Off Limits

Fire up your brainpan

Denver may not be burning, but lots of people here are mighty steamed.

Shrine on: It's been an eventful month at the usually peaceful Mother Cabrini Shrine outside Golden. First, Colorado's ungodly drought was thought to be jeopardizing the "miraculous" ninety-year-old spring that's provided water to the rocky outcropping since the future saint purchased the land in 1912 for a summer youth camp. According to popular lore, the Italian native -- known for crisscrossing America to found missions at the drop of the Pope's mitre -- was playing with her cane one day on Lookout Mountain when she pushed aside some rock, tapping into a hidden spring. The water has trickled ever since, threatened only once by overuse. That was during 1993's World Youth Day, and the miracle then was that the Coors brewery sent water (of a less holy kind that can make a heavenly brew) to fill a reserve tank.

But now it seems as though this spring's early fears were all wet. "The water continues to flow," says Sister Bernadette Casciano, whose Mission Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus owns the shrine.

Then came the pilgrimage posse formed by members of an ultra-conservative Catholic group out of Watkins, who wanted to say Mass at the summit of the shrine on June 5. In order to fulfill a private pledge he'd made to Mother Cabrini in return for her help in raising money for his $2 million church on the plains, the Reverend Joseph Pfeiffer had hiked some 46 miles with fellow believers from St. Isidore the Farmer Church (conveniently located five miles from E-470 on Interstate 70). But the Denver Archdiocese doesn't recognize Pfeiffer's traditionalist group, and it denied the church permission to conduct a mass at Mother Cabrini. Undeterred, Pfeiffer celebrated with a roadside service nearby and then climbed the 373 steps of the shrine with some of his flock. Since over 60,000 visitors stop by each year, the highly publicized stop didn't ruffle Cabrini's followers.

"It caused no problem," Casciano says.

So far, none of the controversy has detracted from next month's plans to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini's first visit to Colorado in October 1902. A dinner is set for July 14, one day before her what would have been her 152nd birthday. (She died in 1917 in Chicago, where her cane, among other artifacts, is still displayed.) And even Reverend Pfeiffer is welcome. "Everyone's invited," Casciano says.

"Standing Tall/Above It All/Mother Says No Joke/Toss No Matches/Damn the Holy Smoke."

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