Tuesday, January 08, 2008


On Saturday morning we left our home in San Diego and moved up the coast to Oceanside and Camp Pendleton. We drove in the rain the whole time, and it continued to rain the whole day and night. It also rained on and off on Sunday, and then again Sunday night and Monday morning. Today the sun is out, and the sky is blue. I think the big storms are over. There were spots in or near San Diego that had 13 inches of rain, the northern California mountains had as much as 11 feet of snow, and it's been dreary, dreary, dreary for almost 4 days. The first night we were here we were welcomed by a nice sunset, but it soon turned into rain again.

On Sunday we drove up to the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission, one of the nine Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra, and the Mission known as the Jewel of all the Missions. The weather cooperated and the rain stayed away as we toured the huge grounds of this Mission. The Great Stone Church which was begun in 1797 and took nine years to build, was hit by an earthquake in 1812 during morning Mass, and the walls crumbled and the domes caved in, killing 42 Indian worshippers. The Church was never rebuilt. The majestic ruins became known as the American Acropolis, and the Mission Preservation foundation has achieved a major preservation of the still standing walls.

Again, as with the Mission in San Diego, I found this such a peaceful, serene place, filled with lovingly preserved artifacts and bursting with the history of these great Western Missions. And I have also located on the map of this immediate area, three more missions that I would love to visit.

This is also the place that the popular WWII song "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" was speaking about. Each year, the miracle of the swallows takes place at this mission when, on March 19th, the faithful little birds wing their way from their winter home in Argentina to their summer home at San Juan Capistrano Mission. They rebuild their mud nests which cling to the ruins of the old stone church. And each fall, on October 23, the swallows take flight again, circle the mission bidding farewell to the Jewel of All Missions, and head back to their winter home.

Also on these grounds is the Serra Chapel, constructed in 1782, which is the only still standing chapel in which Father Serra is known to have celebrated the sacraments. Daily services are still held in this ornate chapel. We were fortunate to visit now, as a preservation project will involve installing scaffolding through this fall, and conservation treatments will take place on the termite infested beams.

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