An Afternoon Visit to an Empty Church

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church sits along the San Juan River in Northwestern New Mexico, photo by author

The Church

The church was built in 1920 and still stands on a bluff overlooking the beautiful, aqua green-colored San Juan River. It’s a small building, but apparently the congregation has moved away or now attends mass somewhere else. I just happened across this place last Sunday and was struck by the awesome locale of the small church. Not far away is the Navajo Dam and behind that is the man-made Navajo Lake, but if you approach this special place from the south, you would never know that they were there.

The interior of this church captures the afternoon light on a spring day with great grace.

Inside

In the afternoon light, the church interior took on an almost mystical air, as the intense Southwest sun filtered through the small window above the altar and illuminated the sacred space with sunlight. Fortunately, the camera easily captured this event.

 

A vase with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe sits in one of the church windows, photo by author

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

According to Catholic Online the Virgin Mary first appeared to Juan Diego, a 57 year old Aztec man in 1531, near present day Mexico City. Even from the beginning Juan believed in what he saw on the hillside, but the priests at the nearest church were not so convinced. Gradually, over a few weeks, more appearances by the loved Saint along with a miraculous cure convinced the church elders that the Holy Virgin was present in Mexico.

Here she took on the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her likeness, which mysteriously appeared on a Spanish tilma back in 1531, has been reproduced and copied all throughout Mexico and the Southwest USA, numerous times. Many churches of the region, both small and large, bear her name as does this small chapel built in 1920.

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Cherry On Top

A Cross with a heart, photo taken near Sherbrooke, Quebec by author
A Cross with a heart, photo taken near Sherbrooke, Quebec by author

Cherry On Top

The phrase “cherry on top” makes me think of an ice cream sundae or something sweet like that. As for me personally, I have never cared for the preserved red cherry on top, but I do enjoy fresh cherries immensely. Besides the obvious Christian theme, maybe that is what this picture is about. Enjoy and here is the official definition for the phrase according to the Oxford dictionary.

“A desirable feature perceived as the finishing touch to something that is already very good.”       Fits this picture very well, don’t you think.

Cherry On Top

The Blood of Christ

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The Sangre de Christo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, photo by author

Winter Sunset Reveals A Colorful History

Back at the end of January I was standing outside my place-to-stay in Arroyo Seco, NM. Immediately the vivid violent panorama of the snow-covered mountains caught my eye, so I rushed indoors, grabbed my point-and-shoot digital camera and snapped off several photos of the towering peaks, just as the sun was setting in the west. The above picture features a mountain range called the Sangre de Christo mountains. For those of you, who do not understand Spanish, Sangre de Christo literally means “Blood of Christ”. The colorful handle was first applied by the Spanish explorers, who visited this part of New Mexico during the 16th century and took special notice of the intense color of the mountains, displayed as the sun set in the west and cast its rays eastward, illuminating the towering summits in the process. This natural phenomena is very similar to the “alpenglow” found in Switzerland.

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Taos town mural of Coronado on his journey along the Rio Grande near the New Mexico town of Taos, photo by author

Coronado On the Upper Rio Grande

Francisco Vásquez De Coronado was a Spanish explorer, who ventured into the southwestern portions of the United States in 1540, 1541 and 1542. His adventures took him to the Colorado River, many Native settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Reportedly, he and his party of explorers traveled as far east and north as Kansas. The above mural can be found in the mountain town of Taos, NM and documents Coronado’s journey north along the Rio Grande, where he encountered many of the Pueblo villages. In 1542 Coronado returned to Mexico, but his footsteps were followed several decades later by other Spanish explorers.

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Another View of the Sangre de Christo, photo by author

The Sangre de Christo Range

The Sangre de Christo Range in the southern Rockies is quite extensive, for it extends from Glorietta Pass near Las Vegas, NM in the south all the way north to the Colorado Springs area, where the mighty Pikes Peak can be found. The above photo was also taken in the Taos area, but features a different group of peaks located slightly to the north.

You Won’t Need A Pair of Boxing Gloves On Boxing Day

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NGC 5189: An Unusually Complex Planetary Nebula
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Originally, Boxing Day – the first weekday after Christmas Day – was observed as a holiday “on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds received a Christmas box of contributions from those whom they serve”. (Charles Dickens)

Boxing Day

Boxing Day gets its name not from the martial art of landing a closed fist on your opponent, but from collection boxes left at churches. In these boxes gifts for the poor and less privileged are dropped and then re-distributed. There is also a tradition, as described above by Dickens, where certain occupations are rewarded with small gifts from their beneficiaries. All of these activities can occur on Boxing Day, which is readily celebrated in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, as well as many Eastern European countries. Boxing Day is closely related to the Feast of St. Stephen, which also occurs on December 26. It is believed that the boxing tradition of gift-giving was begun by Christians celebrating the much-revered Jerusalem saint.

