A lasting mission

We had been talking for months about finding some time for the two of us to stop working, go somewhere, spend some time together, and catch our breaths before the next Big Push. Making it happen, though, wasn't easy. Even though the number of moving pieces in our lives is considerably less than it used to be, our schedules don't always mesh very well. So, we did the best we could with the time and money we could afford, and took off.

San Antonio, Texas, wasn't the grand trip to Rome we had scheduled for May of 2020. (Maybe 2022?) To begin with, it was four nights instead of 14. But it was an opportunity to explore a place neither of us had ever been and finally get to the Schlitterbahn Waterpark we've talked about for literally 40 years.

Of course, you can't go to San Antonio without stopping at the Alamo. Having grown up in the northeast, however, our "knowledge" of Texas history was pretty deficient. Mostly, what we'd heard about was limited to the few things that every high school textbook includes: Spanish colonization, the Mexican-American War, the Lone Star Republic, the Chisholm Trail and "Remember the Alamo!" After colonization, I was pretty clueless about the chronology. And besides Davy Crockett, "king of the wild frontier," I had pretty much forgotten why I should remember the Alamo.

And then there's American Catholic history. While we are taught a whole lot about English and Dutch colonization along the eastern seaboard, French and Spanish settlements in the south and west -- in many cases older -- are often ignored. It's interesting to consider that Junipero Serra was founding the missions in California at the same time George Washington was leading the Continental Army. (In fact, in 1777, Serra sent a $137 donation to Washington!)

And before that, Catholic missionaries had been wandering throughout Texas since the 1500s.

Old Spanish missions were some of the first settlements in Texas. The oldest, Ysleta, was established in 1613 (seven years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth), and relocated to a permanent site in El Paso in 1682 (10 years before the Salem witch trials). It is the second oldest continuously operating parish in the country. In San Antonio, four missions founded in the first part of the 18th century form a National Park. Centuries later and despite a deliberate program of mission "secularization," all four churches are active faith communities where Mass is still celebrated.

There's something deep inside us that yearns for purpose, something that makes us want to believe that our lives can and will make a difference, and that we will leave behind more than just a tombstone and grave. We reach for immortality because we were created to be immortal. We were made not merely for earthly life, but for eternity.

We may not believe that what keeps us busy will stand the test of time, but we should undertake all we do as if we did. Everything, after all, is a mission. The jobs we hold, the businesses we build, the families we raise and care for, our cities and towns, our local schools and hospitals and the parishes to which we belong: all these have divine purpose and potential. Everything that fosters our connection with one another fosters our relationship with God. And everything that fosters our relationship with God prompts us to reach out to others. What we do and don't do matters more than we think. Our efforts may not be grand or celebrated -- they may even go unnoticed -- but they are not in vain. We are missionaries assigned to this place and time, but part of the great narrative of God's salvation, his providence, and his love.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.