TAOS — When volunteers working to restore the San Antonio de Padua Church in Questa cut into a timber April 28, they saw a knot of wood some say resembles the Virgin Mary with a lamb. A few suggest she appears to be holding a swaddled Jesus Christ. Others see nothing more than a knot of wood.

Either way, the appearance of what could be described as an apparition has boosted the morale of a community that has labored for years to rebuild its crumbling church.

Mark Sideris, project coordinator for the restoration, is hesitant to call it an apparition but said he was immediately taken aback by the biblical image.

“It has gotten people seeing beauty in everything,” he told The Taos News.

While Sideris sees a lamb in the knot of wood, his daughter sees Christ, and others have likened it to the 14th Station of the Cross.

But some parishioners have suggested the Virgin Mary’s appearance is a literal response to their daily prayers for her to intercede in the church’s restoration.

Though volunteers shared their finding with Father Andrew Ifele, San Antonio de Padua’s priest, parishioners have not called on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to investigate the matter. Local diocese are typically responsible for designating Marian apparitions “worthy of belief,” “not contrary to the Faith,” or “not worthy of belief.”

Officials at the archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Regardless of whether it meets the criteria of a Marian apparition, volunteer Felipe Martínez said it was a reminder for crews rebuilding the 170-year-old house of worship.

“It reminds you there is a presence there. She is keeping us safe,” he told The Taos News. Word of what some have described as a miracle has spread beyond the congregation.

A small stream of visitors has flowed to the church since Sideris posted a photo of the knot on Facebook.

The timber, from a fir tree near Red River as old as the 19th-century church, now rests against a wall inside the nave.

While parishioners have mulled setting the beam aside for display, Sideris said it will be used to support a new choir loft.

“I love that parents may someday sit beneath it and ask their children if they can see the Virgin Mary in the choir loft,” he said. “And telling that story for hundreds of years.”

The Taos News is a sister paper of The Santa Fe New Mexican.