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The Boston Globe


Sunday Morning: San Antonio


Mission San Jose

Mission San José rises from atop a hill on the outskirts of San Antonio, its sandstone walls still retaining the luster of a bygone era when Texas was under Spanish rule. At its height, the mission, built in 1721, would hold close to 300 people, working as a church, farm, and ranch. Franciscan friars gathered the native population, converted them to Roman Catholicism, and taught them to live like Spaniards.

I arrive an hour before the noon Sunday service to grab one of the coveted seats for visitors at the weekly Mariachi Mass. I stroll from the visitors center under a sunny azure sky that illuminates the blue-and-white dome and warms the almost Moorish-looking walls.
Standing in the same spot in 1882, Oscar Wilde said, “Those old Spanish churches with their picturesque remains and domes and their handsome carved stonework, standing amid the verdure and sunshine of the Texas prairie, gave me a strange thrill of pleasure.”

From a pew in the back of the church, I listen to the service, eagerly awaiting the finale when the 10-member mariachi band plays and the much larger choir sings within the excavated walls of the outdoor patio. Regardless of religion, the mariachis’ lyrical strumming and the choir’s ethereal voices will help smooth the frayed edges of anyone’s soul.

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