Head-First into the Holy Ground

We just got a letter from Sandy in California, who via some unexpected path, found us and read The Hole World, by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet, one of the outtakes from the first eponymous Killing the Buddha book, Heretic’s Bible. And way back when, Jeff also wrote the piece I Ate Dirt. She writes:

Amazing, how I stumbled upon your site, somehow, and, then to find an article about the dirt at Chimayo! I am a recovering Catholic that had never heard of the famous Sanctuario de Chimayo! Couple years ago I told a Jewish friend of mine that I was planning a visit to New Mexico. She excitedly told me I MUST go get some healing dirt from Chimayo. She gushed on about how she got some of the dirt and has it in her nightstand to this day! What’s Chimayo, I asked? She said an amazing place she visited years ago. I said, you’re Jewish? How does that fit? I dunno she said, but it’s a very special place. I was puzzled, and months later, when I visited, my friend and I went on a little pilgrimage to “get some holy dirt.” Oddly, we got more than that…we were moved to tears. I don’t know why. We visited other churches in the area…I don’t know why. Odd.

Next year I went back again, took another friend. We had heard of the famous little priest, Father Roca. This time I saw him in his office at the Sanctuary. How could I not meet this Catholic celebrity of a man? His head was bent over reading at his desk. I knocked on his door – he looked up and smiled and came to talk with us. I am only 5’2″ and I was taller than him. Where were we from, he asked? We talked for a long while, and people would come up and ask him to bless their rosaries, or themselves. He, always smiling, graciously answered all my unending questions, he shared his life, his love of his people in Chimayo, and smoothly dispensing blessings and greetings to so many who came and asked for a quick blessing or to say hello, as we were talking. He said he’s old now, and ready to “go home and meet his God” and “wants to be buried head first on the grounds of the sanctuario.” He was smiling, and serious. I was enchanted, or maybe I felt holy, standing in the presence of this little holy man.

There is something special about this place. The pentitentes, the stories, the reverence, the beauty. And, it may sound crazy, but I’ve had thoughts of moving there. That’s how special this place is to me. How crazy is that?

Thanks for writing, Sandy. Your name is…perfect.