Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Mission San Juan Capistrano

 Here I stand before the ruins of the original cathedral at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, in California. A friend and I went to the ocean and made a visit to this small town north of San Clemente. I had been there once, over 50 years ago, on my first sojourn west. This visit was a whole new experience.                                                        You may have heard of this place because of the festival of the swallows returning  to build their nests here every March, after their long flight back from Argentina.  There was even a hit song about it, way back when. It is a significant part of California history, as it was one of the many missions founded by Saint Junipero Serra , this one  in 1776. These missions were established by Spain to expand their territory and spread Christianity to the  indigenous natives, here it was the  Acjachemen tribe.  But an earthquake in 1812 caused thus great stone church to collapse, leaving only this wall of niches. I seem pretty small in comparison.                                                                                                      I loved all the history that is displayed here. I learned that after Mexico won independence in 1821 the Governor, Pio Pico, sold the land and mission to a Mr. John Forster. He just " happened ' to marry the Governor's sister, who was a 30 year old spinster at the time. Connections are all. But Mexico lost this land  after California  became a state in 1850. The Catholic bishop petitioned the US government to have the mission returned to the Catholic Church. In 1865, not long before his death, Abraham Lincoln did just that.                                                                                   Today the mission is restored to beauty. There is an existing chapel; historical exhibits; gorgeous rose and flower gardens ; and a reminder of the preciousness of life, today.

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