Mission San Luís Rey de Francia in Oceanside has a church somewhat different, and more grand, than most. It is the largest of all and its ceiling has a high dome above the altar, and large alcoves extend out to both sides just before the altar.
It is one of the few that have survived the ravages of time more or less intact.
The overall effect is truly impressive; it is my current favorite. It is often called the King of the Missions.
Mission San Luis Rey is home to a Franciscan School of Theology, founded in 1845 (but not always located here.) It also has a retreat center. I called them the morning of my expected arrival to see if they might have accommodations for a pilgrim. They were sympathetic to the cause but were full; if I had called sooner I quite possibly could have gotten a room. Trouble is I’m not much good at planning ahead.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the very first mission founded in Alta California (in 1769) had to be rebuilt in 1776 after a group of natives killed the priest and two other Spaniards and set fire to the then-wooden mission buildings. This was one of many revolts during the Mission period; the Spanish soldiers who accompanied the Missionaries somehow gained the upper hand at each one, eventually if not immediately.
I visited Mission San Diego on a Saturday and a wedding was in process. Weddings, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, memorial services and much more have been taking place in a few of the Missions without interruption, though most of them fell out of use during the Mexican period.
Some of the missions had asistencias, or sub-missions. San Diego’s is called Mission San Ysabel; it was founded in 1818 and is still in use today.
Some descendants of the Digueño Indians (neophytes who lived in the San Diego Mission) live in a reservation by the same name as the asistencia, San Ysabel. Pala Indian Reservation is home to the Luiseño Indians (descendants of the neophytes of Mission San Luis Rey de España.) I had no idea that we had reservations in California for Mission Indians.
As it was in the 1800s, Mission San Diego continues to be the home of an elementary school. Here’s a photo of two nuns with their native students:
It was the paintings and other artifacts that initially attracted the native people to the Spanish missionaries. Upon showing a painting of the mother and child to the native people, by one account, the Missionaries were able to inspire their respect and their compliance. The mother and child were especially attractive to them because they could relate to the love and tenderness expressed between them.
However, once they were baptized, the neophytes were forbidden to leave the Mission, and this, along with intolerance of their native rituals and spiritual practices, beatings and other hardships, led to the many revolts and uprisings.
Thus ends the southern portion of my pilgrimage along the Camino Real of Alta California! Will I one day complete the journey and travel from Carmel north to Sonoma? Or see all the missions in Baja California (most of which are in ruins)? I don’t know. For now, I’m happily visiting my daughter where she lives in Riverside (from where we visited dear old friends from our homeschooling days, in Redlands)
and we have made an excursion to beautiful Palm Springs
thanks to my step-mother Diane Emerson. The mountains are beautiful here, if exceptionally stark. and the weather makes it possible to really enjoy the pool.
What a variety of experiences I am having!
I’m not yet ready to stop my travels. I’m still seeking greater understanding of life on life’s terms. More will be revealed.