Good News: Flights Booked for Nagasaki!

Ian Higgins writes about the progress being made on completing the film All That Remains, (thanks to the generosity of readers like you).

Flights are now booked for Nagasaki! We’ll be flying out on November 22nd and arrive on the 23rd. In the meantime we’ve got plenty to organise as it’s going to be pretty full on when we get there with all the interviews and location shots we want to get. Meanwhile, we’ll be releasing the trailer for the animated short, 26 Martyrs in a couple of weeks so keep looking for that!

A few days back, we also received some words of encouragement from Baron Alton of Liverpool, who wrote a great article on Dr. Nagai for the Catholic Universe newspaper. Lord Alton said, “I wanted to congratulate you on an excellent initiative. Dr.Nagai’s story is deeply moving and affecting and deserves to be told to a much wider audience in the manner you envisage”

You can read the article online at Lord Alton’s blog.

Don’t forget to keep spreading the word (tell as many people as you can about this project), we need all the help we can get in order to do justice to the story of Dr. Nagai and the Christian heritage of Nagasaki.

We’ve also just launched our All That Remains blog page which will act as a production diary, so we’ll post more in-depth updates, more behind the scenes glimpses etc. The blog will continue to run for the entire length of the production.

That is great news to hear! While I’ve got your attention, I’m noticing that a thick layer of dust has gathered on the $65 sitting in the jar over yonder ===>>>. Do me a solid and pretend the deadline is tomorrow, ok? Throw ’em some baksheesh in there, and pronto, so Ian and the crew can a) eat and b) finish the project on time.

Thankee kindly!

“The Kid” Goes to Madrid!

This past Saturday, I shared a little e-mail I received from someone who was converted and called to a vocation while attending World Youth Day back in 2005. Nobody read that post, which means it must have been a pretty important one. No one ever reads posts like those.

Today, I see that Marc Barnes, known as “the Kid” around these parts, is heading to Madrid for World Youth Day, and he will be posting about his experiences. So far, he’s got Day One up, and a video too (that’s just a photograph of it up there). Go take a look over on his blog.

I’m thankful to his parents, and those of his friends, for sending him to WYD, but even more thankful that he and his buddies want to go at all. I look forward to watching their experience unfold over on Marc’s blog over the next several days.

I read somewhere recently that the Catholic Church has always stymied “the World” with the young and the weak. Hmmm, where did I read that? Oh yeah, St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For see your vocation, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble: But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong. And the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his sight. 

But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption: That, as it is written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord.

Which couldn’t be a better introduction for the video below than if it was written just yesterday. Have a look to give the rest of us a further taste of World Youth Day, and a little history lesson on WYD as well. Twenty-six years, and counting!

To Visit Provence Again, As A Catholic

It’s the Feast of St. Martha, you know, “the Dragonslayer” today. Yes, you read that right. Father Steve of Word on Fire has a few words about that and they prompted me to dust this off and bring it to the top today. Enjoy!

I ate at a McDonald’s in Avignon once. I like to see how Mickey D’s adapts to local tastes abroad. My wife and I also walked around the streets briefly too, before we had to get back on the tour bus that was taking us from Nice to the Burgundy country. See, we rewarded ourselves with a European trip after we graduated from college. It was the Summer of 1993.

It was one of those whirlwind tours. You know the type, right? Eleven countries in 21 days. At the time, I thought we spent way too much time in Rome. It’s amazing I wasn’t arrested there. But that is another story. After Italy, the tour moved on to France. We both loved France ( she still enjoyed Italy, whereas I only approved of Florence). To me, arriving in France was like arriving in Heaven after leaving Hell. I didn’t believe in Purgatory at the time, you see.

Two McDonalds in Avignon!

Provence was especially lovely as I recall. And I hope to go back someday, now that I am a Catholic. Why? Because of this little piece of history/ folklore that I stumbled across this morning. I saw on a Christianity timeline that St. Martha, in the year 48-49 AD arrived in Avignon, France. Where I had pommes frites at the Golden Arches? And she brought Lazarus and the gang with her too. Who knew?

