A crowd of devout Catholics, supporters of Old Spanish Days, curious tourists and others filled the Mission’s chapel Thursday for a Mass to open the first full day of Fiesta.
The night previous, the steps outside the chapel had been host to music and dancing in the official kickoff party, but Thursday morning’s traditional La Misa del Presidente was a quiet affair, although punctuated with hymns and grand organ music.
El Presidente Dennis Rickard attended with his wife, and gave a short speech of thanks at the end of the service. He was joined by Spirit of Fiesta Talia Ortega Vestal, Junior Spirit of Fiesta Natalie Mowers, and this year’s Saint Barbara, Renee Jackman Longo.
The Rev. Charles Talley, pastor of Saint Barbara Parish, led the service. Many parts were in Spanish, including a reading from the book of James, or bilingual. The Rev. Talley said his proficiency in Spanish came from time spent in Guatemala.
He welcomed the throng into the Mission, “this Holy place that is one family,” and began with a reading from Isaiah 32, which imagines a people dwelling in peaceful habitation, much like Santa Barbara.
The Rev. Talley brought up this year’s theme of Old Spanish Days, Honor Your History.
“History informs our present and gives direction and meaning to our future,” he said. “The present we experience.”
The city’s street names, he said, tell us in Santa Barbara about our history and keep us in touch with it.
“These aren’t just sentimental names,” the Rev. Talley said.
Descendants of the Carrillo and De la Guerra families are still among us, he noted, calling for a show of hands that included El Presidente Rickard himself, who can trace his lineage back to Jose de la Guerra.
The Rev. Talley spoke about the Sermon on the Mount, recasting it as a version of the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments, but updated with God’s love.
Jesus looked to history, understood the past, then used it to guide us all into the future, the Rev. Talley said.
The service ended with the Eucharist for those who wanted to partake, recessional hymns, and “Ave Maria” sung in memory of the deceased members of the Rickard family. Jose de la Guerra rests in the Mission’s cemetery.
After the service, guests were invited to the Sacred Garden for refreshment.
As for the Rev. Talley’s own history informing his future, he demurred to his identity as a Franciscan. “We pass through individually because we are itinerant,” he said afterwards in the garden. “But the people here always welcome us, show us hospitality and always deepen our faith.”