Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
In these weeks we are in the midst of several celebrations which have particular importance for us here in the Diocese of Orange. First of all, we are in the midst of a number of celebrations in California and around the world of the 300th birthday of Blessed Junipero Serra. In the midst of this time of the “New Evangelization” it would be well to recall this “first evangelization” here in California by Blessed Serra. His motto “Siempre adelante” are words for us each day God gives us. One of the fruits of his missionary endeavors are the missions both in “baja” and “alta” California, which are still not only tourist destinations, but places of study for the young people of California. It would be well for us to remember that the Faith was celebrated here before the celebrated locations in the Northeast of our United States! A quick review of many of the cities here in California will remind us of the origins of these cities from the efforts of Fr. Serra: San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, for example!
For us here in our Diocese, there is another reminder coming up next week: the feast of San Juan Capistrano on October 23. According to the Liturgy of the Hours, “St. John was born in Capistrano in the Abruzzi in 1386. He studied law at Perugia and for a time was governor of that city. He entered the Order of Friars Minor and, after ordination to the priesthood, he led an untiring apostolic life preaching throughout Europe both to strengthen Christian life and to refute heresy. He died at Villach in Austria in 1456.”
Our beloved mission of San Juan Capistrano takes its name from him, which was given by Blessed Serra. On a popular note, it is said that the swallows leave Capistrano on this day to return on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19.
The Mission certainly has a long and venerable history, as a visit to it will reveal. I have been blessed to be at the Mission many times in my nearly a year here with all of you. For me each time is not only a visit, but a time of reflection and prayer and gratitude to the Lord for the history of Faith here and for being with you. Whether it be the Basilica, the Serra chapel with its St. Peregrine side chapel, the ruins of the old stone church, the beautiful new gift shop, the fountains and flowers or just walking around , it is a place of Faith , prayer and beauty. It is also a vibrant parish with a school and many activities! This is so because, building on the venerable history of the mission, Msgr. Arthur Holquin and the parish priests Fr. Tim Peters and Fr. Michael Pontarelli OSM, the staff of the Mission, the Executive Director Mrs. Mechelle Lawrence Adams, and the Board of Directors headed by Mr. George O’Connell have worked tirelessly to enhance the beauty, history and life of the Mission. I would encourage you, if you haven’t yet, to make a visit to the Mission in these Autumn days, especially around the feast day of San Juan Capistrano. The photos with these words are mine, and in his words, as we begin each day as a new gift of the Lord: “Siempre Adelante”! Perhaps we will see each other there!