I didn’t at the time. So I did a little digging over at Google Books and found about 100 more reasons to head back to Provence. First, I ran across this story in an old magazine named The Century, long since out of print. Why do I want to go back to Provence? Take a look at Exhibit A,

from “The Churches of Provence”, by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer (November 1894)

“Everything here is on a smaller scale than in Italy — historical facts, as well as those of nature and of art; but thus we are offered a more intimate quality of charm, while we are not saddened by the tragedy of a world-possessing empire gone to wreck.”History meeting legend with a kiss,” we feel ourselves happily enchanted as in a land of pure romance; and the beauty and the gaiety of its living people do but complete the illusion.

The cities

“Every foot of this country, every name on its map, is romantically suggestive of Greeks or Romans, Saracens, Visigoths or Franks, Aquitanians or Spaniards, hermits, crusaders, heretics, inquisitors, exiled popes, famous poets, or earliest Christian martyrs. With Petrarch you may go to Avignon and Vaucluse, with Dante to the ancient cemetery called Les Aliscamps in Arles, with Dumas to the islands of the coast, and to Aix with René of Anjou —king, poet, painter, and historian of tournaments. The first monasteries of Gaul were founded upon Provençal islands, and one of them, St. Honorat, long played the prominent civilizing part that was played in Britain by the island of Iona.

“And Christian legend, calling to you at every step, carries you as far back as it could to Palestine itself.

“There is a real town in Provence with the impossibly poetic name of Les Saintes Maries. By the time you reach it on its ultimate point of sea-coast, you should be in the right Provençal mood; and this is the mood of him who saith, “Surely these things are true, else they had not been told.”

The countryside…Lavender!

“Just here, we are told, there landed a little company of the friends of Christ, set adrift by their persecutors from the shores of the Holy Land. They were Mary Jacobi, the sister of the Blessed Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the apostles James and John; their servant Sarah; Maximin, to whom Christ had restored his sight; Lazarus with his sister Martha; and Mary Magdalene.

“Where and why they had left behind them Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, or whether Provençal belief confounds her with the erring and repentant Mary — this I could not get explained. But I know that Mary Jacobi and Mary Salome remained at their landing-place, for the beautiful name they bequeathed it is a witness. St. Louis caused their bones to be fittingly honored: you may see their tombs today in an ancient church tower, as, in the crypt beneath, the tomb of their servant Sarah; and the medieval pilgrimages still continue, in crowding streams, on an anniversary day in May.

Bad dragon!

“I likewise know that Martha journeyed to Tarascon, between Avignon and Arles, for there she slew the tarasque, a terrific dragon that was devouring the land: the name of the town is again a proof, and the name of the old church of St. Martha, the effigy of the tarasque, which you may behold, and the festival which year by year is celebrated yet in honor of the prowess of the good housewifely saint. Then at Arles you will learn that Christ himself consecrated for Christian burial the famous pagan Aliscamps (its name is a corruption of Efysii Campi), and at Vienne you will be informed that St. Paul brought thither the first Christian tidings when on his way toward Spain, and will be shown a Roman tomb under which the body of Pontius Pilate was laid.

“And you might just as well have stayed in America as to doubt that such things, told in such ways for nearly two thousand years, must be veritably true.”

****

Dragon slaying? Sign me up! As if that wasn’t enough, her article goes on to describe the church buildings throughout the region with photographs and drawings that magazines of today just don’t take the time to do anymore. I love this story about the early Christians coming to France though and wanted to know more. Here is another taste of Catholic Provence,

from Cathedrals and Cloisters of the South of France by Elise Whitlock Rose (published in 1906)

“Few of the Cathedral-churches of the Midi are without holy relics, but none is more famous, more revered, and more authentic a place of pilgrimage than the Basilica of Apt. It came about in this way, says local history. When Martha, Lazarus, and the Holy Marys of the Gospels landed in France, they brought with them the venerated body of Saint Anne, the Virgin’s Mother; and Lazarus, being a Bishop, kept the holy relic at his episcopal seat of Marseilles.

