I got to visit the San Juan Capistrano mission last weekend with my mom and Heather. The day was gorgeous, warm and blue, and like all the missions I've seen this one had a beautiful center courtyard full of flowers.
Brief rundown for those who didn't grow up here and take California history in fourth grade: 250 years ago Franciscan missionaries began to travel to California, which had been claimed by Spain a few hundred years before but hadn't really been settled yet. They built a string of missions, something like twenty, all along the California coast, each one about a day's walk from the next. Their Indian converts lived and worked with them in the missions. Then Mexico became independent of Spain and an anti-Catholic government took over, confiscated the missions and sold them to private developers. Then America took over and Abraham Lincoln signed the bill giving possession of the missions back to the Catholic Church. They're still active parishes as well as historical sites you can tour. Heather and I were talking about how young the missions are for Europe, but how very old for California.
Anyway, San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 and has the usual wooden chapel, but there was also a great stone church, finished in 1806 after nine years of hard work. It was destroyed by earthquake six years later. Too bad; you can tell it would have been impressive. Dark, but impressive. Here's the view from the nave, looking at the sanctuary. I wonder what nine statues they had behind the altar.
I loved that they had a big Nativity scene set up in the church. It was Saturday and Christmas season wasn't quite over yet.
Here's the front of the mission.
And inside I caught a Franciscan walking away.
What used to be the friars' dining room had a portrait of Our Lady of Sorrows. I like the pictures of Mary that have her looking like a nun.
I was going to say that I had no idea why the room also contained a statue of a round-cheeked Dominican with angel wings. Looks more like lame modern kitsch than something from two hundred years ago... And then I remembered that St. Thomas Aquinas was called the Angelic Doctor. Mystery solved!
The interior of the wooden chapel-- probably cozier than the stone church anyway. I was all happy that they had a recording of the chants of the Mass playing. Same Kyrie and Credo that I hear all the time on Sundays at the TLM. :)
A chandelier wreathed for Christmas. All the mission churches have ceilings like that-- brightly painted and a bit warped, like the the nave was too long to keep all the wooden beams straight.
St. Ignatius! Good to see you! He's big at my parish, where the Oblates of the Virgin Mary give retreats based on his Spiritual Exercises. (They used to be called Jesuit retreats, which sounds kinda cool.) He was easy for me to recognize because a number of my friends like to write AMDG on their letters and emails from his motto Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, "For the greater glory of God."
If I was going to speak from a pulpit like that I'd make sure I had something worthwhile to say.
A fantasic golden retablo, shipped centuries ago from Spain, and the sanctuary lamp hanging from the ceiling.
St. Teresa of Avila shows off some of her Spanish poetry-- I made out something about how God both captures and frees her heart.
A really nice day; good company too. :)
And I would be remiss if I did not here indicate that the swallows come back to Capistrano.