Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Off to the Mission

One legend has it that the right tower was left unfinished
until the "Excellent Builder" comes down from heaven and oversees
the construction.
Driving south of Tucson we noticed a beaming white mission that illuminates the desert and provides a bright spot in the stark brown Tucson desert.  So one afternoon Betsy and I set out to explore the beautiful and luring Mission San Xavier del Bac.  A couple of weeks ago we visited the Tumacocori  mission, one of many missions founded by the Jesuit Father Kino – who became known as the “Padre on Horseback” – and he also founded San Xavier in 1692.

As you approach the mission it emits mystery and beauty.  Soon you begin to understand why people flocked to this religious oasis which is still an active Catholic Parish that continues to draw religious followers.  To some, San Xavier is considered the country’s most magnificent example of Spanish Colonial period architecture.  The mission became a National Historic Landmark in the 1960’s.  The detailed interior is mesmerizing and overwhelms your eyes.  We stood in awe of the painstaking artistry that took years to complete.  The interior of the church is filled with intricate murals and statues and the religious symbolism is exhaustive. 

Upon entering the church, one's eye is drawn to the statue of San Francisco, the
patron saint. 
Above San Francisco is the Virgin Mary.
The original church was destroyed.  But construction of a new church under the direction of the Franciscans began in 1783 and is the church that is still standing today.  While not much is known about the architects, builders and artisans, it is believed many were from the local Tohono O'odham tribe whose land the church rests on.  In 1992, the church underwent extensive restoration lasting five years.  We spent time watching a great film in the visitor center that describes the detailed restoration project.

Many people still come to the mission to pray to San Francisco for intersessionary prayer to God.  Countless people claim their prayers have been answered through St. Francisco.  Or if you can't make it in person, you can email the prayers to the mission and they will pin it on Saint Francis.  I'm serious, this really is on their website!

There is no shortage of prayer candles to light.

The mission welcomes visitors whether it is to attend mass, one of their festivals, or just to stroll through the mission and grounds where local artisans from the Tohono O'odham tribe sell baskets, which they are well-known for.  If you come at lunch time, you might want to try the fry bread at one of the food stands – I have yet to eat an Indian fry bread that I didn't like. 

Large mesquite doors welcome visitors.
A shrine on the hill overlooking the mission.
Concrete stucco that was used to repair the church over the years is being removed as this material was found to trap water that led to interior damage.  The  stucco is being replaced with the traditional mud plaster, including pulp from the prickly pear cactus, that "breathes" better and allows  excess water to escape.

A trip to the mission is well worth it if you are in Tucson.


  1. There are few places more peaceful than a mission church (or the middle of a redwood forest).

  2. Now that we have been to a couple of missions, we should try the redwoods. Sounds equally wonderful.


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