“Persecutions arose, and dangers innumerable; and for safety’s sake the Bishop removed Saint Anne’s body to Apt and sealed it secretly in the wall. For centuries, Christians met and prayed in the little church, unconscious of the wonder-working relic hidden so near them; and it was only through a miracle, in Charlemagne’s time and some say in his presence, that the holy body was discovered. This is the history which a sacristan recites to curious pilgrims as he leads them to the sub-crypt…

“To the faithful Catholic, the interest of Sainte-Anne of Apt lies in its wonderful and glorious relics. Here are the bodies of Saint Eleazer and Sainte Delphine his wife, a couple so pious that every morning they dressed a Statue of the Infant Jesus, and every night they undressed it and laid it to rest in a cradle. There is also the rosary of Sainte Delphine whose every bead contained a relic; and before the Revolution there were other treasures innumerable. During many years Apt has been the pilgrim-shrine of the Faithful, and great and small offerings of many centuries have been laid before the miracleworking body of the Virgin’s sainted Mother.”

****

Do you see what I mean? Tidbits like this “Lazarus, being a Bishop…” just give me a thousand more leads to follow up on, and more reasons to go broke heading to Provence. I want to know all about that tradition! As I’ve said before, it will take an eternity of lifetimes to ponder what God has wrought by the Incarnation as well as with the founding of His Church. Unfortunately, it would take a bottomless bank account too. Sigh.

Obviously, Elise’s book is available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, though, for unlimited access to all at no charge. I could get lost in this particular book for hours…

Cathédrale de Notre Dame des Doms,
Avignon

For Faith In Action: The March For Life (Part II)

Cold hands = warm hearts.*

Chapter 3: The Youth Mass for Life.

When the idea to come to the March for Life came over me (see embedded link above), I knew that I wanted to attend Mass before the march began. I remembered where the Wee Kirk on the Hill is, and I also remembered a few other parishes from our trip back in the summer. I went to the March for Life website and clicked on the Factsheet to see if anything was planned worship-wise.

There was a pre-march Youth Mass and Rally planned to begin at 10:00 at the Verizon Center, but I quickly found out that tickets for that event were “sold-out.” Maybe if I would have planned this trip two weeks ago, that might have been a possibility. But the idea to go on this trip was less than an hour old by the time I was looking, so the rally was a no-go. Thankfully, there were four other locations available as overflow facilities.

Three out of the four venues available were sold out too, so I clicked on the last available location, punched in a quantity of 5 and prayed that there were enough spots left for us. There were! I printed the tickets, and the trip picked up momentum from there. Being at the Youth Mass was important for 15, 11, and 9 reasons: those are the ages of my three children and I wanted them to be surrounded by other young people so they would know that this just isn’t some old fuddy-duddy Dad’s idea of something important. I wanted them to see that lot’s of kids were missing school for this important event as well, not just themselves.

And now here we all were, seated and waiting for Mass to begin in a sanctuary packed to capacity. There on the right hand side were a bunch of young men, who turned out to all be seminarians. We sat on the St. Joseph side of the sanctuary, with young men and women ahead of us, and behind us and this was mirrored over on the St. Mary side of the aisle as well. It was 1030, packed, and young people were still coming in by the bus load. The Mass started 15 minutes late so the latecomers and stragglers could make it in on time. This gave me a little time to think and to pray.

I thought to myself, It is entirely appropriate that we are sitting here in a church in Chinatown. Outside, next to the front entrance to the church, I had spied a sign written in Chinese that had Our Lady of China’s portrait on it. John C.H.Wu and Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang must be smiling, I thought to myself. They were probably clucking their tongues at me for my worrying that we wouldn’t make it here on time. “Silly Grasshopper, oh ye of little faith.”

I remember several things from the Mass, the first of which is that we began it with the long form of the penitential rite as follows,

I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Catholics believe that some forms of sin are graver than others, because frankly, this makes sense. Also, it says so in the Bible. But we also know that we are all sinners, and though we hate the sin, we love sinners, because Christ loved sinners too. So it is apropos that we acknowledged our sins before all present and to ask for their prayers for us as well. It always is appropriate.

