Column: Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Encounter prompts reflections on meaning of Easter

I was returning from a two-week road trip that took me to Austin, Texas, via New Mexico. It was my daughter Simone’s 21st birthday. Since I was with her for her first 20, I thought it important to be there for her 21st.

When I’m road tripping I often forget what day of the week it is. When you’re retired, the weekends are no different from Monday through Friday.

After camping two days in the Davis Mountains of southwest Texas, I happened upon a lonely pilgrim, Fabián. I knew he’d gone bush and had left the world to bury himself in the despair of loneliness. He asked if I knew what day of the week it was. Since Simone’s birthday was on Thursday, I told him I was certain it was Sunday, April 14.

“Palm Sunday!” he said. He explained he was making a pilgrimage to Chimayó, New Mexico, and had to be at the El Santuario de Chimayó on Easter Sunday.


After packing up his camp, I proceeded to drive him to Alpine, Texas, where he’d begin his pilgrimage to Chimayó. During our two-hour drive, Fabián spoke of Easter’s significance and the woes of the world.

When we arrived in Alpine, he thanked me for the lift and asked what my plans were for Palm Sunday. I told him I’d head to my favorite Alpine coffee shop and write my weekly column.

“What will you write about?” he asked.

“No clue,” I said.


He suggested I write about the significance of Easter.

After lunch at the Dairy Queen, I dropped Fabián off at the junction of highways 118 and 90. I told him 90 would take him to Northern New Mexico. From there it’s an easy trek to El Santuario de Chimayó.

I left for Cedar Coffee Supply on 4th street to write on the significance of Easter. That coffee shop has a great vibe, and over the years, I’ve written and edited various columns and chapters there.

Each year some 300,000 people from all over the world make pilgrimages to the Santuario de Chimayó during Holy Week. Many of the pilgrims arrive on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Fabián told me he was making the pilgrimage to seek redemption and transformation.

Thirty years ago, I drove to Chimayó during Holy Week and saw countless pilgrims trekking across the highways of Northern New Mexico. Some were entering the sanctuary’s courtyard on their knees.

Easter is more than chocolate bunnies and hunting for eggs. There’s something genuinely moving about the idea of resurrection and the spiritual belief that new possibilities and opportunities are possible even after spiritual or physical death. The Easter story is an example of redemption and transformation in the resurrection of Christ. Christians celebrate Easter because it reveals the heart of Christianity. It is the story of a God determined to rescue a planet that is out of control.

C.S. Lewis tells us the Resurrection narratives explain, “how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?”

We hardly need to be reminded that we live in a troubled world. You only have to watch the nightly television news to get a dose of the world’s woes. And so, Easter speaks to us of rescue, of renewal and of the way to peace.


Dag Hammarskjöld, former secretary-general of the United Nations, said, “We’ve tried so hard and have failed so miserably that unless the world has a spiritual rebirth in the next few years, civilization is doomed.”

And that’s what Easter is all about: spiritual rebirth.

Joe Puglia is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at