Legacy of the San Xavier Mission and Christmas Cards
Traditions have a way of sticking with us without our total awareness. The legacy of the San Xavier Mission and Christmas has been my tradition is grounding me. The tradition of keeping my Christmas cards hanging on the door for weeks after the holidays are over was something my Mom did. And perhaps her Mom did it as well. Since she had made friends all over the world, it is a way to bask in the glow of friendships not close by. Now you may be wondering what the connection is between Christmas cards and the San Xavier Mission? For one, Mom loved visiting the mission. As an adult, when I would visit from out of town, we would always drop by the church to see how far the re-construction was moving along.
San Xavier is National Historic Landmark
San Xavier Mission is now a National Historic Landmark and through donations is being restored to its original magnificence. This mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th century space. Constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar, the entire structure is roofed with masonry vaults, making it unique among Spanish Colonial buildings within U. S. borders. The church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statues and mural paintings. The shell, a symbol of pilgrimage after the patron saint of Spain, Santiago or James the Greater, is replicated all through the structure in window treatments, the sanctuary, the facade and other details within the interior.
Before the church was built, Father John Kino used this area as a refuge against the Spanish Conquistadors and the Pueblo Indians. However, it was Father Eusebio Kino who actually built the current church in 1783 and its completion in 1797.
Walking into the sanctuary of the San Xavier Mission, the word reverence comes to mind. The many buildings that supported a dwindling congregation, is flourishing today because of the need for reverence, stillness, peace, hope and joy. This mission offers hope in the middle of nowhere so that we can be now here.
Hope in the Middle of Nowhere
Hope in the middle of nowhere may have been what my Mom was searching for and why she loved coming out here. She moved from Indiana to Tucson in the early 1940’s with her first husband, Bobby. She was a very independent woman and even though they didn’t have any children together, this continued to be a dream for her. Perhaps, that was when she first learned of the sacredness and love that emanates from the San Xavier Mission. Mom’s third husband was from the Catholic faith and this may have taken her devotion to a much deeper level of understanding of why she was so drawn to this holy place.
The holidays are over and it is time to take down my cards. One by one, I reflect on each message, probably just like Mom did, who has now left this world. Yet her tradition endures for me much like the mission, who’s beacon of light offers hope to all that visit this magnificent adobe church in the Sonoran desert.
How to get there:
The Mission is 9 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona just off of Interstate 19. Take exit 92 (San Xavier Road) and follow signs to the Mission.
There is no admission charge to visit Mission San Xavier. Some 200,000 visitors come each year from all over the world to view what is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.
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