Next, Our Lord, of course, was present in the Mass, as He always is. Sometimes I can slip into taking this for granted, but not today. He had eleven of His priests there as well, to concelebrate the Mass for His flock, and provide them with nourishment from Him. And at the Great Amen, all eleven of the priests chanted in unison,

Through Him, in Him, with Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours Almighty Father, forever and ever.

And all of us in attendance chanted back, Amen.

It was a moment so beautiful that it made my eyes water. I thought to myself that even if we couldn’t have made it to the March later, being here now, for this Mass alone, was well worth the trip.

Spilling out into the streets!

The sanctuary reverberated as we prayed the Our Father together, and there was much joy as we exchanged the sign of Christ’s peace with one another. Several hundred of us united in Christian charity for the sanctity of human life. By the time the final blessing and dismissal came, Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and our thunderous reply of, Thanks be to God! I thought how fitting to remember that in everything we do, we serve the King and His peoples.

It may have been freezing outside (it was!), but as the warmth of the Holy Spirit washed over us, it was like the little tongues of flame from Pentecost were there to follow us out into the cold and keep us warm. It was 1145. Time to take the Metro to the rally point on the Mall.

Chapter 4, the Mall and the March

Team Weathers with the CO.

After leaving the Mass, we walked back up to where we parked so we could get a few items before heading to the Chinatown Metro station. If it would have been Summertime, we could have just walked from Chinatown to the Mall. But as it was 20 some odd degrees, temperature wise, the Metro option was looking good. We knew where we were now, because during our vacation this past summer, we had eaten at a restaurant close to the Chinatown Metro station, a block away from where we stood now.

My wife remembered how to work the ticket machines too. As we were going down the escalator to the train, a bunch of college students carrying life affirming placards and signs were going up the escalator. I told my kids that they were either lost, or meeting some of their friends, because they were headed the wrong way. I don’t think they believed me. As we only had to go down one stop to Archives/Navy Memorial I started thinking about lunch ideas.

When we got off at our stop, it was 1215. Now, the rally at the assembly point was starting up, but I knew that the march itself didn’t begin until 1330, so it was time to have some lunch. My wife and I discussed going to the Old Post Office, where there are plenty of food vendors, or to a restaurant close by. Lots of our fellow Pro-Lifers were walking around and lining the streets already, so we started walking toward the Mall.

The Lovers, Picasso

The rally point for the March was near the National Gallery of Art, and as we neared it I recalled that there was a cafeteria underground between it and the Gallery of Modern Art. No one appeared to be heading towards the Gallery so, being the contrarian that I am, that is where we headed. The guards checked our bags and we were warm and inside, headed to bathrooms and then on to lunch. We even got to snap a few more photographs of some beautiful paintings again.

We took the elevator downstairs to where the shops and cafeteria were. I issued orders that the kids could order all they wanted, but that they would have to eat all they took. My oldest said, “wait, is this where we came that time and we all ordered too much?” And I said, “yes, this is where you guys broke me last summer. Be gentle this time!” And they were. We sat across from the water fall and noted other marchers that were also here for lunch. More than a few priests wearing their collars were evident as well.

Team Weathers at “chow.”

As my wife and I ate lunch I commented, “You know, it’s as if that whole trip last summer was a preparation for us coming here now. As if that was a reconnaissance or pathfinder mission just so we would be prepared for this trip.” She nodded in agreement and said, “It seems that way, doesn’t it. It’s a blessing that we knew where to eat, where the Metro stations are, and everything.” By now it was 1315, so we wrapped up our lunch, headed to bathrooms again (where we saw actual working phone booths!) and then ventured back out into the throng of peaceful protesters just like ourselves.

I love this guy!

