Awe and Wonder at America’s First Mission Settlement
Goodness: St. Augustine, Florida
Most American history books fail to report that the first permanent settlement of Europeans in the continental United States was not Jamestown or Plymouth Rock. Nor were the first settlers the Pilgrims.
These distinctions belong to the Roman Catholic explorers and evangelizers from Spain who arrived at Matanzas Bay (St. Augustine, Florida) on Our Lady’s Birthday, September 8th, 1565. The chaplain of the mission, Fr. Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales offered the first Catholic Mass on that day somewhere near the spot where the 208-foot stainless steel Cross is now planted.
The Spaniards also built a small chapel to the Virgin Mary, entitled Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady, the Nursing Mother) in their efforts to evangelize the native American Indians.
The massive cross you see in the picture (called the Great Cross) was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley during the Eucharistic Congress in 1966. Across the lake from the Cross, in the foreground, is a bronze sculpture entitled “Fr. Lopez in ecstasy” (commemorating the first Mass celebrated on American soil.)
It was created by the Yugoslavian sculptor, Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), who is known for expressing the beauties of the Christian mystery in his artwork.
That beauty and appreciation for what took place on that holy spot in 1565 are perfect additions to Sacred Windows!