- Abandoned -
Table of Contents
a religious thriller written by
Ronald E. Boutelle
Chapter 41: Angels or Carpenters?
Curious, everyone turned to Maria to listen to what she wanted to say. “Please Rama, I apologize. May I say something?”
“Yes, Maria, of course. Anyone may speak. We are curious about what you are thinking.”
“Oh thank you very much. Although I must admit that I wasn’t able to understand everything you said, I am simply fascinated . But honestly, listening to you speak about Catholic nuns and the history of New Mexico and Texas, this was the furthest thing from my mind that I thought you would be talking about. Your religion & history—yes—but to hear you speak about New Mexico and the Mission of San Agustin de la Isleta—I cannot tell you how thrilled I am.”
Everyone smiled as Maria continued. “Yes, it is truly a beautiful Mission and then you were describing the architecture of the convent in Spain—the very subject that I earned my degree in—and just now, the legend of the two angels who had helped Sister Maria. These are just too many coincidences here, at one time, to be taken lightly.”
Understanding the significance of what Maria had just said, Nick turned to his daughter and said a few words before she continued.
“Maria, I had no idea that you graduated with a degree in architecture. There is still so much for us to talk about.”
Looking at her father, Maria continued. “Yes, I went to school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I earned degrees in both art and architecture, but architecture is what I really love. So naturally I was very interested when Rama was telling us about the convent that Sister Maria had built.”
Turning her head and smiling, Maria then said, “When I heard Rama tell us how the two builders had disappeared and the legend that they were actually angels, I just had to tell you about a church that is located in Santa Fe, that has a similar story.”
“Thank you Rama. Santa Fe was also founded by the Spanish around the same time as the Spanish community in Isleta. One of my college classes taught early architecture of the Southwest. So yes, I have actually been to Isleta and inside the beautiful Spanish Mission of San Agustin de la Isleta.
“And exactly as you mentioned, it was built in 1612 by Spanish Franciscans and their Indian converts. But I had no idea about the Jumano Indians from Texas and Sister Maria. I can’t believe that I haven’t heard about her.
“What is really interesting is that not far from my college in Santa Fe there is another Catholic church. Well, it used to be a church. Now they just perform weddings there. Anyway, what is so interesting about this old building is that during its construction in the late 1870s, the chief architect suddenly died and only later was it discovered that he had made a terrible mistake. He had left out the staircase that was needed to access a choir loft, built over the altar. Even worse, no matter what was suggested as a remedy, a normal staircase would simply take up too much space and disfigure the interior design.
“Reaching this impasse, people were blaming each other and everyone was very upset. The stairs were absolutely needed so that the nuns could reach the loft and sing. Without a solution in sight, the nuns began nine days of prayer in honor of St. Joseph, for he was a both the father of Jesus and a carpenter.”
“As it turned out, on the very day that their novena ended, a modestly dressed man suddenly appeared at their door. Obviously aware of the uncanny significance of his sudden arrival, the Sisters kindly invited him into the church and this is when they showed him the loft and the missing staircase.
“With confidence the man assured the nuns that he would be able to build them a staircase. Thanking him profusely, the nuns readily agreed. He offered to begin at once and naturally the nuns were very happy and quickly hired him. He agreed to be paid when he finished. Outside the church, the carpenter’s old mule stood patiently waiting, a box of tools securely tied to his back. According to many, for three months the carpenter refused to allow any visitors inside the church until one day he opened the doors.
“When the Mother Superior heard that the staircase was finished she entered the church and looked in utter amazement. There in the left corner, neatly standing was a beautiful, freestanding staircase rising in a double spiral all the way to the choir’s loft.
Maria continued. “The last time I was there, our class took dozens of pictures and the engineering students made all sorts of measurements. Each section of the staircase is perfectly fitted in a groove and not a single nail is used in its construction. There is not even a central pole and originally, no wall attachment. It just stood there. Even the hand railing was added at a later date. The entire staircase is held together by just a few wooden pegs and what's really interesting is that over time, as other carpenters from New Mexico and around the world came to gaze upon it, they noticed how the wood that the craftsman had used was not even from that part of New Mexico.
“Today, tourists from everywhere come to look at it and still, there is not a single person who can conceive how a man with a box of primitive tools strapped to the back of a donkey was able to build such an intricate structure.
“Rama, you mentioned the legend of the two men (angels) who disappeared after building the convent in Agreda. This is exactly what happened when the work was completed on the staircase in Santa Fe. The abbess was so happy that naturally she wanted to pay the man for his work but he was nowhere to be found. No one had seen him come or go. A reward was offered but no one ever claimed it.
“It was then decided that the unknown carpenter was none other than a divine angel or even Saint Joseph, whom the Sisters had been praying to for nine days. There is no doubt that the prayers of those nuns were answered in a most remarkable way.
“Please Rama, what else did Father Mark tell you about Mother Maria?”