On a recent visit to my sister Beth in California, I discovered that my husband Charlie had visited 16 of the 21 Spanish Missions. These Missions were founded by Spanish Franciscan priests between 1769 and 1833 to bring the Native Americans to Christianity and a whole lot of other more political reasons. I will let you seek out that information in the history books.
I also discovered that 4 of the remaining 5 missions were within a few hours drive. We packed water, a few snacks, my trekking poles and ourselves into the back seat of my sisters sedan. With her husband as chauffeur and Beth as narrator, we went to find these missions.
Each mission compound was unique in its location, state of restoration and amount of use. Some were out in the countryside and had become state parks. Others were in urban areas and were active parishes. All were similar in that the church had a long narrow nave and an altar rail. The walls of the more active churches were brightly painted with flowers and leaves and birds of the area. Different and alike, they all held surprises.
My favorite surprise of all was when I walked into an art exhibit at Mission Santa Inez. I entered the Madonna room and saw familiar images of our Lady in paintings of various sizes. I turned and looked to the right and then to the left and admired the artwork. As I started through the threshold into the next display I felt pulled to go back. I turned around and there she was, standing behind some glass. Our Lady! (now my lady to me because I instantly claimed her). Our Lady of the Journey. What Journey? Who created her image? Why was she here, unclaimed, a statue of wood, in this room of paintings, all signed and dated by their artists? I had so many questions about her, and they have remained unanswered despite my research.
In spite of not knowing her, I invited myself to join her journey. (It is not unusual for me to invite myself along) She didn’t say “no”. She just stood and looked at me with welcoming eyes. So it must be ok.
I am excited to follow Our Lady’s itinerary. Hmm, I wonder when the journey starts.