The great crucifix of Mission Santa Clara

Spanish Franciscan Father Magin Catala is buried at the foot of the cross

Crucifix at Mission Santa Clara (image: flickriver.com)

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Michael Walker:

No pilgrimage to Mission Santa Clara is complete without paying compulsory homage before the altar of the great Crucifix, which never fails to inspire compunction with its Spanish grotesque stateliness. Jesus gazes down upon the devotee with a piteous expression. His skin is blanched by loss of blood, which runs in black rivulets from his pierced hands, feet, and heart. Beneath this Crucifix, there lies buried in a tomb the remains of the Venerable Father Magin Catala, perhaps the most famous Franciscan friar (second only to Saint Junipero Serra) to be associated with the Mission.

Little about the austere presentation of the Crucifix within the Mission intimates the mythos enveloping it, except for small pamphlet cards that allude briefly to the legend of the great Crucifix.

As any tour guide will tell you, the Crucifix has entered Santa Clara lore for supposedly animating and embracing a levitating Magin Catala, rapt in ecstatic contemplation:

  • It was the firm opinion of the people that his sympathy for the Crucified Lord raised the holy man above the earth, and that both were in fond embrace of each other… In the Process of 1884 six witnesses testified to the report regarding visions before the Crucifix… A messenger going to the church discovered Fr. Magin raised up high in the air on a level with the Cross. The Savior had unfastened His hands and was resting them on the shoulders of the holy man. The servant informed Fr. Viader, who on going to the church saw nothing more than that a bright light surrounded the kneeling Fr. Magin. This testimony was corroborated by Rufino Saiz, Berta Guadalupe, Antonia Flores, and Encarnacion Soto.

Although such anecdotal evidence would not stand the scrutiny of many a modern-day historian to qualify as empirical proof, the testimony of the parishioners lends credence to an otherwise far-fetched claim with all the trappings of medieval sanctity, rife with signs and wonders.

One instance of this miraculous phenomenon is especially salient, when a certain Jose Alviso spotted Father Catala praying at his customary vantage before the Crucifix during Holy Week: “Suddenly Fr. Magin was heard to sigh aloud in Spanish, ‘When, O my God, shall I see Thy glory? How much longer shall my banishment last in this valley of tears?’

Awe-stricken, Alviso heard the answer coming from the cross, ‘Soon thou shalt see God in glory.’” Not infrequently, Father Catala passed entire nights at the altar and fell asleep at the foot of the Crucifix, where he besought God for the salvation of the souls entrusted to his care.

Thus, Father Catala earned his resting place in death beneath the Crucifix where he had spent so many hours of his life, longing to meet his God face to face.

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  1. Great story. It’s one of my favorites from Cal-Catholic. I’ll be sure to pay homage to Fr. Catala the next time I’m in the area.

  2. Did a very similar story run very recently?

  3. Linda Maria says:

    LOVE this story! I will give it to many family members and friends! Deeply inspiring!

  4. I love articles like this. My heart opens more fully and I even breathe differently when reading them.
    Thank you.

  5. May Fr. Catala pray for California. We certainly need his prayers.

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