California Pilgrimage Day 2: June 21

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels sits in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, which shares its patronage. The cathedral for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was dedicated Sept. 2, 2002. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

The extra half hour to prepare belied the busy schedule we would have on the second day of our California pilgrimage.

And what a day it was!

Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels

Our first stop was Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. Minutes away from the Civic Center in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the mother church to the Los Angeles Archdiocese is an impressive structure whose architecture is designed to draw one toward the ultimate relationship with God.

“The theme is a Journey to Salvation,” docent Bart Benjamins explained as we gazed around the interior of the 333-foot long cathedral with its massive vaulted ceilings, modern light fixtures and 1,200-pipe organ.

Benjamins described how large alabaster windows were used to filter pure light — “instead of more traditional colored stained glass, to reflect the pure light of Christ” upon the congregation. Sun-baked adobe walls add to the building’s light hue.

“The theme is a Journey to Salvation,” Bart Benjamins, docent for the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Los Angeles, explains to pilgrims from the Diocese of Phoenix’s Friends of the Cathedral pilgrimage to California June 21. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

The cathedral’s length — 333 feet — was purposely an odd number, as well, he noted.

“They wanted it longer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral (the mother church of the New York City Archdiocese),” explained the docent.

The cathedral seats 3,000. A total of five Sunday Masses — including one on Saturday afternoons — are celebrated weekly.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated Mass on this day in the cathedral’s chapel, and it was during the homily offered by Fr. John Lankeit, rector of our own Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, that we were reminded of the unique opportunity God had placed before us to enter a deeper walk with Him by reaching out in our visits to our pilgrimage sites.

“Deliberately seek the Lord. It doesn’t have to be with words. In fact, just take the time to listen for His voice,” Fr. Lankeit said. “Receive the graces He is so willing to give you. He wants to give them. The question is, ‘Are you asking.’”

Sr. Timothy Marie Kennedy, OCD, welcomes pilgrims from the Diocese of Phoenix’s Friends of the Cathedral pilgrimage to California to Carmel of St. Teresa Monastery in Alhambra June 21. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

Carmel of St. Teresa Monastery

Our second stop invited us in a more intimate setting to seek God’s graces of personal communion with Him, as we traveled about a half hour to the Carmel of St. Teresa Monastery; home to a group of nuns who are part of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Although most Carmelite nuns are cloistered, those at Carmel of St. Teresa live a contemplative, apostolic life that places them in the community, performing health care and skilled nursing among their roles.

“Carmel means garden of the soul, so it is appropriate we are surrounded by gardens here,” Sr. Joseph Francesca, a member of the community, explained, referring to the cool, green atmosphere of the areas between the buildings.

We were also exhorted by a colleague of Sr. Joseph’s to see ourselves as God’s instruments for Him in daily living.

“Remember the good things you were born for,” said Sr. Timothy Marie Kennedy, quoting the words of the monastery’s founder, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, or as she is commonly known by the nuns as “Mother Luisita.”

Historic Mission

From the modern and majestic to the simple and peaceful, our pilgrimage took us to the historic — and a tale of a painting of the Blessed Mother that spared the lives of a group of mission workers three centuries ago.

A pilgrim from the Diocese of Phoenix’s Friends of the Cathedral pilgrimage to California prays before an image of Our Lady of Sorrows at the historic San Gabriel Mission in San Gabriel June 21. The historic mission was established in 1771 by the “father of California,” St. Junípero Serra. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

San Gabriel Mission in San Gabriel opened in 1771. The fourth of 21 missions along the El Camino Real established by the Franciscan Friars under the guidance of St. Junípero Serra, it stands today with much of its original structure intact, despite damage from an earthquake in 1987, more two centuries later.

On our visit, we learned that a painting, “Our Lady of Sorrows” spared the lives of a group of Franciscan fathers confronted by hostile Native Americans. When the advancing Indians saw the image, which had been laid on the ground by one of the friars, they became deeply moved and dropped their bows and arrows on the ground and did not attack.

“They averted disaster,” explained docent Frank Bermel.

“What a moving and incredible story,” said Anita Romero, one of the pilgrims.

Today, the painting still hangs in the mission sanctuary. Its story prompted Bishop Olmsted to lead the group in prayer of thanksgiving and served as a reminder to God’s incredible protection at an unlikely time.