Lizzy Ender's father dumps her at a Santa Fe convent after her mother died on the Santa Fe Trail. A Methodist, Lizzy is an outcast in the school who can't comprehend the dedication to Catholicism. She thinks the nuns who pray to Saint Joseph for help to finish their choir loft (which doesn't have a staircase) are crazy. She befriends an unemployed carpenter and suggests he build the staircase. Her classmates are furious as they were waiting for a miracle to occur. The carpenter, named Jose, proceeds to build the staircase in a matter of weeks armed with three simple tools and his faith. After building the staircase, Jose disappears and Lizzy decides to leave the convent to live with her father, who was currently living on a ranch in Texas.
This story is based on the real legend of the miracle occurring at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, where an unnamed man(thought to be Saint Joseph) built a staircase. The circular staircase made two complete revolutions lacking both nails and a center support.