Written by: Denise Serafini on Thursday, October 26, 2017
Jessica is a bubbly gal that happened to be our waitress at Mrs. Rios restaurant in San Luis, Colorado where we were scheduled for an event at the Sangre de Cristo (Precious Blood of Christ) Church on June 9th. Jessica was a gregarious sort, with braided and pinned up blond hair, going about her day’s work in mukluk boots and shorts - amazing to us since the heat seemed almost overwhelming for Jean and I. Nonetheless, Jessica couldn’t help but impress us with her simple way that seemed to exude a love of life.
We had timed our travel plans to arrive early enough in the day to assure we would have plenty of time for a meal and then some. We took our seats in the little restaurant and asked some basic questions about how the area got its name as the Sangre de Cristo Valley. Well Jessica couldn’t really explain it without visuals, so she invited us to order and then accompany her outside so she could show us what to look for. Although Jean and I were a bit skeptical, we joined Jessica outside and she showed us the mountain peaks behind the restaurant. She explained that in the twilight we would be able to see a red mist cover the mountains. She noted that because of the natural crags in the rock face of the mountain, the red mist gives the appearance of flowing blood on the mountain side. At the time we really didn’t have any idea what that really meant, but we took it all in and moved onto the next subject for inquiry. We asked her about the significance of the cross on the hillside on the other side of the road and how we might be able to get to it. We had tried when we first arrived in town, but could find no entry point. Jessica informed us that, even though she lived in the town for most of her life, she only recently found the road that leads to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. She gave us directions to access the shrine which was a few miles up the road and we confirmed with her that we would have enough time to get to it and still be on time for our event later that evening. I’m not sure about any of you, but I can tell you that I’ve never had a waitress give me a guided tour outside of a restaurant to provide a detailed explanation of the local sites and lore. Thank you Jessica for letting the Holy Spirit work through you to direct us on our path through the valley of His Most Precious Blood! I’ll provide more on that in another blog entry.
We finished lunch and decided we would try to find the driveway into that shrine on top of the hill. We finally spotted the little sign and found ourselves on a winding dirt road. As we rode along we were leaving a heavy trail of red clay dust in our wake. About 3 or 4 miles in, we found the shrine and parked relatively close to the magnificent adobe Capilla at the top of the mesa. The first thing I did was open the back hatch to get at my camera. Well all that dust came wafting back at me and I was covered with red clay dust - So much for that professional look of a pin-striped suit with a white blouse. Oh, well.
The shrine was built as an act of faith and love for the parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish. The builders, including the Knights of Columbus, wanted to create a place of prayer and solace open to members of all faiths and good will which might allow them to find consolation and peace in their life. Visitors can climb the half-mile trail to view fifteen bronze sculptures of Christ's passion and resurrection. What we had seen earlier in the day was the entrance to the walking trail.
I looked online for more information after the event to find out that the Shrine is formally known as “La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia” (Hill of Piety and Mercy). Huberto Maestas was the sculptor for the statues. There is nothing passive about his pieces. His figures embrace drama and capture the spirit of form in motion in bronze.
We only had 30 minutes or so for our visit but were truly impressed by the detail of what we saw in terms of the artwork and the construction of the chapel, which is done in the traditional European Spanish motif. It reminded Jean of her travels in Spain and Portugal many years ago.
In our travels to promote meditation on Christ’s Passion, I had pretty much thought that Jean and I are simply pawns of the Holy Spirit, doing tasks as He directs us. Looking back on the events of that afternoon however, I think there may have been more meaning to the experience. We are all like Jessica in a way, moving along in the “mukluk” of our daily tasks, with the Holy Spirit trying to show us the way to the fruits of His Passion. If the Jessica story was the topic of something similar to a biblical parable, she sets an example that encourages us to take a moment from the everyday grind to reach out to look at the beauty God has created, especially in the Blood of Christ and His Passion which is the gift of salvation. In many ways we are so blind. Here I am, covered in the “dirty dust” of my sin which covers me with unclear perceptions, not even recognizing that our travels are actually a gift of the Holy Spirit, not a task that is simply carried out because of a basic calling to do it. I think that we were brought to this valley to experience, even more deeply, the gifts of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit given to engage us in the Mercy and Love of the Passion on a deeper level, that we might use them more fully to convey that message to all and, in all truth, we are all called to do that.