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Finding Home in the Eucharist at San Juan Capistrano

by Jane Guenther

Director of the St. Louis Archdiocese Catholic Renewal Center


We are encouraged at every Eucharistic Celebration to go out to share the Good News. Evangelization is the task of sharing the Good News with others. Do you allow the Eucharistic Celebration to be the a place of receiving our Lord so that His presence is more visible in the Good News. Bishop Rivituso shared at our Holy Half Hour that we have to be those who are willing to go out to share the Gospel with the lost one. What does that look like when we are filled with the Lord’s presence? I want to share the story of Joanne Winchester.


“Dad was in the Air Force and, among other places, we lived in France and California. Those two locales provided a wealth of shrines for a devout Catholic family to visit. In California we toured all the Spanish missions, except one. We never made it to the Mission San Juan Capistrano, famous for the swallows that returned from their southern migration each year on the Feast of St. Joseph. I was always fascinated by this event and promised myself that someday I would see it.


When I married a non-Catholic I gradually quit attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. After some years, we were divorced and I returned to work to support myself and our son. I remained away from the Church throughout these years.


When my employer asked me to take an assignment in California, I accepted, leaving behind friends, family and home in Virginia. My five-year-old son and I set up residence near the office, which happened to be five miles from the Mission San Juan Capistrano. One Sunday I decided to make the long overdue visit to the missed shrine of my childhood. Walking about the beautiful grounds, my son and I came upon the chapel and I saw that a Mass was to begin in 10 minutes. I figured those few minutes would be enough time to view the chapel’s interior before Mass started.


As we entered the vestibule an usher stopped me to ask if my son and I would take the fits up at the Offertory. I explained that I had not been to a Mass in years and just wanted to see the chapel. He invited us to stay. His look and his voice were so soothing that found myself say yes. He then reinvited us to present the gifts. My protests that I would not know how or when to do so were met by the same warm smile and assurance the he would guide me. I weakly agreed and we followed him to the first pew to wait for Mass to start. This kind gentleman assisted at Mass and did indeed cue me for the Offertory. After delivering the gifts, we returned to our pew and soon reached the singing of the Our Father. As my son and I stood with our hands joined and I began to sing the beautiful words, I was overcome with a longing for the inner peace of Christ. I knew then that, like the faithful swallows of Capistrano, I had come home again.”


Sometimes going out for the lost one is recognizing the lost within our fold. Joanne received from the usher the invitation but it was the deep love of the Lord that he possessed that came through his smile that motivated. Feast on the Eucharist so that you can more fully become what you eat- Christ to one another.

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