On July 1, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel fully reopened to the public for the first time since the pandemic and the devastating arson attack in July 2020.
I had the privilege a few days beforehand to bless the exquisitely renewed altarpiece, along with the new museum and garden space, and to take part in an emotional ceremony with descendants from the original mission.
The mission was founded in 1771 by St. Junípero Serra and his Franciscan brothers and was built by and for the Tongva natives, the first peoples of this land.
The ceremony was built around their prayers, rituals, and sacred music, all in their native tongue.
One of their songs included these moving lines: “O my ancestors, listen to my heart / O my ancestors, here is my heart.”
It reminded me of those words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
These words remind us that our faith is never a solitary journey. We owe the gift of faith to our ancestors, to those who have gone before us, that great cloud of witnesses down through the ages, who professed the Catholic faith and proclaimed it.
The missionaries came to this country with that noble intention, to share what they believed was the greatest gift they could ever give, the gift of knowing Jesus Christ and his love and salvation.
As you enter into the restored mission museum, you encounter a white wall inscribed with the names of the 7,054 Native Americans baptized at the mission from 1771 to 1848.
It is a striking visual testimony to the truth that every soul is precious in the eyes of our loving God. And it is beautiful to reflect that the original baptismal font used by St. Junípero and the Franciscans is still there in the mission’s baptistry.
The Franciscans kept track of every baptism, every marriage, and every burial. For them, this was not simply paperwork, it was “soulcraft.” They were charting the faith journeys of the souls entrusted to their care, as they made their way through the challenges of this world to the love that never ends in heaven….
Mission San Gabriel will always be the true spiritual heart of Los Angeles. The mission marks the birthplace of the Christian faith here and, 10 years after the mission was established, the city itself was founded by men and women who came from the mission.
The mission is a sign of the Christian beginnings, not only of our city, but of our nation.
I have often remarked how, in God’s providence, the feast of St. Junípero Serra falls on July 1 and the celebration of America’s independence on July 4.
This too is “God’s reminder” that the missionaries were here first, that the people of this country were called Christians long before they were called Americans.
The same “worldview” and values that inspired St. Junípero and the missionaries are reflected in our Declaration of Independence, which is rooted in the belief that all men and women are created by God out of love and endowed with equal dignity and equal rights, and called to a transcendent destiny….
From Angelus News