San Francisco, California. Finding parking in downtown San Francisco is an exercise in patience, but the reward of experiencing Mission San Francisco de Asis is well worth the effort. Built in 1791 and popularly known as Mission Dolores, this mission church is the oldest intact building in the string of California missions. On one of the inside walls of the church is a fascinating three-dimensional large-as-life painting. What is noticeably missing from the church are the Stations of the Cross that normally hang along the walls. Walking into the Basilica, it feels as if we are entering another world. The building is larger than life, the stained glass windows glow with color, and the chanting prayers of a priest all make this a moment to remember. The magnificence of the paintings, stained glass windows, and statues engulfed the visitor with a sense of reverence, not for the artwork itself, but for the Almighty God to which they direct our attention. In the cemetery I discover a statue of Father Serra, walking slowly among the graves, his hands behind his back, contemplating the love of God.
We spoke with a docent at length about the recent canonization of Father Junipero Serra. He says the Mission had two representatives at the ceremony, both decedents of Native Americans of the area. He tells us how on the day of the ceremony, protestors gathered outside the mission. There was a Secret Service agent stationed with the mission staff and the SF police were on alert. At noon, they were concerned about the safety of the mission relics, especially the statues of Father Serra, so they closed the mission and locked the doors. Their telephone then rang continually as protestors wanted to come inside the mission, but the docent stuck to his decision to keep the mission locked. This turns out to be the right decision as protestors splattered paint and knocked over a statue of Father Serra at the Carmel Mission. I do understand that many Native Americans believe that Father Serra mistreated their ancestors, but a protest against violence should not need to resort to violence to make its point.