TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO’S MISSION TRAIL
Very modern families shared the latest news on the mission lawn. White-frocked priests chatted with parishioners. A large black dog wove among pants legs and teased children, earning a pat or two along the way. Some version of this scene has played out, right there, for several centuries. I found it heart-warming.
We stayed a few minutes and then passed by San Jose Mission, because we would be returning shortly for Mariachi Mass. With only 45 minutes to spare, we chose to see Espada over San Juan. Deb couldn’t remember which was which, but I knew Espada was my favorite.
When we pulled into the parking lot Deb knew I had chosen correctly. It’s her favorite mission too, even though she couldn’t remember the name. She recalled it from a previous visit, long ago when her boys were young. We sauntered among ruins and enjoyed the rustic feel of the old church.
Big News for the Mission Trail
As we chatted with each other about the lovely place a gentleman overheard our appreciative comments and shared some news. Mission Espada has been chosen as a World Heritage site. Since the official announcement didn’t come out until July 5th, finding this out in early June was a big deal.
On the surface this sounds like a good thing, but I really don’t know whether I want UNESCO messing with my favorite mission or not. All five missions are included in the designation, but Espada has been singled out as the site of the interpretive center.
Deb and I both feel a very spiritual connection to this particular mission, because it seems to be the least modernized. We feel as if there is still a link to the men who originally suffered and sacrificed to bring the Good News to the New World. We know that not every priest who came to the Americas had the best interest of the natives as their goal, but something about Espada makes us believe the men who came there did.
What we really don’t want is a bunch of people in costume making like they’re historical figures and signs all over the place explaining how abusive us Europeans were to the natives. Sure there were abuses, but we’re afraid new abuses are about to be perpetrated on the beautiful Espada Mission. It is a church first and it should stay that way.
After hearing the news we entered the chapel and spent some time in prayer. It was a holy moment for us, touching both our hearts. We hope we can have that experience the next time we visit Espada.
Time for San Jose
A peek at our watches told us we had lingered too long. We made a mad dash back to San Jose. Of course, we parked in the boonies and raced around wildly trying to find the worship center. A woman took us in hand and found us a seat.
The Mariachi Mass
I have bad news. The Mariachi Mass isn’t what it used to be. The last time I was at San Jose, parishioners were excited about the renovation about to occur. I’m afraid they did to San Jose exactly what I don’t want them to do to Espada. They improved it above and beyond my recognition.
Not The Way It Used to Be
I have memories of a small dark sanctuary filled with the exhilarating music of mariachis laced with the intoxicating smell of incense. The new sanctuary is big, bold, bright and completely out of touch with my memories.
Back in the old days, the mariachis wore incredible costumes sparkling with silver conchos. The new uniforms have stamped metal conchos, but only the color is silver, not the metal. The old mariachis wore the complete costume. Sombereos atop their heads, heavily embroidered suits with silver conchos and heavy black leather boots. The new mariachis wear white shirts with mariachi bowties, but it’s not the same. Someone once told me the same family had performed as a part of the mass for many generations. I don’t think any of them are still there. One of the violins was so off key that I actually thought I was going to have to leave. It was like nails scraping a chalkboard.
Here’s how bad it was. One of the choir members recognized us as strangers and apologized to us. That’s pretty sad.
It was time for us to head towards Dallas, but one more adventure awaits. Come back next week for lunch at Gruene’s Gristmill. In the meantime, enjoy the Mission Trail photos below.