Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Staircase at Loretto Chapel

Here is a story, set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which I believe:

Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.
Why do I believe this story? Because whenever our work has appeared beyond our strength and impossible to complete, someone has appeared to help us make it possible.

I don’t know whether this is providence in action, saints wondering the world, karma, or just the eternal luck of the Irish. I do know that if we work for what is right and do our very best that somehow the people necessary to see that the work gets done will be there.

I also know, unfortunately, that our angels seldom stay a moment longer than absolutely necessary, and that neither prays nor solicitations can call them back to us again, no matter how badly we miss them.

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