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Pilgrimage to the Angels

Standing in this beautiful chapel, now a museum, you stare in awe at a staircase so beautiful, so magical, that even to the untrained eye it encapsulates pure Holiness.

I have a friend who is walking the ancient 300-mile pilgrimage in Spain from the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. It will take him four to six weeks. But we don’t need to go to foreign countries to find our spiritual center.

Not long ago I undertook two pilgrimages in New Mexico. One was to the Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiquiu where the monks, working and eating in silence, welcome guests to a place so remote that you must drive 13 miles up a treacherous dirt road to reach this isolated monastery. There, the hospitable Benedictines provide the luxury of a small room (no electricity), the burning stars at night and the ringing silence of the high red cliffs.  

“Be still” goes the Biblical injunction, “and know that I am God.” But how in our frenetic lives can we find stillness?   

Seven times a day in a practice that goes back 1,500 years, to the sixth century A.D., the monks chant the Psalms, moving elegantly through all 150 Psalms, day by day, only to begin again. Everyone works in the monastery, brothers and guests. Everything is minimal, for it is in the emptiness that you are filled. It is in silence that we find God, the angels, creativity, intuition. It is in silence that we touch our own divinity, commune with angels when we will.  

In the second pilgrimage, weaving my way through busy, bustling, noisy, modern Santa Fe, I visited another favorite holy place, the Loretto Chapel with its miraculous and inexplicable St. Joseph’s Staircase. The stairway, in a tiny chapel based on the beautiful St. Chapelle in Paris, stands twenty feet tall and makes two complete 360-degree turns, without a center support. It rests solely on its base and its fragile attachment to the choir loft above. The construction confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height.

Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed using only square wooden pegs with neither glue nor nails. But the tale of its construction is as miraculous as the staircase itself.

When the chapel was completed in 1878, it had only a ladder to the choir loft 22 feet above the chapel floor. The Sisters of Loretta prayed a novena to St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, for a workman; and on the ninth day, according to the tale, an itinerant carpenter appeared with a donkey and a set of tools looking for work. It took him six months working alone to build the staircase, after which he disappeared without adieus or waiting for his pay, leaving behind a structure that by all the laws of physics is impossible to build. No one knows who he was, and never was he seen again.  

Standing in this beautiful chapel, now a museum, you stare in awe at a staircase so beautiful, so magical, that even to the untrained eye it encapsulates pure Holiness. You think you hear the voice of angels in the presence of such work.

Download your free ebook Angel Sightings: 7 Inspirational Stories About Heavenly Angels and Everyday Angels on Earth.  

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