Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 12, 2007
St. Francis greets San Diego faithful
Statues of Christ, St. Francis, St. Dominic stand in front of altar screen
St. Francis de Paula – April 2
By TED FITZGERALD
St. Francis de Paula
Visitors to the distinctive church are greeted in effigy by patron St. Francis from a niche high above the central entry doors.
A youthful member of the Franciscans, at age 15 he chose to live a reclusive life of prayer and penance near his Italian home.
His holiness however attracted followers and he was soon head of a new, very strict Franciscan order.
His reputation gained the attention of Pope Sixtus IV who sent Francis as a spiritual director to the French court.
Even there, his life was one of constant humility, even declining priestly ordination.
Francis died after a life spent in France, an obedient servant to his faith despite his influential role as confessor to three kings and founder of many monasteries, and was canonized 12 years later in 1519.
The first impression of visitors to his San Diego church is one of huge, smooth arches that reflect extensive recent restoration. The interior is much plainer than the original, with soft beige and off-white walls accented by faux-stone trim on columns and arches.
Focus of attention is the sanctuary, strangely still delimited by a communion rail and containing both new and original altars.
The modest reredos are ornamented in gold trim and display statues of Christ the King flanked by St. Francis and St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers.
Dominic is also portrayed in one of the stained glass nave windows.
Despite being advised by phone by pleasant parish secretary Ramona (Monche) Trejo that the church is "always open," visitors should be prepared to seek out Father Benito Retortillo at the rectory to enter the building. At the same time, this 15-year veteran pastor of St. Francis' will share his font of knowledge regarding his order, its founder, the church and San Diego in general.
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