Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Friday, May 8, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage 3

California Mission Pilgrimage(3)

Day Four: Easter Monday


Mission Santa Ines

          At this point, our pilgrimage took a delightful turn because of the sheer beauty of the scenery over the next few days.  We woke up early on Monday to head out toward Santa Ines.  We got very early starts each day (quite a feat with four kids) to ensure we could reach all three Missions that day, and also because the peace and quiet of the early morning made for wonderful starts to our day.

          This day, we also sought to make the morning Mass at the Mission.  My wife and I had vacationed near Mission Santa Ines when we were first married, so we were pretty familiar with it.  There is not a large museum on the grounds, but for my money, it is in the most beautiful location of all the Missions.  The parish community is very warm and there is a chapel with perpetual Adoration at the back of the Church that makes Mission Santa Ines a special place to pray.  The beauty of the place is also very conducive to prayer outside, on the Mission grounds.

The grounds at Santa Ines are very conducive to prayer

Mission La Purisima

          From Mission Santa Ines we took the beautiful drive to Mission La Purisima.  The drive is short, only about half an hour.  La Purisima is one of two Missions that is no longer an active church; it is a California state park.  This Mission is a nice place to visit because there is so much of it left to see.  Being a state park, it has been preserved without the renovations that other Missions might need to accommodate parish communities.  There is also still livestock on the property and an opportunity to walk on a dirt road section of El Camino Real, the original Spanish road that connected all the Missions.

          Visiting a chapel at a Mission that is no longer an active church has a very unique feel.  There is still art, an altar, and a retablo, but it is pretty bare.  Praying there is kind of a special thing.  I thought of the wonderful things that had happened there, and how many souls came to Mission La Purisima to meet Christ for the first time.  Praying in that chapel I felt as though I was bringing something back to that place that belongs there, but is so often forgotten.

          One word of caution is that the informational displays at the visitor center are somewhat biased.  They are written from a modernist secular point of view that sees Spanish involvement in California as pure colonialism, without honoring the heroic sacrifice so many men of God made to serve the spiritual and material needs of the native population.

          Mission La Purisima sometimes hosts “living history” days, in which people can experience some of the atmosphere of 18th and 19th century life at the Mission.  That might be something to look into if you’re interested.

For many years the Holy Mass used to be offered here

Walking El Camino Real like pilgrims of old

Mission San Luis Obispo

          From La Purisima, we drove to Mission San Luis Obispo.  This Mission is located in a cute little town along Highway 101.  It is a nice (if somewhat dirty) downtown to explore, and we had lunch there.  This Mission has unique architecture because it is the only Mission laid out in the form of an “L.” 

          The kids particularly liked the fountain out front with the bear statues.  San Luis Obispo was once known as the “Valley of the Bears,” because of the grizzlies that once lived there and provided meat for many of the other Missions.

The church has a unique 'L-shaped' design


          We were able to leave San Luis Obispo relatively early and head toward our campground for the night at San Simeon State Beach.  This was a nice place to camp, but a bit farther from the Mission than I expected.  There are some things to see nearby, such as Hearst Castle, and a viewing area for elephant seals, who like to beach themselves just off the road.  One thing to watch out for, though, is that due to the drought, the bathrooms were all boarded up, and a line of port-a-potties were the only available facilities.