There were people from all over the country, as well as from all over the world here. Why from the world? Pro-Life solidarity, I reckon. We saw German, Italian, and Irish flags for sure. We saw Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Episcopalians for Life, Lutherans for Life, and lots and lots of Catholics. I’m sure there were many other churches present as well. What I didn’t see were any Pro-Abortion supporters at all. Maybe it was too cold for them? I don’t know.

We even saw an Anarchist/Agnostic for Life though, which makes sense because if you think that being Pro-Life is only because of our religious beliefs, you don’t have your thinking cap on. I was Pro-Life long before I became a Catholic because killing babies can just never be justified. Not if you use your ability to think and reason. A humanism that feeds off of the deaths of other human beings is a Soylent Green type of future that I don’t find appealing at all.

For the rest of this post, I’ll let the pictures do the talking,

Peaceful warriors await!
Our Lady keeps her children warm.
A few hundred thousand people assembling on the Mall.
A few hundred thousand people listening to speeches.
If it’s this crowded when it’s cold, imagine if it was warm!
Pan camera a little more to the left…More peoples!
Team Weathers with the XO.
New Yorkers for Life!
The lead elements in the March.
A few hundred thousand people on Constitution Avenue.
Amidst the “slow moving party” on Pennsylvania Ave.
Standing room only so, let’s dance!
In Front of the Supreme Court.
The time? 1600. Time to head home after a successful mission.

We got back to the car, and got back on the road for the return trip home. I made it as the pilot all the way back to Roanoke. There, we refueled and I handed the tiller over to the XO. We arrived back home at midnight, safe and sound. 36 hours from the beginning to the end. A minor miracle in itself.

To God be the Glory!

* All photographs belong to the author.

Updates:


An Apology from the Baby Boomers.

“The Kid” went to the March and posts on it here.

And “the Kid” made a video too. Help us make it go viral!

YouTube Preview Image

 

Dateline China: Because We Are One Body

I met Maria Holland here at YIM Catholic when she commented on one of my posts about a Lenten hymn attributed to Gregory the Great.  She is attending Xiamen University in the city of that same name.  It is a city on the East Coast of the People’s Republic of China. Due east, and directly across the Taiwan Strait, lies the island nation Taiwan. Having recently written several posts about painting master and poet Wu Li,  I must have China on my mind. So I checked in with “our correspondent in Xiamen” and ran across this post that gives us a slice of life in the Catholic Church in China. Continue to check in on Maria at her blog Adventuring Towards… (see sidebar).

Guest post by Maria Holland
This morning, I went to Zhangzhou for Bishop Cai’s first Mass in his hometown. We lined up outside the church in the rain to greet him as he stepped out of the car, all dressed up in his new bishop duds.

Mrs. Zhang (my Chinese mom) and I found a place, a small vacancy on a kneeler, and stationed ourselves there to wait for Mass to begin. The sanctuary was loud but I was trying to ignore the noise (and the stares) and pray. Out of nowhere, a woman came up to us, pushed Mama out of the way, handed her a camera, put her arm around my waist, and posed for a picture. Picture taken, she faded into the crowd without so much as a thank you. I hope she treasures that picture of her and I, thin-lipped smile on my face, forever.

Today was perhaps worse than usual, especially for church. This is difficult for me, because I try to be forbearing and understanding of Chinese people’s behavior towards me but . . . I’m just not that good of a person, not good enough to smile for every picture and respond to every “hallow?!?”. At church, I’m even more conscious of a duty to those around me.

I have many reasons for going to Chinese Mass here in Xiamen – more convenient time and location, Chinese language practice, making friends, experiencing the Catholic Church in China. I get a lot out of it, but deep down I hope that I give something back. Here in China, where the church is separated from the Roman Catholic Church by political disagreements, language barriers, and relative isolation, I hope that it some small way I can be the face of the Universal Church. I hope I can remind them that the creed we confess is the same regardless of language, and let them see the solidarity that we share in this faith, in which their sadness is my sadness and their joy is my joy.

But on days like today, I’m pretty sure that none of that message is getting through. On days like today, I feel like the only purpose I serve is distracting those around me from the real reason we’re both in church. I’m the sore thumb, the squeaky wheel, the elephant in the room.

