a hole in the floor where you can scoop out the blessed dirt. The church replaces 30 tons of blessed dirt a year.

Some people eat the dirt. Some people rub themselves in it. Some people take it home and place it in their blessing bowl for good juju.

Mom was in the dark of the room, filling a baggie with holy dirt.

“Mom,” I said. “I think we have plenty.”

“You have friends who might need this.”

Why yes, yes we do.

We made it out of the dark of the room to find the front door locked from the outside. For as lovely as the sanctuary is, I really didn’t want to spend the night. Fortunately a very nice watchman let us out.

We joined the rest of our ladies for a much needed margarita.

5 thoughts on “Pilgrimage”

  1. What a beautiful post. I have always wanted to go there, to get some of that dirt for Sophie.Your mother, you, Samantha — what a chain of blessed females you are.


  2. You know…I wouldn't mind a pinch of that dirt if you have any left, just a pinch. We visted with a family today who lost their son almost two years ago. Today would have been his 8th birthday. Caroline told his mother that she was sure he and Samantha were playing right now. It made me cry, it made the mother cry. Samantha is right there on Caroline's mind. But to Caroline she is ALWAYS playing, finding another baby angel to laugh with. Today she is playing with a little boy named Max on his birthday.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s