On October 23rd we celebrated the Feast of San Juan Capistrano and the return of the swallows of San Capistrano to Goya, Argentina. I live in Southern California, which is about 30 minutes from San Juan Capistrano. The Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded by Father Juan Junipero Serra on November 1, 1776. On October 23rd, the swallows circle the Mission one last time before they leave on a 6,000-mile journey to Argentina. They will return on March 19th, the Feast of Saint Joseph. These common cliff-nesting swallows do not understand the religious significance of their journey; the only thing that comes natural is their instinct to find their way back home.
We all have that same instinct in our spirit. We all need to make our way back home to our Creator. Until you come to terms with this supernatural phenomenon, you will always have something missing in your spirit. This spiritual homecoming is what completes us because it unites our heart, mind, soul, and spirit to God.
It took the Israelites 40 years to find their way home. They kicked and screamed at every turn; but when they finally reached the Promised Land, they realized they were home. The entire time God was with them; He fed them their daily bread (manna); they had fresh water to drink; and when they wanted a change in the menu, God brought them quail. Our Lord continues to provide for those who are still wandering in the desert of life. God is with them every step of the way. They can’t see Him because they have allowed the things of the world to weigh them down. Their eyes become clouded with tears from the pain of living in the desert. The desert is extremely barren, miserably hot and dry in the summer, freezing cold and unforgiving in the winter.
The Lord remained faithful to the lost Israelites, He provided a comfortable cloud covering by day, and fire by night. How much more will He do for you?
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
The San Juan Capistrano Swallows
These cliff-nesting swallows must prepare for their long journey home. For more than two centuries they have made their mud nests under the Roman arches of the Franciscan monastery of Capistrano. According to an article in the story of the swallows, they travel for 30 days to reach Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19th (www.sanjuancaspistrano.net). During their voyage, to avoid wasting any time, they do not eat or drink because they fly from dawn to sunset. They fly at an altitude of 6,600 feet because this helps them catch favorable tail winds. They fuel their tanks with flies, spiders and worms for their long journey. Once they arrive, they restrengthen their nests for the birth of new life.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
These swallows are no different from us when we finally arrive home. We want to stabilize our lives by renewing our spirits for new life. God’s plan is not for us to be abandoned in the desert, but for us to seek what He has in store for us. Our life in the desert is a learning experience that involves strenuous obstacle courses for our minds. If we fail, the Lord is there to spot us. He patiently waits for us to cross that finish line.
When I returned to college as an adult, I had to take a class on statistics. This was the most challenging class I have ever taken. When it was time for the final, I knew I was doomed. All of the younger students finished the test in no time, but I was still trying to figure out how to use my computer to get to the problems. I was the last person in the class. It was past 9:30 p.m. when I went to the professor to let him know that I could not finish the final because I needed more time. He looked at me and said, “Take all the time you need, I will wait for you to finish.” With those words, a load was lifted off of me and I finished the test. This is exactly what God does for us; He gives us all the time we need to pass our life test.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
On Sunday morning Mike and I took a ride to San Juan Capistrano to attend Mass in the Basilica. This Mission is known as the Jewel of Missions. We arrived early so that I could walk the grounds and visit the Chapel of FatherJuan Junipero Serra, but due to COVID-19 it was closed. We attended the 9:00 a.m. Mass. It had been years since I last visited this church. As I walked in, my eyes were fixated on the altar. Surrounded with gold are Jesus “top center,” St. Juan Junipero Serra to His right and St. Kateri Tekakwitha to the left. Beneath her is St. Francis of Assisi, the Virgen de Guadalupe (at the feet of Jesus) and St. Joseph (to the bottom right). In the Jubilee Year 2000 this Mission was proclaimed a Basilica. This title was granted by Pope John Paul II. This honor was granted by the Holy See because of its historical and cultural significance in welcoming pilgrims.
Before Mass I was silently praising God when I heard the sound of music; the organist began to play a solemn hymn. This hymn was not only to welcome the parishioners but to unction the Holy Spirit. At exactly 9:00 a.m. the church bells rang as if to wake up this sleeping community. I love the sound of church bells; they make my heart rejoice to be in the House of God.
Dear Lord: I lift up to You those who are struggling with substance abuse, anger, loneliness and abandonment. Only through Your Holy Spirit can they make their way out of the desert. Lord, allow them to speak these simple words,”Jesus, I trust in You.” Put a new song in their hearts, and wipe away all their tears. Deliver them from all the bondages that have kept them from serving You. May the manna You feed them nourish their spiritual dry bones. Refresh them with Your holy water and bring them home. Amen.