This is sad for me. Honestly, I don’t really mind the kids pointing; kids will be kids everywhere. They nudge their parents, indicate me sitting behind them, and I force myself to smile for them. But I wish the parents would take advantage of this opportunity to teach their children a lesson, to tell them that I’m not a foreigner, because “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no us and them in the Church; we’re all members of the Body of Christ, and “there should be no divisions in the body”.

Thankfully, there are some who seem to understand this, for which I am eternally grateful. I vividly remember one conversation with LiuQin (the woman who drives me crazy) and Fr. Cai (#2); she told him to greet me by saying “Hello, foreigner!”, and he corrected her, saying that there we were all just brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of the priests, when giving me communion, will say “The Body of Christ” instead of “基督的身体”, which is a small gesture that acknowledges both our shared faith and our different languages. My heart basically melted today when, during the Sign of Peace, Mama awkwardly extended her hand towards me; she had apparently figured out how we do things in America and wanted to shake my hand as she wished me peace. (Here in China, the Sign of Peace consists of shaking your hands, palms together, towards others while bowing.)

After Mass, firecrackers, and food, we went back home. I spent the majority of the day in my room, avoiding the monsoon outside and all. Some items from the news:

Apparently the Shanghai pavilion at the Expo has a 6-D show. I was already impressed by the 4-D (??) movie we watched at Hulishan, so I can’t even imagine what kind of crazy stuff goes on in a 6-D exhibit! Maybe I’ll go see the Expo after all .

And if you believe that, then North Korea has successfully carried out nuclear fusion, “the holy grail of cheap, clean energy that has heretofore eluded every other scientist ever.”

Most of my friends who were studying abroad this semester are done and headed home; they left America after me and returned before me. I have been gone a long time, but as I’ve learned on previous trips to China: no matter how long you’re here, you always feel like you’re leaving just as you’re getting the hang of it.

This evening, I went out with my friend Aleid for a late dinner of barbecue and a dessert of 豆花 (sweet tofu soup). We went from there to Dreamer’s House, a bar/coffee shop/hostel located in an awesome building that climbs up and clings to a hill. A band was having their farewell concert downstairs, but we met up with some friends and found a nice spot near the very top just to talk. Good night after a long day!

Because of The Stations of the Cross

One of the dreams my wife and I have is to go on a tour of the Holy Land. We want to make a pilgrimage there and see the sights and holy places where the greatest story ever told took place. That is a trip we are really looking forward to.

There are many sites outside of the Holy Land to make a pilgrimage to as well. Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe come to mind. So many places, so little time, and dare I say it, so little cash. But there is a way to go to the Holy Land this week right in your local parish. [Read more…]

Because Going To Mass On Vacation Is Easy II

If you think that I have already had my fair share of going to Mass on this trip to Southern California, you would be wrong. In fact, I can’t get enough of what the Church has to offer, even when I am on vacation.

I have a confession to make: I go to daily mass as often as I can. And trust me, it isn’t because I feel “holier than thou” doing it. I feel relieved when I go. For those of you who can’t go daily because of time constraints or lack of opportunity (no parish nearby), I can understand. But in my case, there is a parish within walking distance from where I work and it holds Mass daily at 12:10 p.m., right in the heart of my lunch hour. So I usually just go.

Before I was Catholic, it never even dawned on me to go to Church every day. I heard about this practice when my wife told me her aunt would go daily (years before I became a Catholic) and I distinctly remember thinking to myself what a waste of time and energy! Get a life, people! But now, I see what she was up to and I think I understand.

So, I wake up each morning and start my day by reading the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily Mass readings. This has become a routine for me too, after being welcomed into the Church. It gives me great consolation to pray the LOTH and sometimes it ignites the spark for a post, or two. But it doesn’t supplant the desire for receiving “my daily bread” in the form of the Eucharist.

