Mission San Antonio de Padua is named after a thirteenth century Franciscan monk of Portuguese origin, born Fernando Martins de Bulhões, also known as Anthony of Lisbon. He died in Padua, Italy in 1231 A. D.; he is known as the “finder of lost possessions.”
According to the web site missionscalifornia.com, Serra was the Founding Father President, while another missionary, Buenaventura Sitjar, spent 37 years as its director. It was officially founded on July 14, 1791 by Serra to the clang of a mission bell, and it is Serra who has his statue in front of the graceful Mission.
The Mission was moved from its original site two years later for the purpose of a better water supply (this is becoming a pattern.)
The beautiful “Valley of the Oaks” in which this mission was built remains much as it was in the 1800s, amazingly. This is due to the fact that it is surrounded by an army Fort (Hunter Liggett) and the Los Padres National Forest. It is truly a gem in terms of its pristine location and the way its outlying infrastructure (reservoir, grist mill, aqueduct, Indian Burial Ground and Sweat Lodge site, etc.) is still apparent.
Staying here on retreat or as pilgrims we are left alone in the late afternoon; there is no staff on site past 4:00 pm (other than the two resident felines), which gives one even more the feeling of being part of something timeless and special. One hears little other than the howling of coyotes (inspired by the Fort’s playing of Taps) and the hooting of an owl or two at night. Socializing with other retreatants is the only entertainment, and it more than suffices. I find myself wondering if I will someday be a caretaker here, and then I bring myself back to the present moment and simply enjoy myself. That old mental obsession with living in the future dies hard.
The Native population was large at this mission, and by 1806 reached over 1200 neophytes, as converted native peoples are called. They were mostly of the Salinan Tribe, but also included a few Yokuts and Esselen. They were taught (or forced to adopt) European ways of living, from farming to religious worship. Their old ways of hunting and gathering (using spectacular crafting skills to make baskets and other tools) were gradually all but lost. Not to mention the fact that they were devastated by disease and most likely by hard work and exploitation. These were people who lived in harmony with the natural world, taking only what was needed and little more.
I took a walk behind the mssion on Saturday afternoon
and found the Mission Creek
that feeds the nearby river.
To have water above ground is, again, such a blessing and a pleasure. I was here last fall and I really feared for the lives of the majestic oaks in this valley. That they have come back to life is cause for celebration!
My angel in this location was a man named Bob who was on retreat here before meeting his brother in Paso Robles for their annual visit. He lives in Kenwood, California, in Sonoma County and is a respected and well-loved regular retreatant at Mission San Antonio. He is a widower with two children and two grandchildren, for whom he has a deep affection. He is an avid gardener and a vegetarian. Before I left the Mission on Sunday (after attending mass and volunteering to trim the spent rose blooms from the bushes in the courtyard) I ate my lunch with Bob and we shared our stories with each other. We said our goodbyes, but as I rode away on my bicycle I felt uneasy, as if there was something more I should have done or said before leaving. I almost went back. Instead, I took this photo of one of the many rabbits hopping calmly around the Mission grounds.
and this photo of the distant Junipero Serra peak, the highest point in the Santa Lucia range.
I rode that afternoon to my friend Terry’s property in Lockwood, where I am now camped. On the way I stopped to take this picture of the tank at the junction of Jolon and Mission Roads
and these curious animals at Jolon-Pleyto Road
The next morning Terry and I were having breakfast when I received a call from Joan at Mission San Antonio. My small purse containing my license, debit card and other valuables had been found in the Refectorio (dining room) and she wanted to know where I was so she could bring it to me. (They knew I was bicycling and wasn’t too far away.) I thanked her profusely and said I would meet her at the end of Dafino Lane, on Jolon Road.
Some twenty minutes later who should appear but Bob, who turned out to be the one who found my purse. I was so grateful to have the chance to say good bye to him more formally.
It seems that Bob was my own personal San Antonio de Padua, my own “finder of last possessions!” Do you see why I feel so protected on this journey? God is with me every step of the way.