Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday Holy Week Easter in Taos, New Mexico

"Moon Over St. Francis" 2010 Cris Pulos copyright
Good Friday takes place this year on April 6, 2012.
(March 29, 2013)
On this day in Ranchos de Taos people will begin to gather in the plaza of the historic San Francisco de Asis Church before 10:30AM to walk or make a short pilgrimage to the Capilla in Talpa, La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Talpa, a beautiful little outlier Church on the Talpa Ridge State Highway 518.
 The Capilla in Talpa
During the walk confession will be given towards the end of the line by the attending Priest, be it Father Bill, or Father Deano. Prayers for the 14 Stations of the Cross will be held along the way and in front of the Capilla, also in front of each of the 3 Moradas this journey will take us to. From there the group will continue walking on to the the Morada in Talpa off Maestas Road next to a beautifully maintained cemetery, and continue on to to the Morada just on Highway 518 also next to a beautiful cemetery. The pilgrimage continues on to the Morada on Espinosa Road next to a cemetery with a magnificent panoramic view of Taos Mountain.
A simple Gave marker
Some of the participants who may not be up to the journey will be driven to each place as they require. Inside each of the Moradas you may be seated at one of the benches or kneel at the altar and have a quite moment of prayer. I enjoyed the wonder of a beautiful Spring day in Taos, noticing the details in front yards of the homes we passed. At the beginning of the journey on Valerio Road a pair of mourning doves flew overhead, very magical and special.
Interior of a Morada, Vintage Photo
It may be best to bring a Bible with you a few prayer books copies are made for the attendees, often not enough for everyone.
Retablos & Bultos in the collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum
At around 2:30 the guests will be on their way back to the Church of St. Francis for a 3PM service, followed by a 3:30 Mass. There may have been 300 people or more on this day a great turn out. Each year this pilgrimage changes slightly, I had originally reported what I'd been told about previous Good Friday celebrations. This year it seems was quite different, some said it was the most beautiful Good Friday they had ever participated in.
Vintage Photograph of the Capilla in Talpa
Although this is quite a long day to spend in Prayer, I believe you will find it to be one of the most refreshing days of your life. This year I myself plan to attend, the weather should be beautiful, yet I expect the interior of each Morada to be cool, so bring a lightweight sweater. Note: Each Morada had a fire lit in the fireplace making for quite a cozy stop. The hosts also provided food for everyone. Vehicles which helped with traffic control also provided fruit and water to the participants.
Backside of Abiquiu Morada
(As for toilet facilities I actually don't expect any to be available, there may be an outhouse, but you are warned to not drink that second cup of coffee this morning)
The Penitente Man, vintage Photograph, A life size figure of Christ carrying a Cross is normally next to an 'active' Morada
All are invited to join and participate in the services at the Moradas on Good Friday in Ranchos de Taos, you need not be an 'invited guest'. If you are in doubt of how to act or what to do, you should simply and humbly ask the person next to you or in front of you for some guidance. As in: "I'm not quite certain how to participate would you mind if I follow along with you?" 
To my eye I think of the 3 Wisemen when I see these Crosses
What is frowned upon is people attending just to be onlookers and not partake in the wonder of the moment, (although if you have not partaken in confession you should never follow the other Church goers to receive communion of the Host and Wine). 
A Pueblo Dragonfly Cross with the Dixon Mountain behind it and it's own Crosses atop.
Whether you follow any Religious Faith or not, you should be able and willing to attend this religious event with a bit of respectful humility. 
A Penitente Pilgrimage, vintage photograph

