Many people do not like organized religion or churches. They say they get more out of being in nature and I can understand that, because I feel close to God on a lonely mountaintop like the one in this picture. But I think even atheists would like San Xavier Mission in Tucson.
The Italian priest who made our mission was an impractical man who wanted to be in China, not Tucson. When he got the notion of building a boat to cross the Sonoran desert, his followers questioned his sanity.
Padre Kino somehow organized the local Native Americans to help him build San Xavier mission in 1700. It never really got finished, as you can see from this picture. The top of one tower is missing, but that is part of its magic.
The interior of the Mission is over-the-top amazing. It’s slowly being restored, but there is never enough money to finish. It doesn’t really matter: it’s beautiful the way it is.When you go inside San Xavier, you sense that people here really believe in God. They pray very deep prayers, and leave little momentos of their prayers pinned to the Virgin Mary’s dress or to santos. These are called milagros. If you pray about your bum leg, you leave a milagro in the shape of a leg. They also leave candles, pictures of loved ones, and other symbols of their devotion to God and prayer.The services have no show, no sham. On Christmas Eve, the old wood pews were filled even though there was no heat in the Mission. An old bitch dog with long tits was walking around, licking people.The priest wore a simple brown Franciscan habit with rope and sandals. In the middle of Mass, the theme from “Rocky” came over the intercom, because they cannot afford a decent sound system. Yet it was beautiful, the way Christmas should be.Outside the church, Native Americans sell fry bread and trinkets. You can walk up a little mountain to a tiny shrine that is very inspiring. You look out on a simple cemetery and think of your own mortality.Even if you don’t like churches, I know you will like San Xavier mission. Trust me, it’s a sacred place.