Tuesday, March 20, 2018

WAITING FOR THE SWALLOWS TO RETURN TO SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO


THE OLD TRAIN STATION SIGN, NOW HALF-HIDDEN IN A COPSE OF TREES

This week's arts and culture column begins:

March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph. Only many years after coming into the Church did I learn that it’s a day, for Italians at least, upon which Lenten fasting is (perhaps unofficially) lifted (except for meat).

Such is the fate of converts, sweating tears of blood as we refrain from, say, sugar, while real Catholics are laying out a feast.

But for those of us in Southern California, St. Joseph’s feast day has a deeper significance. March 19 is the day upon which, tradition has it, the swallows return to the mission at San Juan Capistrano.

The swallows migrate 6,000 miles each year from Goya, Argentina. Their scientific name, “Petrochelidon pyrrhonota,” refers in part to the rich red, “flame-colored” feathers on their necks and lower backs.

Legend has it that the tradition was started by Father St. John O’Sullivan, pastor of the mission from 1910 to 1933. Walking through the village one day, he came upon a shopkeeper angrily knocking swallows’ nests from beneath his eaves with a broom. Appalled at the birds’ evident agitation, Father spoke to them on the spot. “Come on swallows,” he invited, “I’ll give you shelter. Come to the mission. There’s room enough there for all.”

Supposedly, the very next morning the swallows began building their nests outside the Serra chapel. Father O’Sullivan went on to write a booklet, intended to raise preservation funds, entitled “The Little Chapters about San Juan Capistrano,” and to co-author “Capistrano Nights.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

ALTAR OF THE NEWLY RENOVATED MISSION BASILICA,
A WORKING PARISH

ST. FRANCIS IN A NICHE



 


PICTURESQUE, NO?



3 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photographs! You've inherited Merton's Picasso camera, dear H. Love the story of Fr O'Sullivan and the swallows. I can only do my best to imitate him with the Blue Jays of the Royal Presidio Chapel. And there can never be enough wonderful accounts about St Joseph!

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    1. Thank you dear Fr. Pat, keeper of the flame of another gorgeous California Mission church--not to mention Guardian of the Monterey Blue Jay Flock! I went to Confession the other night and my penance from the harried Father was to pray for all the people who need my prayers. So I've been praying for all priests, everywhere, during Holy Week. Yes, St. Joseph the Worker--talk about humble...

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  2. A visit to this mission church as a young child is part of the reason I became Catholic. Thank you for the pictures. Perhaps, like the swallows, I too shall return there!

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