The Nature and Origins of the Ave Maria Shrine:
It is well known that, in addition to their great love of Jesus, many Christians have great love for Mary, His Mother. They include Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans (known as Episcopalians in the United States), and others. This Shrine is a tribute to the love of Mary of the Catholic people of Holy Trinity Parish in Trinidad. It is certainly part of our local historical and artistic heritage.
Many people also experience it as a place of powerful spiritual presence, healing, and peace. We warmly welcome all visitors. We pray that, as you pause here on your life’s journey, you will find this a place of consolation and grace for you. We ask this whether you are a person of faith or no faith. We ask it for you, no matter what your faith might be.
Plans for the present chapel were begun in 1934. The chapel was built through the efforts of a group of local Catholics much devoted to Mary. They were known as the Circolo Mariano. They worked under the leadership of Rosaria Vecchio. In 1962, vandals destroyed the statue., breaking it into 279 pieces. It was almost a total loss, but thanks to the patience and skilled hands of Sam Arguello and his son Anthony, it was restored and placed inside the
Shrine, above the altar, where it remains today. Over the years many such faithful persons have helped develop and maintain the shrine and its surroundings. Many of them are commemorated by name both inside and outside the chapel. This shrine continues to be developed and maintained through the generosity of many persons both in this area and visitors from many states and other countries. It is a great witness to the faith and devotion of especially local Catholic Christians but also many others.
A Word about Mary:
In the New Testament, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the first to hear the good news (gospel) of Jesus. She is also the first to respond to it in faith (Luke 1:26-38). [The words Ave, Maria are the Latin for the opening words of the prayer known as the Hail, Mary. They echo the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:28.] Mary’s true greatness is to be one who listens to the word of God and is obedient to it (Luke 11:28). In this way Mary’s whole being glorifies God (Luke 1:46; see all of Luke 1:39-56). Mary gives birth to Jesus (Luke 2:1-20; see also Luke 2:21-52 and Matthew 1:18-2:23). In the Gospel of John, it is through Mary’s intercession that Jesus works his first “sign” or miracle (John 2:1-11). On this occasion Mary says her most important words—words we can take as also addressed to us: “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5). Again in the Gospel of John, Mary is said to have stood at the foot of the cross of her son (John 19:25). From his cross Jesus gives the disciple whom he loves to his mother and his mother to this disciple (John 19:26-27). Down through the ages many Christians have taken to heart Jesus’ words: “Here is your mother” (John 19:27). In the Bible, we see Mary for the last time at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. She is in the upper room with the apostles, disciples, and relatives of Jesus after Jesus, risen from the dead, is taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1-11). This group includes women. Mary is gathered with them. She is in their midst as they pray and wait for the coming gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12-14; see also Acts 2:1-47). Still today, many Christians find great comfort in joining their prayer to Mary’s.
The Legend of the Shrine:
Devotion to Mary has always been very popular among many Christians. It remains so today. There are many special shrines and images of Mary throughout the world. Pilgrimages to them also remain very popular and frequent. There are few that do not have a legend attached to them. Our Shrine, too, has its legend and is as follows:
In 1908 a Trinidad physician, was leaving Mount San Rafael Hospital, after all night duty. It was already dawn, and although a snowstorm was in progress, he was persistent to make it home. As he was leaving the hospital he noticed a glimmer of light flickering on the hill directly behind the hospital. At first, he gave it little attention, believing the spray of snow flurries were creating an illusion. Then the possibility of someone hurt or stranded captured his attention. Even at the early morning hour and in the middle of a snowstorm, the good doctor ascended the hill where the light originated. The frozen ground and steep slope made the climb very hazardous in his pursuit to reach the small clearing.
Upon reaching the clearing, he was spellbound at the sight of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a lit candle flickering at its base. Awed by the vision of such a beautiful statue, he reached out and touched its outstretched hand while calling out to see if anyone was nearby. After calling out for several minutes and no one answered, he decided to stay by the statue until daybreak.
When word of the doctors discovery spread throughout the community, reactions were varied. some believed that some person had to have been on the hill, while others were skeptical as to how a 250 pound statue could have been left on the hill, kept a candle lit during a blizzard and then disappear into thin air. But the more faithful residents accepted this as a divine sign from God that a shrine should be built in Her honor on this mountain.
The early settlers erected a small lava rock shrine, where Our Lady was placed, and the faithful made daily pilgrimages and offered prayers to God through here intersession.
We do not know if this story is true or not. Still, it does remind us of a couple of things about Mary: Many Christians witness that Mary is for them a refuge. Many Christians venerate Mary under the title of Our Lady of Light (Santa Maria de la Luz). Perhaps these are things all of us should be looking for here—refuge and light.
Thank you for visiting our shrine. May many special blessings go with you as you leave us and continue your journey. And may your stop here also be a source of blessings for your family and friends.
To visit the inside of the chapel, please call our Trinidad Area Catholic Pastoral Center at (719) 846-3369, extension 14, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, except holidays. We will try to get someone to open up for you. It is best to make arrangements some days in advance.
A Word about Our Parish:
This beautiful Shrine now belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo. It is administered by Holy Trinity Catholic Parish. This parish was founded in the 1860s. It covers an area of 3,000 square miles—from the Colorado-New Mexico border on the south to about mile 30 on U. S Highway I-25 on the north; from the Sangre de Cristo mountains beyond Stonewall (on the “Highway of Legends”—State Highway 12) on the west and all the way out on the prairies to embrace Trinchera and Branson on the east. We estimate that the parish consists of about 6,500 baptized Catholics in about 1,500 households. There are two now inactive Catholic churches in this parish in Trinidad itself—Mount Carmel and Saint Joseph. Many of our active and inactive mission churches dot the landscape to the east and west. The Pastor of Holy Trinity Parish is the chief administrator of the shrine. A special shrine committee of local Catholics advises him regarding decisions about the development and maintenance of the shrine, and many others help in many ways. The mailing address for inquiries and donations is: Ave Maria Shrine – 235 N. Convent St. – Trinidad, CO 81082