Please leave your cameras behind and turn your phone off, do not be tempted to use either.
A Simple Grave Marker can often be the most beautiful
Leaving early would be akin to leaving a dinner party before you've finished the main dish, you could if you had to, but you shouldn't. During much of the walk I was greeted by neighbors some I knew and some I'd never met, walking along with me. I also noticed people taking the time to check on each other, this is a rather strenuous walk. Most of the last third of the journey I was blessed to walk with Father Bill. Parishioners and non Church members LOVE Father Bill, he is a magnificent man, kind, gentle and open to talking not just about matters of the Church, but he is a delight to speak with about life, art, Taos, and so many other topics. I think Father Bill was a bit worried about me and noticed at some point I really wasn't fairing well, he stuck with me just in case.
Vintage photograph The Four Horsemen of the Camposanto
The walk from St. Francis to the 3 Moradas would be considered a 'pilgrimage' or 'processional' although today there is no flogging, walking on knees, or any of the other more severe flagellations attributed to this day by the Penitente.
Bird's Eye View of Morada with Mabels House in background
Although someone will find something written here 'offensive' or may argue a point of fact, writing about anything as you know these days may be done by any author, it is best to be respectful and be positive when writing anything. Even trying to simply report an event, someone out there may not like it. 
Then again lately I've seen many people recording and videotaping this sort of thing for the simple fact of these rituals need to be recorded and saved for future generations.
One of the many Church Bells of New Mexico
A few years ago a reporter came to cover the Penitente pilgrimage to Chimayo, she couldn't even take pictures without feeling like she shouldn't be taking photos and couldn't write a story on the subject because not only was it all very foreign to her but because she didn't know what or who to ask and how to behave with humility and respect. She treated it as something to report on, not something to open herself up to.
The Abiquiu Morada with a Penitent Man
Speaking with my Mom she reminds me of a similarity that takes place on Good Friday in the North End of Boston or "Little Italy", more than likely a variation happens across the world. In the North End people will be walking from one to the other little Chapel that each feature and are dedicated to various Saints, along with attending Mass at Saint Leonard of Port Maurice Church on Hanover Street.
Taos Morada
As I am not a 'member' of the Church, I am looked at as an outsider, Catholic still, but not a 'member'. My family history includes Saint Joseph Cafasso, patron Saint of prisoners in Turin. I respect the religion and feel great love and responsibility towards Religion but I usually choose not to partake. I have my reasons and ask you to respect me for them without digging deeper, thank you.
The walk to this Cross at the end of a Pueblo right of way brings you past the 14 Stations of the Cross markers of stone
This post is meant to provide a bit of information to anyone wishing to attend this calendar day of Good Friday in Taos. Although the processions and pilgrimage to the Santurio de Chimayo may be the best known I believe the intimacy of this day in Taos will make it quite special for all participants. This was my first time as a participant on this walk, a total of 6 miles. At an altitude of 7,200 feet above sea level this is not a walk for everyone, it is more strenuous, and I am more out of shape than I would have thought. The lead men were often asked to slow the pace down a bit. I choose not to write about the accoutrements of this day, the crosses, carvings, paintings I was allowed to witness, those special items worn or carried by my fellow attendees and the items inside the Chapel and Moradas. All of it very very special and of a moment in time in Taos.
The vista from Espinosa Road

All color photographs are my own Robert Cafazzo and Copyright 2012, if you wish to use any of my photographs please ask, I only require that you give credit and I ask you to consider a donation to the Church, thank you.
 I asked and was granted permission to take photographs at places that I believed I should ask permission first.
The Cris Pulos photograph of "Moon Over St. Francis" is posted here by permission of this wonderful Taos photographer. For prints of this photograph please contact Mr. Pulos through his website or contact Two Graces Plaza Gallery for more information, our contact information is located in the sidebar of this blog.
The Vintage Black and White photos are courtesy of the National and State Archives.

Please Note, I have added and corrected a bit of the information from the original post of April 5, on April 7 the day after I attended the actual event.
As some of you may know on April 6, 2012 during the pilgrimage walk I suffered a Heart Attack. As I've stated in this post I wasn't feeling well at some point with severe pain in my forearms and extraordinary upper chest pain. Father Bill stayed with me as I continued on, watching and guiding me, he thought at some point I should not continue, yet I felt obliged to do so. I kept thinking to myself if Christ could do what he did, then I could do this wonderful pilgrimage walk, my own obligation. When the walk was over I went home to rest and took a bath. Over the next 9 days the heart attacks continued until I finally agreed to seek medical attention. A trip to the emergency room in Taos and a helicopter ride to the St. Cristus Hospital in Santa Fe where 3 stents were inserted and an angioplasty, saving my life. This has been a long difficult recovery, my goal is to be strong enough this year to walk this pilgrimage again. A stress test this past week indicates that I am recovering and that I am indeed getting stronger. There are cars available to help anyone not feeling well enough to continue and in the thin mountain air it is not advisable to take this journey, please do not push yourself as I did. I am blessed to still be here today. As for my journey into Heart Disease, when I feel the time is right I will try to write a post about it.
R 2/17/13


  1. That sky that sky that glorious sky

  2. another wonderful article... and that last photo makes me miss Taos so much... sigh
    happy easter... x