An Apparition and a Refuge

francisxguadalupe (2)


It’s one of those buildings

that everyone has seen

and many have noted,

but hardly anyone can locate.

Even those who pass it daily

on the local streets

hesitate when asked precisely

which one it’s on, exactly

what it’s called.

From the highway, only the

cupola and spire are visible

for fleeting seconds,

an enigmatic vision, an apparition,

like Juan Diego’s sighting of the Virgin.

Appropriately, for it is the shrine

of Nuestra Dama de Guadalupe,

merged in the nineties with the parish

of St. Francis Xavier, AKA

Francisco Azpilicueta of Navarre,

co-founder of the Jesuits, perhaps

too disciplined, but smart and strong,

missionary to India.

And as the Virgin improbably spoke

in Diego’s native Nahuatl,

so are its many Masses said

in Spanish as well as English.

Its red-tile roof and tapered bell tower

evoke a Spanish colonial mission,

thought its walls are of yellow brick;

its facade, stained glass, and flat buttresses

a bit more baroque, perhaps

a less ornate version

of what the missions of themselves

did their best to emulate

with limited resources.

Outside, the midday sun

beats down on the tiles,

but the interior offers

cool tranquility:

white-walled nave with

central aisle, roof beams of oak

reaching down from the apex

to the walls, extensions from them

bearing hanging lanterns.

Up high, arched windows, pictorial;

below, smaller double stained-glass panels;

between the windows, the stations

of the cross.

The nave’s beauty resides

primarily in its simplicity;

the relatively ornate altar

in its sanctuary keeps its distance.

And though I’m no Catholic

and have my reservations,

it’s the kind of place

in which one could, I think,

take refuge.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper


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