On my travels along the California coast this year I retreated from the 100 degree heat and the endless, unrelenting freeways into this otherworldly house of worship – the San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside, California.
Here it is cool and still and with one step past the threshold the outside world simply ceases to exist. Here time stands still and the rarefied ambiance of 220 years takes over my being. One lone man sits in midday prayer before me.
Some time later, my being in balance, I depart through the church doors and, as I do, I recall the opening lyrics of the Elton John song “60 Years On”.
Who’ll walk me down to church when I’m sixty years of age When the ragged dog they gave me has been ten years in the grave And señorita plays guitar, plays it just for you My rosary has broken and my beads have all slipped through.
St. Richards Catholic Church turned 60 last spring. I’ve created a fine art print above to capture how striking this humble Borrego Springs mission style church appears before the looming Santa Rosa mountains.
The background story:
1940s – No road, no telephone, just a name
Borrego Springs, California was barely connected to the outside world in the 1940s. There were dirt roads, no telephones, no outside electricity. The Catholic Church purchased land for the church site naming it the “de Anza Catholic mission,” after Juan Bautista de Anza, the early Spanish explorer who traversed the Borrego Valley in 1774.
1950s – Volunteers, money, new name
Built by volunteers and financed by 16 local Catholic families the church was completed in April, 1954. It’s final name – St. Richard Catholic Church.
1960 – Fire! send for help from Julian!
In 1960 the church survived a fire but was severely damaged. State park rangers and local residents fought the flames with garden hoses for over an hour until State Forestry fire equipment from the mountain community of Julian, California arrived – a 31 mile trip. After repairs the church was reopened.
1970 – 2001 How about some stained glass?
In the 1970s Julian, California glass artist James Hubbell installed windows along the side of the church. In 2001, world-renowned stained glass artist Sarah Hall, using glass from France and Germany, created an 8′ by 8′ foot stained glass window behind the church altar, illuminating the darkest part of the sanctuary.