In the chapel of San Miguel, a reminder of the faithful past | Editorials

Putting the historic but sometimes neglected Chapel of San Miguel in the limelight for visitors and residents of Santa Fe is a commendable endeavor.

Church curator Julianne Burton-Carvajal is correct that people take the church “for granted,” as a story by Robert Nott shows (“Spread the Word,” December 28).

It may be considered the oldest church in the United States, but many tend to just walk past it as they go about their business on the Old Santa Fe Trail.

For centuries, however, the people of Santa Fe have prayed in this church. Couples were married, babies baptized and people buried. Sitting on a hard bench there, perhaps waiting for Mass to start or just taking a pause for thought, it is possible to feel the intentions and prayers of the centuries. It is a place where history is a living and breathing presence.

For Burton-Carvajal, this week’s lectures – “An Hour with the Curator” – from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. today and Thursday, are a way to help people become more aware of the importance of church.

Located in the Barrio de Analco, the Tlaxcaltecan Indians are said to have founded the church. These were the Christianized indigenous peoples of Mexico who moved north with settlers in the 1600s. Perhaps as early as 1610 a place of worship was built on the site, and as early as 1628 historical records are made. reference to the chapel. In 1710, 30 years after the Pueblo revolt, the church was rebuilt.

Now owned by St. Michael’s High School, the church is independent from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. For years, masses in English and Latin have been offered on Sundays, which worshipers deeply hope will return soon. The priests of the Archdiocese celebrated Mass, attracting a variety of participants.

Sunday evening mass, recited in English, was seen by many as a profound way to end the weekend. In recent years, Latin singers have added their voices to the English Mass about once a month, mixing the old and the new in a moving way.

Mass in the historic church is a reminder of a living faith, both for those alive today, but also as a tribute to the ancestors who built and maintained the place over the centuries. A church, after all, is not just a building – it is a congregation of people even if it is not an official parish.

Especially for a Catholic place of worship, offering a regular Mass is essential. San Miguel Church, built at a time when people were physically smaller and populations smaller, was not a place where pandemic social distancing would have worked well; thus, the end of the weekly mass.

At some point, however, the pandemic will be over and regular Mass should be able to return. Perhaps a retired priest will be found to help; this would relieve the Archdiocesan priests, who celebrate Mass in San Miguel in addition to parish work.

The future of the Latin Mass, supported by a strong community of people who prefer the ancient rite, may be less certain due to recent decisions by Pope Francis. He imposed further restrictions on the recitation of the Latin Mass, charging bishops with “exclusive jurisdiction” to authorize the use of the Latin rite. Bishops – in our case Archbishop John C. Wester – must also determine whether the traditional Latin mass groups in the diocese deny the validity of Vatican Council II and the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. What happens next in Santa Fe is probably a discussion for another day.

This week, there is still time to stop by San Miguel Church and hear about it in person from the curator today and Thursday. Discover this place of worship, so important to the history and the people of Santa Fe.

He remains standing because of the faith of those long gone, a reminder to the faithful today of their responsibility to protect this heritage now and in the future.

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