Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 10, 2003
In search of St. Joseph
Mariachi Mass welcomes all to the Mission San Jose at San Antonio
Saint Joseph - Feast Day - March 19
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
San Antonio, Texas
Every Sunday, for up to an hour, people line up out-of-doors to claim a space at the noon Mass at historic Mission San Jose in San Antonio. And, as the line grows along the stone arcades of the ancient cloisters, a sense of camaraderie quickly develops. Many are visitors, drawn by word-of-mouth to enjoy the ambience of the old church and to share in the parish Mariachi Mass.
Once an earlier service is out, all enter via the sacristy door, are greeted by the deacon and are efficiently seated from the front of the church back, by a dedicated usher.
Prayers and readings in English are supplemented by perhaps 20 musicians - guitars, violins, trumpets and a choir who enthusiastically render sung parts of the Eucharistic celebration in Spanish - the Creed, Gloria, Our Father. And from the opening Entrada to the final Salida, a sense of community, centred on the Franciscan celebrant, pervades the little church.
Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, second in a chain of Franciscan sites established along the San Antonio River, was founded in 1720 by Venerable Anthony Margil of Jesus and named to honour his supportive friend Joseph of Azlor, Marquis of St. Michael of Aguayo and governor of Spanish Texas.
Patron of the mission, St. Joseph is considered the model father and parent, although little is known of his life. A carpenter and builder, he had the faith to accept an angelic message regarding Mary and her role in the salvation of humanity through her son.
He was present at the birth of Christ and at the Presentation in the Temple, fled with his family to Egypt, and searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem. His feast day has been celebrated since 1479. Joseph is the patron of many causes, including the universal Church, workers, social justice, Canada and fathers.
After 100 prosperous years, the Texas missions fell into disrepair following secularization and, at San Jose, expulsion of the Franciscan fathers in 1824. Now however, of five former missions managed by the national parks system, San Jose "Queen of the Missions" is the most completely restored.
The church is built of tufa, a limestone deposited in nearby springs, whose softness enabled artisans to create the famed sculpted Rosa's window and intricately carved sacristy doorway. It weathers to a warm tan colour.
The artistry of these and the elaborate Baroque fa‡ade is all the more impressive in view of the artists' location on the isolated northern frontier, more than 1,000 km from Mexico City.
A sense of community, centred on the Franciscan celebrant, pervades the little church.
Centrepiece of the wall is the mission's namesake, in effigy, cradling the Christ Child high above the church's front doorway.
Other niches hold statues of prominent saints.
San Jose Parish was established in 1932, one year after Franciscans returned to the site. Extensively restored, the church was re-dedicated in 1937. It has a vibrant faith community, noted for planning seasonal celebrations - Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas time Posadas and a noteworthy Pastorela or nativity play. Parish buildings and a Franciscan abbey are just outside the mission walls. Five weekend and two weekday Masses are celebrated in the old church.
After the noon Mass, participants celebrating birthdays are serenaded with the traditional Las Mananitas and those having anniversaries are encouraged to join their partners in a few steps of the Anniversary Waltz.
Then, en route from the church, some may wish to join in brief prayers in Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel with the customary, enthusiastic "Viva!" responses. And, once outdoors, all enjoy an encore recital by the Mariachis.
Later, many will loiter in the serene, expansive mission grounds before returning to the busy modern world. It's a fine way to celebrate the Lord's Day.