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Icon of Saint Stephan, photo by Janos Fejervari

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen is believed to be the oldest of Christian martyrs. In fact, Stephen was a Jerusalem deacon, who was stoned to death in the year 35 A.D. by a mob that was encouraged by a historical figure named Saul of Tarsus, who would later be known (after his conversion to Christianity) as Paul the Apostle.

The feast of St. Stephen is observed in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Greek Orthodox churches. It  is also mentioned in the popular English Christmas carol,  Good King Wenceslaus.

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Brief History of St. Patrick Day

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An Seamrog is e seamair Eireannach

Today is Saint Patrick Day, which is a feast day that celebrates his memory and is observed on the day of his death, sometime in the fifth century. Although born in Britain and/or Wales, most of his life is associated with Ireland and the Christian Church.

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in Ireland

Croagh Mountain is a coastal mountain in Ireland, where it is believed the popular saint fasted for forty days during Lent. Currently, pilgrims gather at the summit on the last Sunday of July to honor the Irish Saint. The mountain is located in County Mayo and is just over 2500 feet high. The chapel at the summit is referred to as the Croagh Patrick Oratory. By the way the gaelic word, croagh, is similar to the English stack.

 

Slemish in County Antrim as seen from Buckna. Photo by Albert Bridge.
Slemish in County Antrim as seen from Buckna. Photo by Albert Bridge.

Saint Patrick first came to Ireland after being captured by raiders. It is believed he spent his first six years on the island herding sheep near a place called slemish. During this time he was able to learn the Gaelic language.

 

Happy St Patrick's Day
Happy St Patrick's Day

So long for know. Happy St. Patrick’s day.

Two Brits Visit Toronto And Get In An Argument

Outdoor Advertising in Toronto
Outdoor Advertising in Toronto

This weekend was the last in a planned series of public discourse, called the Munk Debates. An initiative of the Aurea Foundation, the Munk Debates occur twice a year and are featured on CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting company. Having the past Prime Minister of Great Britain, participate in this event, probably heightened  exposure for the occasion. For as it turned out, the debate was widely covered by the press, both in the US and Great Britain. (I think live viewing was restricted to Canada)

According to a poll of attendees, Hitchens won the exchange with his premise that religion is a destructive force in the world. Tony Blair, who has converted to Catholicism since leaving public office, took an opposing view that religion can be a powerful force for good.

The public appearance of Hitchens was noteworthy as he is currently undergoing chemotherapy at present for cancer of the esophagus. Presently the noted man of letters has a bit of a ghostly appearance due to his frequent medical treatments. Reportedly, Mr. Hitchens had cut back on his chemo, so as to be mentally awake for the debate. My only wish, is that it’s a shame the two could have taken opposite sides on the most recent Iraq War that still lingers on, even to this day.

Toronto Skyline at Dusk
Toronto Skyline at Dusk
Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

More On Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens in 2007
Christopher Hitchens in 2007

Recently, one of the more noteworthy of the planet’s writer-philosophers has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and as of late the writer has been making the literary rounds discussing his condition – and of course philosophizing about the whole event and what it all means.  And this philosopher is none other than Christopher Hitchens, one of the most widely read authors of the English language.

Mr. Hitchens even caught my eye when he wrote about Stieg Larsson and the popular posthumous success that has surrounded the Swedish writer, since The Millenium trilogy was published. In fact, that one little post has drawn more attention than anything else that I have written, for Hitchens very much liked Larsson’s writing and was glad to the literary world know about it in an article that appeared a while back in Vanity Fair.

Now Christopher Hitchens is back in Vanity Fair, solemnly contemplating his own demise and his unshakably stating his conviction as an atheist. In his Atlantic Monthly interview, Hitchens takes the time to discuss all the letters that he has received since his public declaration on the spread of his cancer to the lymph nodes.

According to the British writer, responses to his condition can be roughly divided into three groups. Those that wish him the best, even though the odds are against a successful recovery, those that hope for a deathbed confession and conversion and finally those that hope that Hitchens go straight to hell. And the big issue here is not his unwaivering support of the American-lead Iraq War, but rather a little book that he wrote entitled, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

This book has been in the book stores for a few years now and whenever I see the catchy title I often pick the manuscript up, just to sample a paragraph or two. And from what I’ve read, it’s not hard to see how the non-fiction title became such a big seller. However, one just can’t help but wonder, if somehow his current situation is not in somehow pyschically related to his commercial success with the atheist title. Of course, Hitchens has categorically denied anything of such a nature and has even stated that if in the future, he ever comes out with a statement that is the least bit similar to a confession or conversion that it should be automatically rejected as a by product of the chemotherapy or pain-killing drugs.

Still I would like to join the first group of writers and hope for a recovery for the “Hitch” as he likes to be called. I am sure that the writer has plans for other literary efforts and I hope that they will be forthcoming in the near future.

God Is Great Debate in Alabama Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox
God Is Great Debate in Alabama Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox