Morning at the Mission

24 Mar

Whenever I think of the Big Sur, Monterrey and Carmel, I think primarily of my father, for it was he who loved this region and brought me here. I don’t tend to associate this area with my mother for I have no memories of being here with her or of her speaking about it. However, when my dad was stationed at Ford Ord and she was pregnant with me, she apparently visited him here from Wisconsin and attended mass at the Carmel Mission, a beautiful old mission indicative of early Christian influence in California. 

Because of this connection to my mother and because she is now deceased, I decided I wanted to stop by this Mission I had heard so much about from my father but had never visited. My traveling buddy and I were going to pop in for a few minutes to look around the grounds and church. It turned into a much longer time. 

As soon as I walked into the garden from the side entrance, I was flooded with my mom’s spirit and a well of sadness caught in my throat. I immediately told my friend I wanted to be alone and moved to a quiet corner in the garden which was actually a grave site. As I approached the front entrance of the property where the church was, I saw a hearse and realized a funeral was in session. And the sadness continued to cascade over me like the waterfall I’d seen the day before. I sat down on a chair and was overcome with tears. As I let go, I felt my mom’s gentle spirit wash over me, intertwined with the breeze, telling me she was fine. I thought of my mom coming here to mass with me in utero and I remembered celebrating Easter Sunday with her throughout the years. And as I watched the mourners approach the mission, I recalled the day I attended my mom’s memorial service at her church. A catholic church. And I sobbed. And I knew she was okay.

After about fifteen minutes, I crossed to the inner courtyard, a lovely space filled with the peace of a monastery and yet the bustle of Catholic school girls traipsing to class. My mom had been a Catholic school girl. 

For years, I struggled with my mom’s relationship to God. I knew she loved Jesus but I also instinctively knew she didn’t know Him the way I do now. She was a “good” girl and I sometimes think she attended mass more because she worried about burning in hell than from an authentic craving for worship. If she hadn’t been so fear based – had been more in surrender to Him – would she have taken her own life? Yet I also know that her weekly trips to Mass were far more than duty. That she had a strong impulse to go to church and that she planted that within me as well –  I loved God when I was little; in many ways was a mystical child and here I am in seminary deeply in love with Jesus.

I heard music coming from the church and hovered at the door due to the funeral in session. The usher thought I was a guest even though I was in hiking clothes and handed me a program honoring the deceased. I listened as a woman read “a letter from Paul to the the Thessalonians” and then remained at the door as the priest approached the pulpit to read from the gospel. “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also.” John 14:6-7. How fitting.

So no. I am not orphaned. I have a mother. And today she and Jesus looked down at me from heaven and let me know that they love me and that everything is going to be all right. It was an exquisite morning/mourning at the mission.

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