Thursday, August 28, 2003

Santa Barbara Mission

Continuing my profile of beautiful Santa Barbara Churches and Chapels, I, of course, must bring attention to the beautiful Mission Santa Barbara, the Queen of the Missions, which, since its initial foundation in 1786, has been staffed by the Order of Friars Minor. Today it is still an active parish in Santa Barbara. It is also one of most conspicuous land marks around, considered by many to be the heart of the city. Much of the structure was damanged when an earthquake hit Santa Barbara in 1925.

Front of the Mission immediately after earthquake of 1925.

Much of it has since been reconstructed:

Front of the Mission today

View of the Pacific Ocean from the Mission steps.
Imagine this sight toward the end of the 18th century (minus the houses, of course)!

Original altar on display near the baptistry.
The Santa Barbara Mission is the only mission that still has its entire original altar completely intact and on display.
Notice the statue of St. Barbara above the tabernacle.

Inside, in spite of the earthquake damage, things look almost as they have for the last 100 years!

View of the rest of the nave and choir loft.

Within the Mission complex is the Sacred Garden, originally used for catechizing the California natives.

If you ever visit the Mission, you'll notice that this mission, like many, has an elaborate aqeduct system that runs through the Mission complex. This system was originally fed by water from a dam built in 1807 at nearby foothill waterfalls. These falls, along with the original mouth of the aqueduct, can still be visited a couple of miles up the road at the Santa Barbara botanic gardens.

For the curious historian in you:

One of my favorite stories of the Mission is the story of Juana Maria. If, as a child, you've ever read the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, you'll know the story of the young Indian girl found living alone on San Nicolas Island, off the coast of California, after 18 years. The story is that she was brought to Mission Santa Barbara where she remained and later died. She is supposedly buried somewhere in the Mission cemetery, and she is commemorated by this plaque located on the wall within the cemetery:

The plaque reads:

Indian Woman Abandoned on
San Nicolas Island Eighteen Years
Found And Brought To
Capt. George Nidever
In 1893
Augustine: Great Renown Has This Priest

Hymn from the old Roman Breviary
Fulget in caelis celebris sacerdos,
stella doctorum rutilat corusca,
lumen intactum fidei per orbis
climata spargens.

Cive tam claro, Sion o superna,
laeta dic laudes Domino salutis,
qui modis miris sibi vinxit ipsum
lumine complens.

Hid fidem sacram vigil usque
arma et errorum subigit potenter,
sordidos mores lavat
et repellit
dogmate claro.

Qui, gregis Christi speculator
enites clero monachisque forma,
tu Dei nobis faciem benignam
fac prece semper.

Laus, honor, virtus Triadi beatae,
cuius in terris studuisti amanter
alta scrutari nitidaque in astris
luce potiris.
Feast Day of St. Augustine

Today is the feast day of my beloved patron saint, St. Augustine of Hippo. So I thought I would celebrate this day by sharing with you some of his insights concerning prayer that have helped me in some way.

In his treatise, "On The Lord's Sermon on the Mount", 2.3.14, Augustine wrote this regarding the usefulness of frequent prayer:
But again one might ask whether we are to pray by words or deeds and what need there is for prayer, if God already knows what is needful for us. But it is because the act of prayer clarifies and purges our heart and makes it more capable of receiving the divine gifts that are poured out for us in the spirit. God does not give heed to the ambitiousness of our prayers, because he is always ready to give to us his light, not a visible light but an intellectual and spiritual one: but we are not always ready to receive it when we turn aside and down to other things out of a desire for temporal things. For in prayer there occurs a turning of the heart to he who is always ready to give if we will but take what he gives: and in that turning is the purification of the inner eye when the things we crave in the temporal world are shut out; so that the vision of the pure heart can bear the pure light that shines divinely without setting or wavering: and not only bear it, but abide in it; not only without difficulty, but even with unspeakable joy, with which the blessed life is truly and genuinely brought to fulfillment.
In other words, frequent prayer, manifested either in our words or our daily deeds, always orients us more closely toward the gifts of grace that our Father in heaven is always ready to give us. If even once per day we turn our souls toward matters of the spirit, we are forever changed because of it - a change not necessarily substantiated by the particular feelings or emotions associated with prayer, or even because of the ambitiousness of our prayer. Rather, as Augustine points out, it is a gradual change that is noticeable as the things we cling to in the physical, temporal world pass away. It involves a purification of the inner eye through which the vision of the pure heart may eventually come to bear and abide, with unspeakable joy, in the pure light that is God with His overflowing grace.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Monastery Chapel of the Poor Clares

Nestled in the heart of Santa Barbara on Los Olivos Street, just three blocks down from the historic Santa Barbara Mission, is the quaint and beautiful Chapel of the Cloistered Poor Clare sisters. The sisters take great care to sing for daily mass at 7am, which I love to attend when I can. They also have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday at 7:30am with Benediction and Devotions at 4pm. Perpetual adoration is held for 24 hours the first Thursday of every month.

What I love about attending mass with the sisters is that I get an experience of holy mass with people who have a strong devotion to Our Lord present in the Eucharist. Beautiful singing and chant as well as the heavy scent of candle and incense always permeate the environment. The interior is simple yet pure. It is truly a hidden jewel to Santa Barbara.

Front of the chapel from the street.

View of the sanctuary from the nave.
The sisters actually gather to the left of the sanctuary,
out of view of regular congregation.

Closer to the altar. Above the tabernacle is a window used for Exposition.
There is an adoration chapel behind the window where the sisters gather to adore Our Lord.

View of the choir loft and nave from the sanctuary.

The beautiful Santa Barbara Mission is up next on my list of Santa Barbara church favorites.


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