Monday, September 13, 2010

72 Hours at Mission San Luis Rey

(Above): The historic church at Old Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California (founded 1798). Capacity: 350. Visited by more than 250,000 tourists annually. (Below) The Serra Center at Old Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside (completed 1996). Capacity: 1600. Visited by members of our 6,000 family parish weekly: Please note. These buildings do NOT move (except during an earthquake, God forbid); everything else around here does. Constantly.

September 10
9 AM

I’m sitting in my office; the door is locked. No visitors. Teleconferencing with other members of our Province leadership about finances. The meeting lasts a full three and a half hours, with one 15-minute break. I don’t want to see another financial report. Ever again.

3 PM.
Home at the friary. Father Larry is returning from his vacation in New Jersey. Father Adrian is returning from Ireland tonight (who’s going to pick him up at the airport?) Father David is packing for a two-week trip to Kazakhstan. Father Luis and Brother Kelly are flying in from a meeting in Oakland. Brother Rufino is arriving for an overnight (he arrives and departs unseen). Another guest, Father Juvino, a diocesan priest from Goa, India, has been here just two days. The only friar one home for sure is Brother Mo (85), who is in his room watching a baseball game.

6 PM. Getting ready for the ninth annual Rotary Club Crabfest, a community-wide celebration/ fundraiser held in the Mission Gardens. Even before it starts, it’s been a great success: sold out, all 500 tickets. Both the Mission as well as the Parish social concerns office are beneficiaries. Veterans bring their own tools to crack crabs; a parishioner who owns a bakery got up at 2am to make 65 loaves of French bread.

The weather and garden setting are perfect; the music is great. The guests, representing every part of community life in the area, are relaxed, happy, and ready to eat! The Rotarians are working hard; the serving goes like clockwork. (Later on): I left the party early, gave up the ghost at 7:30 and took to my room. Slept through all the great music, missed some of the fun. This morning the courtyard is clear; the retreat center is preparing for weekend visitors.

September 11

7:30 AM The ninth anniversary of 9/11. The flags in front of the Mission are at half-staff. The parish chapel (capacity 250) is full for morning Mass. Not unusual in our 6,000-family parish, but today is special just the same.The mood is somber; people remember where they were, what they were doing, how they reacted that day. Lots of spontaneous petitions during the Prayers of the Faithful—for the victims of Sep.11, for our military families (we’re next door to Camp Pendelton). For peace. After Mass, the Knights of Columbus lead about 100 worshippers in a scriptural rosary, part of a nationwide commemoration.

9 AM
This weekend's parish bulletins are ready and a few early birds have already snapped up advance copies. I head over to the Serra Center to give a short presentation to the English-speaking catechists in our religious education program (900 kids, 60 catechists). Brief talk on Franciscan spirituality, then off to hear confessions (Sacrament of Reconciliation). There’s a long line; the allotted one-hour time slot turns into almost three. Afterwards, I go next door to spend an hour with the Spanish-speaking catechists and give another presentation, along with a “dinamica” to get people moving. Lots of feedback and suggestions about what the parish needs.

3 PM
Quick late lunch, quick late nap. Then, literally across the street to the annual hoedown benefit for our neighbors at the Ivey Ranch, a great community-based noprofit organization that enables both disabled children and adults (especially Wounded Warriors—returning vets with combat injuries) to experience healing and growth through equestrian training. What could be more Franciscan? Try Canine Companions, in the same complex. They match up disabled folks with guide dogs. And then there’s Casa de Amparo, too, which helps women and their kids who are victims of domestic violence.

I have to skip the dinner at Ivey Ranch so I can get back to the parish for the 5pm Mass. The Gospel from Luke 15 is about the woman with the Lost Coin. After Mass, a woman approaches me: “I’ve lost my husband.” “Oh, I’m so sorry. When?” “Just today.” “Today? Oh my.” “Yes, Father, he was just here a minute ago, but I can’t find him anywhere.” “Oh (relief). I’m sure he’ll turn up.” (He was waiting for her in the parking lot the whole time.) Case closed.

September 12
8 AM

“Meet and greet” as people leave morning Mass at the Old Mission Church. The sound system is working better, but no cantor this morning. David, the accompanist, did his best, but he’s not a singer. He was not amused…. I head over to the Serra Center to chat with members of our Guamanian community who are in charge of food sales this weekend: the standard cupcakes and doughnuts, plus wonderful soups—chicken noodle and corn w/ chicken. Not my usual breakfast, but tastes great!

9 AM
Say ‘hi’ to people coming out of the 8 AM Mass and then head over to another meeting hall, the McKeon Center, to welcome parents (English-speaking) who are registering their kids for religious ed/ sacramental preparation. I tell them (and I really mean it): I don’t know how you all do it. You have such busy lives with work, driving the kids to practices of every kind, taking care of relatives, dealing with financial stress and under/unemployment sometimes. And yet, you’ve made the decision to rear your children in the Catholic tradition—at a moment when we’re not exactly the most popular denomination on the block.

Back to greet people arriving for the 10 AM Mass, making a detour to bless one very large van. Run into lots of families with kids: “How’s school going?” “Good.” A burly, middle-aged man approaches me. John. Turns out he is Armenian and a truck driver. “I passed this place twelve years ago and promised that I would visit it some day. So here I am with my wife and mother.” Three women (sister all—one from Pennsylvania, another from West Virginia). The third one from New Philadelphia, Ohio. (Hey. That’s my mom’s hometown. We hug. Six degrees of separation. Works every time).

The “lost coin” theme continues: I misplace my keys (ALL my keys) and a volunteer from the parish library tells me: “Father, I can’t find one of our books, but I’m embarrassed to tell anyone. The title is Where is God? (I’m not making this up). We both pray to St. Anthony. I get my keys back by noon; haven’t heard anything about the library book yet.

12 Noon
Spanish Mass. This is the weekend of Independence Day for Mexico and, I am reminded by a lady who shouts it out during Mass—that of Central America as well. Father Luis is presiding; Fr. Adrian and I are there to show solidarity. The choir members, along with a lot of other worshippers are dressed in green/ white/ red combinations, in homage to the Mexican flag. The Serra Center is packed; the mood is jubilant. And the kids are noisy, but so what. Luis tells the people: “Let’s continue this Eucharistic feast by going across the way to our “Fiesta Patrias.” We applaud all the members of the parish Hispanic Committee/ Comite hispano and then bless the four young women “candidatas” who are vying for the title of “reina”/ queen of the fiesta.

All afternoon

Fiesta time. Cool, sunny weather. Families relax, stroll around the grounds, listen to great music, dance, and eat and eat and eat. The vendors are out in full force: carne asada, tamales, enchiladas, elotes, tortas, pupusas, aguas, flan—you name it. All of it incredible. Fr. Luis and I meet, greet, and eat. And eat.

6 PM
I take a break for a sick call and a nap. Back to “meet and greet” for the 5pm liturgy and make sure Fr. Tom has everything he needs for Mass. In the sacristy, he’s eyeing the bag of homemade oatmeal cookies a parishioner gave me. I gave him my “don’t even think of it” look, then relent and offer him one for after Mass. He accepts. Back at the fiesta, it’s time to listen to the mariachias, join in a bit of the dancing, and then get up on stage announce the winner for the pageant and crown this year’s queen. All the candidates are given warm applause and each receives a scholarship award to help her with her studies. After the coronation, I head home to crash.

September 13

9 AM
This is the Serra Center (again). Please note: it does not move. Except during an earthquake, God forbid. Everything else around here does. Constantly. Peace and all good!

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