Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano

There are certain places in Southern California that remain close to my heart and Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of them. My family has visited the mission for decades and I even have a picture of my dad, about 2 years old, in his father’s arms on a family excursion. When I was in the 4th grade and we studied California history my class took the train there. My mom was a chaperone and it was my first train ride making it a very special day for me. As a teenager my family attended Sunday Mass in the Serra Chapel and I was awestruck by its sacred beauty. The mission really is one of the most beautiful places in the area and I was very happy when I was invited to return for a special luncheon.

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Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 and is the 7th of the 21 California Missions. Nestled in the heart of town it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. It had been a few years since my last visit and upon arriving I was immediately struck by just how beautiful it really is. The ancient mission walls are surrounded by colorful flowers and there are lush fountains which provide a most picturesque setting.

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On this particular visit I was treated to a delicious lunch catered by local restaurant Sun Dried Tomato and an exclusive concert by American Idol alumnus Clark Beckham.

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This was in celebration of the annual Romance of the Mission Benefit Gala which was the following night. Curtis was to be the evening’s headliner and at the luncheon he sang beautifully within the historic space. In fact, the grounds were abuzz with activity surrounding the gala and it looked like it was going to be a wonderful event.

After lunch, I had limited time but made sure to stroll around the familiar grounds. I stopped by Serra Chapel, the only existing church where Father Serra celebrated Mass. In recent years it’s undergone a restoration and it’s one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever been in.

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I also made sure to stop by the ruins of the Great Stone Church. In 1812, only 6 years after it was completed, the church was destroyed in an earthquake. Over 40 people were killed and it was never rebuilt.

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Over 200 years after the tragedy the ruins remain a sobering reminder of the fragility of life. While beautiful in their current state they invoke reflection and I paused to remember those lost.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is called “The Jewel of the Missions” and rightfully so. It’s a beautiful and sacred spot that provides an oasis of peace for all regardless of religious affiliation. I’ m happy I returned to visit and know it will be a frequent stop for years to come.

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