Good Friday: The Penance of Imperfect Creatures


As machines become more and more efficient and perfect,

so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man.”

*****Ernst Fischer


Sometimes we strive so hard for perfection

that we forget that imperfection is happiness.”

*****Karen Nave


Being human is one of the hardest jobs that many of us have ever had. The struggle between the good and bad, the dark and the light, the positive and the negative, at times can be overwhelming. Sometimes just a reminder of inescapable imperfection is enough to comfort the weary. Like with anything else in life, we need to do our best to walk a crisp line, and be the best people we can be right? In 1973, the Journal of Religion and Health (Vol. 12, No. 1) published a paper titled Saints and Sinners by Harry C. Meserve. In the paper, Meserve was “pondering the mystery of sanctity,” and he says that “the world’s moralists have tended to divide mankind between the saints and the sinners, ourselves and the enemy, the sane and the insane, the wise and the foolish; and these distinctions, sometimes descriptive, are usually inadequate.” Meserve goes on to say that “we come into the world neither good nor evil, but with a potential for both. We end up, unless we are true saints, as some what mixed beings, with, one hopes, the weight on the side of goodness.”

My uncle Rick Lujan has always walked to El Santuario de Chimayo with his lion cane. He made the cane out of a juniper branch, and it was the first carving he ever made. Today the cane is about five inches shorter because of the walks.

This week marked the annual Holy Week pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo, in Chimayo, New Mexico. People from all over the world, and from various religious backgrounds walk hundreds of miles to the sacred Catholic site to ask for forgiveness, and pray for blessings. Saints and sinners alike make the trip to pay homage, erase darkness, and inspire the light. “Three pueblos, long abandoned, have been located in the area and dated, the earliest being about 1100 A.D.” Tewa Indians recognized Chimayo “as a shrine,” and “a place of healing.” Local accounts note that “in 1706 the Chimayo Valley was a part of the San Juan Parish. Later, in 1751, it was administered by the Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz.” The Santuario de Chimayo was built in 1816 by Don Bernardo Abeyta, but a small chapel dated back to 1810. The site was dedicated to Our Lord of Esquipulas. There have long been “stories of the miracles performed through the healing earth beneath the shrine.”

My grandma Corine loved El Santuario de Chimayo when she was alive. This was a container of the holy earth she gave to me years ago. Her favorite was the saint who “wears old, worn shoes.” His name is Santo Nino or the Holy Child. There is likely no statistics to confirm the number of “sick” people who visit that saint. He continuously wears out his brand new shoes “from nightly trips giving aid to those in need.”

In 1996, the pilgrimage was called “a sacrifice,” and that is still true today. When I was young I walked countless times to the magical place with a well containing holy earth. The well was “the site of a holy apparition in the 1800s,” and “the soil where the apparition appeared is said to be holy and the source of miraculous healings.” Sinners and the “sick” need to be healed, thus droves of imperfect humans take containers, buy containers, and fill pockets with gritty holiness to ward off unwanted pains. In Saints and Sinners, Meserve said that there is “a division between good and evil; but the division, the conflict, is within each one of us.” Can miracles, faith, and a bit of sacred earth really cure the “sick?” Well according to Meserve, “the problem of the saint and the sinner within the same person is not unlike the problem of the healthy and the sick person within the same in individual. All of us, at one time or another, are sick. Yet elements of health exist in all of us, too, even when we are at our lowest ebb.” Apparently the answer is yes!

So why do so many make the Holy Week pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo? Why do they ask for forgiveness? Why do they pray for blessings? Why do they need to cure the sickness? Are they saints or are they sinners? Maybe the latter really is one in the same? The only real answer– put simply– imperfection should be accepted because unfortunately, humanness is hard.

The Saint Wears Old, Worn Shoes by Alice Bullock- Santa Fe New Mexican, Pasatiempo, December 7, 1969


~Native Mountain Villages– Santa Fe New Mexican, July, 16, 1951

~The Saint Wears Old, Worn Shoes by Alice Bullock- Santa Fe New Mexican, Pasatiempo, December 7, 1969

~Saints and Sinners by Harry C. Meserve- Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1973

~Obscure Oratorio Predates Famed El Santuario– Santa Fe New Mexican, Pasatiempo, February 21, 1985

~Faith Keeps Them Warm by Chris Roybal- Santa Fe New Mexican, April 5, 1996

Explore posts in the same categories: Articles, Authors, Body and Mind, Culture, Edification, Energy, Healing, Historical Facts, History, Legends, Maternal Line, Memories, New Mexico, Paternal Line, Quotes, Religion, Spiritual, Worthy Reads, Writers, Writing

One Comment on “Good Friday: The Penance of Imperfect Creatures”

  1. […] Good Friday: The Penance of Imperfect Creatures […]

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