Friday, May 07, 2010

Santa Catalina Island and Carmel

Tell ya 'nother thing about Santa Catalina Island: the first Mass celebrated on the island was celebrated by Discalced Carmelite Friars, Fray Antonio de la Ascencion and Fray Andres de la Asuncion. Fray Tomás de Aquino was present but apparently too ill to celebrate. According to the plaque it was celebrated on the same day on which Herself was born. (In their respective centuries, of course.) But, alas, the documentation seems to indicate that the Mass was four days earlier.

The plaque shown above - which if you click on it will expand to enormous dimensions - is based on an icon written by Bro. Claude Lane, O.S.B. It can be seen just to the left of the front door of the island's parish church dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. It appears to be a glazed terra cotta representation of the icon and shows what would have been the Mass as codified by Pope St Pius V, the Discalced by that time having left the old Jerusalem Liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre for Pius' Missale Romanum.

So, what were three Carmelites doing in California? They were chaplains on the Sebastiano Vizcaíno expedition of 1602-1603. This exploratory expedition was undertaken to find harbors for ships coming from the Philippines and China -- ships that needed fresh water, wood for repairs, shelter from pirates. The ships from Manila would catch the trade winds and head east, sighting Cape Mendocino or the Santa Lucia Mountains, then could turn south and hug the coast to Acapulco, the western port of Mexico. Vizcaíno would also map the coast for future expansion from Cabo San Lucas to Cape Mendocino. The king owned most of the galleons on the Pacific, so he was happy to pay for this expedition. [Sebastiano Vizcaíno was born in 1548 and was 54 years old at the time of the expedition. He died in 1627 at the age of 79.]

Vizcaíno got two large boats and a tender and left Acapulco on May 5, 1602, under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Franciscans wanted to be chaplains on the expedition. However Fr Eliseo of the Martyrs was confessor to the viceroy, and so we got the job. The Carmelite chaplains were to be confessors and to administer the sacraments. They were also to watch out for future opportunities for evangelization. We may look on General Vizcaíno as a real estate developer -- hoping to open up ports and become a rich man. He was jealous of Cabrillo (1542); and so on this expedition, Vizcaíno renamed all the places along California -- names that last to this day. The friars were zealous men, true missionaries, hoping eventually at a later date to bring the Gospel to the Indians.
-from "Carmel in Mexico and California in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" by James Geoghegan, O.C.D., in the Carmelite Digest, Fall 2002


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