No matter where our travels take us I am always looking for old churches or missions. They are plentiful in the southwestern states and Mexico and I've been fortunate to visit many. Mission San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O'odam Indian Reservation was on our list of stops this morning. I've visited this historic mission many times in the past fifteen years but this time was exciting and different. It has been undergoing renovations for as long as I can remember, always fronted with layers of scaffolding and partially completed exterior improvements. What a thrill it was to go up the beautiful drive and see the historical mission like it must have been three hundred years ago (except for the large gravel parking lot, of course).
Entering these old religious structures always has an unexpected effect. My non-religious self is always struck by the beauty and serenity found inside. This morning was no exception. The usual routine is to sit in a rear pew and take in the smells of the old wood, the aging statues and light coming from the windows at the top of high ceilings. There are usually candles burning at altars. Today there were hundreds of carefully placed glass jars with flames casting golden shadows all around. We spent about 45 quiet minutes at San Xavier del Bac.
Yesterday afternoon we also took a short detour to find a small out-of-the-way shrine in Tucson. An internet acquaintance had blogged about El Tiradito a few weeks ago and Zeus went along with my request to find it. (He is extremely good about that sort of thing.) It turned out to be a very small but interesting shrine, also complete with burning candles and other offerings placed at the altar. The small figurines that G and her son placed there a few weeks ago were still hanging on the candelabra.
There are two small churches on the Ajo Plaza that I have never once explored in the countless times that I've been here. They are on my to-do list for tomorrow.