Monday, February 14, 2011



There's something about an abandoned mission.
You wonder what made the congregation pick up
and leave. Here it's interesting.
The wooden vigas, the logs above that span the
thick adobe walls, are hidden by a dropped ceiling
reminiscent of a rec-room add-on, some misguided
soul's attempt at modernization, or worse.
The altar and one of the pews are still here,
albeit the worst for wear.
There's some minor trash about, and
some framing boards have been left on the altar.
But it hasn't been obliterated, totally junked,
like most old abandoned places
in the Southwest are, anymore.
The confessional space to the left
of the altar has a neat little nicho
to confess your sins through.
You wonder what relief came from kneeling
there. You wonder if any of it stuck,
if it made anyone feel the better,
if it made sense, even vaguely.
It must have.
The opening carved through the adobe wall
was an opening to redemption.

You enter the sacristy, the "prep" room,
through the arch on the right.
The little nicho is now in the far corner
on the left where there must have been
a chair for the priest to sit, reflect,
and pass counsel and penance.

Did people come away with a weight lifted?
Some must have.
Did the good padre carry the weight well?
Quien sabe? Who knows?
The old adobe walls don't answer.
It's interesting that there's no
trashy grafitti anywhere, just the name of Jesus,
religious slogans, a few designs, a couple of
crude paintings of the desert.
The altar and the framework that held
the tabernacle, the chamber/home of the
consecrated host - Christ Himself if you believe
church dogma - are in bad shape, the tabernacle
frame leaning against the back wall.

What happend here?
There's no answer.
Does Christ mind?
Hardly, I would think.
Do you think the body and spirit of
a Creator Son of the Universe can be
contained in a gold-plated box?
Do you think God cares about our childish
concepts concerning where God is,
what box we've put Him in,
and who has His ear?
Are you nuts?
This sounds vaguely ancient-Jewish to me.
My friend Frank Ruiz and I are curious
about the place, but soon enough feel like
we've worn out our welcome with
the ghosts at San Jose Mission.
Or maybe it's not that, maybe not.
I don't know what, but it seems like
something is going on here, still.
Someone's looking over my shoulder.
But it's probably always this way, at old sites -
sites where people knelt down and prayed,
places where desperation and hope held hands,
places where both joy and sorrow said the rosary,
and winked at each other whenever they passed
through the entrada, one coming, one going.

Places where the energy still sits on the ruins -
like an innkeeper waiting for a traveler,
like a gatekeeper waiting for the guests,
like Christ outside of the box.


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