Friday, November 07, 2014

A Special Guest Post For You

Good Morning Everyone :) Today is a good day don't you think? Do I have a treat for you today. I have a guest blogger who has written a lovely post for you all. Allow me to introduce and tell you a little about her.

Jessica Snell is a writer and a mom of four who makes her home in sunny Southern California. She loves celebrating the traditional Christian feasts and fasts, and helping others to do the same!
She’s the editor of Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home. Broken down into specific sections like History, Traditions, In the Kitchen, Ideas, and Resources it is an easy, interesting read full of simple traditions and the rich meaning behind them.
Jessica blogs about faith, family, and fiction at Homemaking Through the Church Year.

I'm particularly excited about what she has to share with us today as I love-love-LOVE to visit churches around my own beautiful country. There is something about being in the house of God. Somehow I just feel closer to Him as I quietly walk around or sit in the Sanctuary. There is no doubt that England has many magnificent churches and cathedrals, but it is fascinating for me to see something a bit different in another country. I hope that you enjoy Jessica's post as much as I have.

San Juan California
When my family first moved to California, my mother could not get enough of the California missions. Every chance she got, she took us to them, and our whole family of five toured church after church, garden after garden, grounds after grounds.
As a child, I didn’t always enjoy it. Oh sure, I thought the gardens were beautiful, and I knew enough to know that I should find the history there more interesting than I did. But I didn’t really get it. I didn’t see what had my mother so fascinated.
Now, as an adult, I understand.

These are places that have been prayed in for hundreds of years. They are full of the memory of the faithful, and of the God who met them there.

That’s the appeal.
In a country as young as the United States, and a state as western and new as California, the missions are precious. They are as old as buildings get here, and certainly as old as churches get.
San Jaun Cloisters
 There were twenty-one missions built up the coast of California, and they were built by Spanish priests, in the days before California belonged to the U.S. Each mission is about a one day’s journey from the next, when you take the journey at a walk. The idea was that there would be a resting place for each night of the journey, and that each mission would be close enough to another that help would never be too far away.
Like all old endeavors, the California missions have bad as well as good in their past. There are tales of oppression and strife in their history, as well as tales of cooperation and kindness. But as they stand now, the missions are simply beautiful old churches – some still in working order – and monuments to the past, where any Californian who wishes to can go and experience something of what the land was like before our time. The history is well-preserved now, the bad and the good together, so that we can learn about the people who went before us.

One of my favorite of the missions is Mission San Juan Capistrano. Located almost exactly between the large cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Mission San Juan Capistrano is a little jewel by the coast. Still a working parish church, the mission is also a museum and a garden.
San Juan Fountain

The large square courtyard garden at San Juan Capistrano is surpassed only (to my mind) by the courtyard at Mission Santa Barbara. The church is at one end, and the other three sides are enclosed by the cloisters. In the middle stands a large fountain, and all around are trees, flowers, and succulents. It’s simply breathtaking.

As I said, the church is still a working parish church, so when you step out of the cloisters and into the sanctuary, you’re greeted by water in the fonts and candles that are still lit by the faithful.
It’s amazing to me to step into a church like this, where the faithful have been praying for centuries. The air feels different in there, and I like to think that it is because of the good weight of all those prayers. (Someday, I want to visit the churches of England, which are older still.)
And then you leave the sanctuary and walk through the graveyard.
And then you leave the graveyard and walk into a place perhaps more solemn even than that.

You see, the church that stands today is actually the second church of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Partway through its working life, there was a terrible earthquake at the mission, and the stonework of the first church collapsed. Right in the middle of mass.
Over forty people died.
San Juan Ruins
You can still see the ruins of the old church – even walk inside what’s left of the massive stone walls. It’s the only place I’ve ever been that felt eerie and holy, both at the same time. The white walls of the old church soar above you, but the only roof left to the building is the blue sky itself.

I love Shirley’s blog and love reading about her life in England. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of one of my favorite places out here in California!

A big thank you to Jessica for her wonderful post and please do visit Jessica at her blog home 'Homemaking Through The Church Year'. I love reading her blog, it is filled with encouragement, something we all need on our Christian faith journey :)

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