Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2008
Breton St. Albinoís intercession sought for many causes
Miracle cures, ending of a war, protecting farmersí crops all come under his purview
St. Albino – March 1
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
San Albino Church, Mesilla, N.M. offers English and Spanish Masses.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Despite its relative youthfulness, the little town of Mesilla, New Mexico, carries its age gracefully, centred as it is on an attractive landscaped plaza.
Surrounded by heritage buildings, the square is dominated by the elegant twin-towered parish church of San Albino. Mesilla is on the Rio Grande in Dona Ana County, almost a suburb of Las Cruces now and not far from the large West Texas border city of El Paso.
The town originated in 1850 from early settlements in what was then the Mexican Santa Fe territory and was established in its present location by area residents in an effort to remain in Mexico when their lands were occupied by the U.S. in 1848. Within four years however, the remainder of present-day New Mexico was sold and the people of Mesilla ended up in the U.S. anyway.
The settlement grew rapidly as a major stagecoach stop on trade routes and for awhile was territorial capital. Today, the old central plaza is a restful oasis where people can relax on park benches between shopping excursions to the many surrounding historic craft and gift shops.
Mud and log to adobe
A mud and log church dedicated to San Albino and built on the new town plaza was replaced in 1856 by a more traditional adobe building.
Todayís 1908 Romanesque sanctuary is the result of a number of major restorations and additions, most recently influenced by French architectural ideas imported with the new U.S. Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy of New Mexico, a Frenchman.
The Mesilla church is dedicated to the Breton saint Aubin or Albin of Angers (Albino in Spanish) who was born in Vannes, France in 469.
He left his wealthy family to live a life of fasting, self-denial and prayer in a monastery where he in time became abbot. In 529, he was named bishop of nearby Angers and served in that capacity until his death on March 1, 21 years later. He is said to have insisted on daily instructing the people of the city and was credited with miraculous cures.
The bishop was noted for his intolerance of abuses and injustices and worked to liberate political prisoners. More miracles were attributed to the saint after his death and in 909, his intercession was thought to have relieved the Angevins from a Norman siege.
At some shrines elsewhere in France, Aubinís intercession is sought by farmers seeking the prevention of drought or hail damage to their crops.
In the saintís French homeland, only the tall 12th century bell tower remains of the Abbey of St. Aubin, once Angersí largest monastery. The wealthy, 6th century Benedictine complex was named for the saint who was buried there. In the Middle Ages, his tomb was a popular pilgrimage destination associated with miraculous cures, particularly of those suffering from fevers. The landmark historic zone tower is now occupied by government offices.
Mesillaís San Albino is a busy parish with three Masses celebrated on weekends and one on weekdays, some in Spanish. Strangers attending Mass here will be unable to avoid a personal greeting from father. Not to be missed are the four traditional processions around the plaza with tower bells tolling on the saintís day, March 1, Corpus Christi, Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
San Albino in old Mesilla is a sanctuary worth visiting for those travelling along south New Mexicoís Rio Grande. Itís a welcoming parish and, as their attractive brochure states; is ďOpen to the public if possible Mon-Fri: 1-3 pm.Ē