Father Casimiro Roca, the holy eminence of the world-famous spiritual pilgrimage destination known as El Santuario de Chimayó in North Central New Mexico, passed away in a very peaceful transition on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Eternal rest grant unto him, Lord, and let your perpetual loving light shine upon him.
It is likely that many of the 300,000 or so people who each year seek the spiritual benefits and healing from the Santuario have not known of Father Roca who for more than five decades has been the guiding and formative presence there, nor have they known that it was mainly through his unwavering faith and devotion to the holy site that the Santuario is what it is today, the “Lourdes of America”.
But in fact Father Roca has been the rock and spiritual foundation for the Santuario and is largely responsible for guarding and guiding the shrine’s widespread, growing fame as the destination where healing and spiritual grace abound.
And as always it is a confounding mystery how one individual, and especially one who seemed so unassuming, could so masterfully employ the forces of human goodwill, and of the natural and supernatural worlds, to establish and increase that great holy site.
More than a few people have commented through the years, “That man is a saint.” Father Roca would be the first to quell such a statement, saying only that he was just a simple Priest trying to do the Lord’s work and that in fact it was always a lot of work, and especially when he himself would be physically re-filling the ‘posíto’ with the blessed earth that is so sought after for its healing properties, at the Santuario.
Yet it is clear that the relationship between that holy site and that holy Priest resulted in one of the most phenomenal spiritual pilgrimage sites in America and in the world, in our ‘modern’ times.
And yes, it is true that for many centuries, even long antedating the arrival of Spanish Catholic Christianity, the Native peoples knew about and also visited that site; a hot spring is said to have flowed near there at one time, that was considered sacred in those earlier times for its healing powers. It was known then as Tsi Mayoh, and it is now called Chimayó.
Healings have taken place there for a very long time. The hot spring waters perhaps no longer flow there, but the earth is reputed to be charged with healing properties. Some see an analogy between the earth from the Santuario and the use of earth by Jesus in some of his miraculous healings; and some use the earth as a medium of blessing prayer and as a symbol of life’s journey. And some have the earth applied to them in blessing for help in their transition at death from this world into the next.
Father Roca always credited the spiritual faith and the desire of the people to be closer to God, as being absolutely integral to the healings that take place there. Father Roca is one, albeit probably the most influential, of a long line of holy men and women who have cared for the Santuario site, since pre-European times until the time of Don Bernardo Abeyta who around 1810 discovered the famous Crucifix of Jesús El Señor de Esquípulas, which is set above the Altár del Santuario.
In our day the spiritual and healing power of El Santuario has multiplied and is known throughout the world, helping countless numbers of people. It was Father Roca who was moved by his own purposeful faith and devotion to rescue the site and enlist the aid of human and other natural and supernatural forces to rebuild the site.
Northern New Mexico is known for the deep religious culture of the Pueblos and the carved Santos or Saints, dating back many centuries. In this land of the carved wooden Santos , Father Roca is considered by many to have been a holy Priest and a true living Santo del Nórte.
We thank him. And, it is not unreasonable nor far-fetched to postulate that he can be considered eminently worthy of the process toward true Sainthood in his beloved Roman Catholic Church. He demonstrated heroic virtues as a Servant of God. That is the first step, then petitions and witness, and the successive steps and procedures. This is do-able.