Santa Fe Spirits

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October 13, 2021, Santa Fe- The serene and beautiful teenaged girl looked as if she could save humanity, at the same time looking as vulnerable as she must have felt, in that long-ago and far away place. The depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus, by an unnamed artist, is both the most heart-rending and the most hopeful likeness, of a woman of whom no one has any real idea, as to her actual appearance.

People back then were used to solving problems that we can only dimly imagine. As I walked the grounds of the Stations of the Cross Meditation Garden, adjacent to the Garden of the Saints, where the above statue is situated, the harrowing nature of Christ’s suffering and death-and the Great Being Himself, are depicted in a way I have seldom seen. Here is not the beauteous, blond-haired superman of legend, but the embodiment of pain and sorrow. Jesus appears to literally be crying out for the collective soul of humanity.

The pain and sorrow that Christ, His family and His disciples endured, would later be mirrored by the horrific sufferings brought to bear on Indigenous peoples, in the Americas and around the world, in His very Name, by those whose blinkered understanding of His Message was clouded by their own material greed and lust for power. Clergy, even the most pure-hearted, are only humans like the rest of us, and bring all their prior life experiences into their service to God.

I drew some comfort from reading the account of St. Francis of Assisi, a personal favourite among the Catholic saints, preaching to the birds.

“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”- The Little Flowers of St. Francis

https://www.learnreligions.com/saint-francis-assisi-sermon-to-birds-124321

So was capped a full-day in Santa Fe, my first visit here since 1994. The city was packed with tourists, as always, with most of them being older people like me, taking advantage of the cooler weather and relatively smaller crowds. I enjoyed French crepes and the comfort of meatloaf, as bookend meals, and added the state Capitol of New Mexico to the photo library. How simple, and understated, is this place, when placed alongside the grand, ostentatious state Capitols of various other states! Nonetheless, it serves New Mexico well.

The state and the city have made considerable progress in both real and symbolic treatment of Indigenous peoples, fully acknowledging the heinous conditions that led to the revolt, by both Puebloan and nomadic nations, against Spanish rule, in 1680. While that rebellion was eventually put down by a superior military force, the Spaniards never really regained an upper hand, but were forced by the Unseen Hand, to grow into a gradual coexistence with the peoples who surrounded them. This has created New Mexico’s unique culture-on that is indeed enchanting.

It is at once sorrowing and gratifying, that St. Kateri’s statue greets the visitor to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. She lived only to the age of 24, a victim of smallpox and of small minds. Kateri practiced self-abnegation and refused all attempts by family to wed her to a Mohawk warrior. She was devoted only to God, as she saw Him.

My heart, at the end of the day, was both humbled and gratified.

Souls Passed Through Him

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September 11, 2016, Yarnell- I read, in this morning’s paper, about a Port Authority policeman, his experiences on September 11, 2001 and his wrenching aftermath- a life no one should have to live.  He spoke of being knocked to the ground, after the second plane hit, the tower fell, and “souls passed through me.”

I believe the last part, having experienced my wife’s soul filling our bedroom, as she prepared to leave for the next life, 5 1/2 years ago.  I know much of the rest: The buildings were physically hit by two airplanes; implosion devices, already in place since the towers were repaired after 1993, were triggered and  brought the towers straight down; dozens of people jumped to their deaths, to avoid being immolated; there are over a thousand for whom there has never been any identification or accounting, as to their fates.

Fifteen years does not erase the horror anyone felt that day.  Most, like me, watched incredulously, on television, as the engineers’ devices went off, automatically, saving tens of thousands more people from dying- as would have happened, had the buildings EXPLODED outward.  Just as those who were alive during the attack on Pearl Harbor still have nightmares, on occasion; just as walking through Gettysburg, Auschwitz, Valley Forge in winter, can still give the average soul and eerie feeling, so I was off to a shaky start, just from reading a post by a friend who was in the first (1993) World Trade Center bombing.

My resolution was to go to this serene town, 25 miles southwest of Prescott, and itself the scene of one of our state’s worst nightmares, on June 30, 2013, when 19 wildland firefighters died in the Yarnell Hill Fire.  I went to St. Joseph’s Mission and Retreat, and walked up the Stations of the Cross trail, revisiting another of history’s greatest horrors- the Martyrdom of Jesus the Christ.  This place brings peace, because the love I feel for Christ, and for His Father, is  primally soothing.  As always, the walk brought me to a centered place, as I recited some Baha’i prayers, words which Jesus Himself would have given His followers, had they been ready to receive.

Terrible things will ever plague humanity, in a harsh world.  Nonetheless, the Sacred Teachers are with us, and having felt Their presence, along this replica of Via Dolorosa, I am able to return to Prescott, and later, to Chino Valley- observing the birthday of a good friend.