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Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage 1

California Mission Pilgrimage

          I have been teaching fourth grade in California for twelve years.  That means California history, the high point of which, for us, is Father Junipero Serra and the California Missions.  For years my wife and I had been talking about making a family pilgrimage to see all 21 Missions.  This year, everything finally seemed to fit.  And, with the upcoming canonization of Father Serra, the timing seemed perfect.  We began on Good Friday and finished on Divine Mercy Sunday.  I wanted to write a chronicle of our trip, and my wife suggested I post it on the blog for the benefit of others who might be interested.  So that is what I am doing.

          We planned to see three Missions a day on most days, which meant early starts in the morning.  Each day, during our periods of driving, we listened to one spiritual CD (from Lighthouse Catholic Media, for example).  If the kids wanted more to listen to, we chose Catholic music, to help keep the prayerful tone of the pilgrimage.  After the third Mission each day, they could request secular music, or we could watch television at our stop for the evening, or whatever.  At each Mission, we prayed indulgenced prayers, which included an Our Father, Apostle’s Creed, and asking Blessed Junipero Serra, and the patron of the Mission to pray for us.  One of our sons also made sure we did not forget to pray for the souls of all those buried at or associated with each Mission when we were there, as well.  During the trip we also read the book “Father Serra, Brave Adventurer,” an excellent recount of his life for children.

          Okay, I think that basically covers the format of our trip, so I will begin where we did, on Good Friday.  We live in Orange County, just north of Mission San Juan Capistrano, so we began our pilgrimage with the three Missions south of us, spent Good Friday night at home, and hit the road for real on Holy Saturday.

Day One: Good Friday


Mission San Luis Rey

          Our first stop was Mission San Luis Rey, in Oceanside.  The “King of the Missions” is large and impressive.  Besides being special for starting our pilgrimage, we learned some things that we would appreciate for the rest of the trip.  First, you can purchase a “Mission Passport,” and each Mission will give you a stamp to acknowledge your visit.  A couple of Missions even give little gifts to visitors with completed passports (San Luis Rey promised us a bumper sticker when we were finished).  We also learned that our children were going to be hard to pry away from the fountains that can be found at every Mission.  Besides the beautiful church, Mission San Luis Rey also boasts the oldest pepper tree in California, which is worth seeing if you’re there.  San Luis Rey is used by a Franciscan community and often hosts retreats.

Crucifix shrouded for Good Friday
Oldest pepper tree in California

Mission San Diego

          Mission San Diego is special because it is the first Mission founded by Fr. Serra.  There is also a memorial to the first martyr of California, Father Pedro Jayme, who was killed by California Indians.  Although the relationship between the priests and natives was generally friendly, and the Franciscans were great protectors of the Indian population (Father Serra’s body was available for viewing for three days after his death to allow all the Indians who loved him so dearly to be able to pay their last respects), there was at times friction between the natives and the Spaniards in general.

          Mission San Diego was also special to us because we attended Good Friday services there.  We almost missed them, however, because we were waiting in the old Mission church, which is used by the parish community.  However, the services were held in the St. Francis chapel, at the back of the property.  Be sure to check where to go if you plan to attend Mass at Mission San Diego.

Marker on the spot of Fr. Jayme's martyrdom

Mission San Juan Capistrano

          We had been to Mission San Juan Capistrano many times.  As a fourth grade teacher, I have gone every year for a field trip and could probably host a tour there.  That was good because, due to it being Good Friday, the Mission was closed by the time we got there.  The new Mission basilica was in the middle of Good Friday services, so we said a few prayers outside the church and vowed to come back when we returned home in a week.