Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage - 5

California Mission Pilgrimage(5)

Day Six: Easter Wednesday


Mission San Carlos Borromeo

          This Mission is often simply called Mission Carmel, and to be honest, I really didn’t want it to be my favorite, because it is everybody’s favorite.  But I have to admit, after having visited it, that it is my favorite (although each Mission is special and San Juan Capistrano is a close second).

          There are a few things that make Mission Carmel so special.  First of all, the church is absolutely beautiful.  Also, many of the Missions have wonderful sacred art and artifacts; some have more than Carmel, in fact, but what they have here is really amazing.

          The most incredible thing that Mission Carmel has, which no other Mission does, is the grave of Father Serra.  In the church, before the altar are three graves.  One is Father Serra’s.  Another is Father Fermin Lasuen’s, who founded the next nine Missions after Father Serra.  Since we had been learning about him on our trip, it was special to visit his grave, as well.  There are also many relics of Father Serra.  You can see a part of his coffin, for example.  Since Carmel was Father Serra’s headquarters, you can also visit his room there, which is where he died.  There are some nice relics at other Missions, but the vast amount directly related to Father Serra make Carmel a unique place.

The grave of Fr. Serra, before the altar
Father Serra's room, in which he died
The Blessed Sacrament chapel

San Juan Bautista

          From Carmel, we went to Mission San Juan Bautista.  Although it doesn’t have as much as Carmel, this is a great Mission to visit.  The church and courtyard are beautiful, as is the Mission’s location.  There is an original dirt section of El Camino Real at this Mission, and it is in a cute little town off highway 101, at the end of a street, making up one part of a square surrounded by other historic buildings that have been preserved and are open to visitors.

          After visiting the Mission, we ate lunch at the “Mission Café” just down the road.  One thing about San Juan Bautista is that I found it to be the last Mission located in a really beautiful location with a beautiful drive to get there (with the exception of our last Mission, San Francisco Solano).

Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel

Mission Santa Cruz

          After leaving San Juan Bautista, we headed to Santa Cruz.  Although there was a wonderful drive through the mountains, as we approached Santa Cruz, the traffic became horrendous, and the city itself was crowded and kind of dirty.  We arrived at Mission Santa Cruz shortly before 3:00, and it was a good thing we did, because the old Mission is a small chapel located next to the new church, and it closes at 3:00.  There is very little to see at Mission Santa Cruz, so our lack of time turned out to be no problem, but the chapel itself is nice, and of course it is holy ground.  It is free to visit, just make sure you don’t get there too late.


          We camped that night at New Brighton State Beach, which is a campground I would definitely like to visit again.  (The state hadn’t even gotten around to boarding up the bathrooms yet, which provided us with an unexpected luxury).  One major problem, though, was that the traffic the rest of the day and the next morning, around Santa Cruz, continued to be terrible.