Last week I introduced you to the very first California mission that I ever saw. If, you missed that post, feel free to catch up here! Today, I am talking about the mission that made me fall in love with all of the missions: Mission San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo (also known as Mission Carmel).
As I started off on my mission to learn more about how my faith shaped the culture of the area I grew up in, I started visiting other missions nearby to my hometown. There was a lot of the same history, but each place had a slightly different story and it was so fun to put the puzzle pieces together! I was fascinated by the glimpse into 18th century California.
There were two things about Mission San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo that made it stand out above the other missions I had seen.
One, it is the shrine of St. Junipero Serra. He was the friar who founded the 21 California missions and converted thousands of Native Americans to the Catholic faith. This was the very first shrine I had ever been to, and it was amazing to know that I was at the place where St. Junipero Serra is buried!
Two, Mission Carmel has some of the most beautiful Marian icons and statues I have ever seen. If you recall, I had a moment by a Marian statue at Mission San Juan Bautista that changed the way I looked at my faith, so seeing the Blessed Mother all over the place at Mission Carmel made me feel like a kid on Christmas! I mean, just look at some of my favorites! Aren’t they gorgeous?
However, it is not the shrine nor the Blessed Mother that made me fall in love with Mission San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo. I actually fell in love with this mission because it was the very first mission that my husband and I went to together. I had been to many of the missions, but Mission Carmel was his very first mission ever.
My husband converted to Catholicism shortly after we got together, so there are many experiences we have shared involving the Church that have been his first… but going to Mission Carmel is in my top five. I watched his eyes light up when he saw the building. I watched him walk around the museum area, trying to soak in as much info as possible. I watched him point out all the Marian things to me (“Hey, look! There’s a Mary [painting, statue, mosaic, another statue]!!”). I watched him at the St. Junipero shrine and I even snuck in some glances while he was praying.
I fell in love with him all over again when I saw him praying… and that’s the exact moment I fell in love with the California missions. It was no longer my mission to go visit all of them just to learn about my state’s history, but to visit them with my husband to share those experiences with the man I love. To help us both understand more about our faith and grow closer to God- and as a couple- while doing it.
Now, every California mission is a reminder of my mission to love my husband unconditionally and to support his journey to heaven. And that’s the most important mission I’ve taken on so far.