Monday, June 13, 2011


In the 1690's the parish priest from the village of Patate, Ecuador used to ride a mule to the smaller village of Baños every Sunday evening to say Mass and teach catechism.  The two villages are divided by the raging Paztasa river canyon which is 70 meters deep at that point, and whose waters churn through a chasm only 10 meters wide.  The bridge had been destroyed and the workers had laid a single wooden log over the gap.  The priest was deep in prayer as his mule approached the log.  He wondered why the mule hesitated, and without thinking spurred him on.  The mule crossed the torrent on that one log and carried his charge into town.  The people had figured that without the bridge they would have to forego the minstrations of the church, so when the holy man rode into town they were all filled with surprise and astonishment!  In the morning they returned to the crossing and found the mule's shoe-prints clearly marked on the log.

The painting of the episode is one of many hanging in the Cathedral of our Lady of the Holy Waters in Baños.  It records one of the earliest miracles attributed to Our Lady, and her residence here is one reason Patate continues to be a small town and Baños is now a thriving place of pilgrimage, as well as a mecca for outdoor sports.  (You can even bungie-swing into that same canyon!)  The active volcano of Tunguragua sits just barely out of sight to the south, and many of the miracles have to do with rescues from lava and boiling waters during eruptions--about 5 major ones in 300 years including one in 2006.  Hundreds of plaques of gratitude, "milagros" and offerings of everything from wedding dresses to projection TVs, fill several rooms of a museum on the third floor of the monastery cloister next door to the church.  Thermal springs blessed by the Virgin bring healing when medical assistance fails.  A graceful and almost lacy waterfall right where town meets mountain cliff is dedicated especially to her, with a shrine and all, and outside the shrine there is a long line of gravity-fed hoses where at least 24 people can all do their lawndry in her water.

Fascinating place, this is!

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