This morning I discovered that a parish nearby has daily mass at 8:30 a.m., and having found this out at 7:40 a.m., there was no doubt where I would be come 8:30. I thank one of my wife’s friends, who we met for dinner last night (and who invited us to Christmas Eve Mass) for alerting me that there was a parish nearby: St. John Eudes Parish in Chatsworth. I did a Google search and discovered it was a whopping mile and a half from where we are staying on this leg of our trip.

It never ceases to amaze me that I am not alone at these daily Masses. This morning there were at least 60 other people there with me. I pulled into the parking lot and had to search for a place to park. The first time I went to the daily Mass back home, I was stunned to find 20 people there. I figured it would just be the priest and me.

So, whew, I got to go to Mass this morning! Now to breakfast and then off to the “adventure du jour,” the Wild Animal Park of the San Diego Zoo. World renowned, an absolute must see, the stories we were going to be able to tell and the pictures we could share! It was going to be fantastic! And then . . . we got stuck in traffic.

Chatsworth isn’t exactly a few minutes from Escondido, where this attraction is located, even if there aren’t 8 million other drivers on the road trying to get to other places at the same time. As we slogged slowly southward, I saw signs announcing how long it would take to get to certain landmarks that make sense only to people who live in Southern California. Like “91 Freeway—30 Minutes” and that is when we were still 3 miles from intersecting the 605 Freeway. Have I lost you? Probably.

Suffice it to say that the trip to the Wild Animal Park was not looking good. And I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of paying the lofty admission price and then trying to squeeze all the pleasure out of my money’s worth before the park closed in the three hours that would be left by the time we got there. I had clear visions of stress and unhappiness if this mission was continued.

So I adapted, improvised, and overcame (Marines are good at that) because the “natives were restless” (being in a car for two hours in traffic feels like eight hours when you are 13 and under) and exited the freeway in San Juan Capistrano and headed to the Mission located there. Yep—we went to Church!

We spent three and a half hours at the Mission in San Juan Capistrano and not one minute felt rushed. Ten acres of beautiful grounds, and gardens and historic ruins and chapels. I learned how the Mission was founded on All Saints Day in 1776 and how Abraham Lincoln deeded the property back to the Catholic Church two weeks before he was assassinated.

I learned too that 40 worshipers had been killed when an earthquake in 1812 destroyed the The Great Stone Church built in 1797. The ruins of that building are still amazing to see today and were decorated with a beautiful nativity scene shown here.

I learned that San Juan of Capistrano is the Spanish form of Saint John of Capistrano or, in Italian, Giovanni da Capistrano. He is pretty “hard corps” as well—known as “the Soldier Saint” because he defeated the Ottoman Turks at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456 when he was, get this, 70 years old! That is probably why he only carried a red banner and a crucifix into battle, armor and a shield being too heavy, I bet.

Although the Turks didn’t kill him, and he was victorious in battle, bubonic plague took him in the end. He had been a lawyer before becoming a Franciscan friar and a renowned preacher. He is the patron saint of jurists. He once spoke to a crowd of over 126,000—more people than can fit in the Rose Bowl—and long before there were microphones, sound systems, etc.

And we haven’t even talked about Fray Junipero Serra, who established the entire chain of Missions in Alta California. Fr. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Every school child in California knows about Fr. Serra when they complete their 4th Grade Mission project for history class. I’m not sure if public school children complete these projects too, but I know that all the Catholic school kids do. And the Mission sells kits to help you complete these projects just like the Boy Scout shop sells kits for Pinewood Derby cars.

And my kids? They got to run around the grounds and get their ya-ya’s out on one hand, while getting to say prayers and light candles on the other. They loved seeing the koi swimming in the fountains, and the way the Spanish soldiers’ barracks were turned out. And they were amazed to see a bride and groom having their photographs made in the stunningly beautiful little chapel while hearing stories about how their Mom and Dad came here as newlyweds over twenty years ago too. They chased Monarch butterflies and later chased waves as we watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean from the sands of Doheny State Beach. Mission (pun intended) accomplished!

Yes, going to Mass on vacation is easy. You never know where or what it may lead you to. But so far, it has always led me to green pastures while restoring my soul.