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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

LA Mission Mission, Day One

Here I retell day one of the LA Mission Mission, where we visit Mission San Fernando Rey D’Espana and Neustra Senora Reina De Los Angeles (kinda sorta a mission), and the New downtown Cathedral, sometimes called the “Taj Mahoney”, named after a certain Cardinal who is still around although in the past (hopefully just in the past) has been cursed with a prodigious talent for looking the other way when he really should not have (you know of what I am speaking).

First stop, after a breakfast of peanut butter on rolls and coffee in our room, we set out to capture our first mission, Mission San Fernando Rey De Espana, which now finds itself in on a triangular piece of land bordered by three major Freeways, 405, 101, and I - 5. It was an easy drive from our motel. The first half of the freeway drive was a breeze, and the second half was a crawl. Pretty typical. Finding the mission was easy, since we exited on Mission Drive and drive the drive until we saw the mission. Like most missions with active parishes, the mission had its very own parking lot. Cake!

The mission’s buildings were rebuilt once some time around the turn of the century. Similar to the other missions, the rebuilders did their best to preserve the missions’ architectural character. The mission is unique, since the mission was rebuilt once again after several partial collapses following the Northridge earthquake in the 1990s. From what I could see, the rebuilders did a great job.

This mission had a large museum, and several rooms full of things to look at. The mission offered the usual glimpses of old furniture, workshops, kitchens, etc. The mission was filled to the brim with a choc-a-bloc assembly of all sorts of Catholic stuff form the last two centuries or so. Everything from relic of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the mission about 20 years ago to a small room stuffed with three Women’s collections of Porcelain Mary statuettes. When you enter this small windowless room, the lights automatically turn on, along with a recording of Schubert’s Ave Maria, Arpeggio continuo and all.

They even had the Virgin of Baseball. See the little leaguers clustered around they Holy Virgins knees?

Nearly overwhelmed by the sentimentalism of the Mary Room, my heart was satisfied to see a miniature cross - shaped bed of nails. If this baby doesn't give you the urge to scourge, you have no future as a Centurion, or a zealot.

Puts the intense back in penitence.

I don’t know why these two saints are doing the Macarina. I also have no idea why they are sitting on piles of children's' heads.

The convent building had an awesome library. Almost all the books in this picture are over one hundred years old.

The had some cool looking chant books on display. I really need to learn how to read chant music.

On to the next room, where we saw a most unusual oil painting, depicting Jesus crucified while wearing what looks like a silk half slip. The lighting was poor, but what you see is what you get. I Have never seen that symbolism before, and I don’t have a clue.

They had a cool choir bench from renaissance Spain. I thought the monks postures and facial expressions were pretty strange. Perhaps the carvings mirrored the personalities of the monks.

I liked the metal work on this processional cross. That thing must weigh a lot, I hope they had strong alter boys.

Of course, the church had the obligatory reredos, That giant ornate wall behind the altar.

Since San Fernando was King of Spain, he gets top billing.

This organ may be the oldest Organ in California. The keyboard is behind the square plastic panel in the middle. The organ had about two and a half octaves.

Who knew Baby Jesus had a Passion for bowling? In the words of Camper Van Beethoven, “Take the savior bowling”.

In the cemetery garden we found the biggest surprise of all, a large garden with Bob Hope’s grave. A small plague near the garden mentioned that about 2,500 Indians were buried somewhere in the vicinity. all in unmarked graves.

Next stop, downtown for lunch and Neustra Senora Reina De Los Angeles .

This place is active as a parish and popular collection of shrines heavily used by many local Catholics. No English was used anywhere. Located between City Hall and Union Station, this Asistencia was grownd zero for the beginning of Los Angeles. The buildings are pretty modern, and walking among the them, I simply could not imagine Zorro had anything to do with the place.

The complex is a busy modern church plus two outdoor shines, one to Guadeloupe and one to Santo Nino De Atocha.

The Guadeloupe shrine was on the exterior wall of the compound. It was big. Kneeling cushions long enough for about twenty.

If you've ever seen an old baby doll dressed in exquisite finery in a Catholic church, you've probably seen Santo Nino. Santo Nino’s shrine had a pegboard where people had posted pictures of neonates connected to all sorts of tubes as well as mementos - kids pigtails and other things, and cards written in Spanish that helped me figure out this was a shrine to kids who died young. The mood of this shrine dominated the entire complex. Pigtails, there were some poor kids pigtail braids nailed to the pegboard. I was totally intimidated. I only dared photograph the outside of the shrine.

We entered the reconstructed mission church, which on an early Wednesday afternoon had twenty or thirty people kneeling and praying loudly and fervently in Spanish. The second we walked in, we both felt a strong desire to leave. One woman was kneeling in front of the alter while reciting from a book and nearly violently prostrating herself by banging her forehead into the floor. The twenty or so other people in the church were of the same ilk.

I found a most unusual memorial in an apse and was able to sneak a picture of the only recently crucified Jesus I have ever seen to sport purple velvet boxer shorts.

Last stop, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, commonly called the Cathedral. This place was on top of a hill on the edge of downtown, just across the street from the Disney Center. It wasn’t very interesting, but it had some cool giant tapestries, modern images of saints from everywhere in the world. I guess the theme was “let’s be inclusive”.

The place was big and stark, it didn’t do much for me. In its style it reminded me of New Coventry Cathedral in England, but this Cathedral has no compelling story behind it, beyond the hubris of building a giant cathedral. Perhaps if Cardinal Mahoney had spent more time keeping his priests on the straight and narrow rather than building this bland yet tasteless monument to himself, things would have turned out differently. Perhaps not.

Day two will tell of our visit to the somewhat more staid Mission San Gabriel and Occidental College.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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