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A pilgrimage through the soul of Mission San Carlos Borromeo through prayerful contemplation of its beauty.

Where is the true beauty of a mission to be found? Is it purely in the design, structure and engineering of the building? Is it in its history or its historical importance? Is beauty to be found in its humanity or the humanity within? Could there be something more?

The beauty of the mission is not in the structure but its soul; a soul reaching to God.

To be clear, the sensible, historical and humanistic aspects of any building (or place) do show beauty but only insofar as they reflect aspects of the Divine. The more the Divine is present, the more Beauty surrounds us.

Matt StLezin Dominus Illuminatio Mea 012

The Story

This project has been in the works on and off for a little over a decade now.  It really started with my reconversion. 


I was away from the Church for a very long time.  I had spent many years as an existentialist living the "Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse"  As an existentialist, I could not see beauty.  Life was chaos.  Life was pain.  Life was meaningless.  Without God, there can be no real joy, beauty or purpose; the source of all that is Good has been removed.


At a moment of need with a soul on the brink of destruction, a humble prayer and a plea for help on my lips, God intervened and brought this unworthy soul back from the edge of the abyss. I was given a fresh start and the grace to see the world a new. My eyes were opened and I could see, as if for the first time, the beauty of the world. I had new eyes to see. The eyes of a child. Eyes of wonder.

I had spent a lifetime working in the arts and finally saw the years of work and growth coming to fruition.  Finally, with a soul free to see the Truth in the world, I had the fulfillment of what art can be: the expression of Beauty.

Living in California, I had been exposed to the missions in school but didn't really know much of their history.  I began making small pilgrimages.  It was an excuse to take my camera and get out of the house as well as an opportunity to refresh my soul.  The first time I went to Mission San Jose in Fremont I was stopped dead in my tracks.  On a side altar in the mission chapel, there is a small fragment of the true cross and shaving from the nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ crucified.  How could this be!  There before my eyes a small fragment of the wood on which Our Lord's back rested and the nails that held our salvation in place!  I hit my knees and I sobbed.

How can these missions sit empty all day or have visitors walk through to admire the antiquities, never knowing what is before them!

This experience reminded me that we should have that experience every time we set foot in a church!  Christ it truly present in the tabernacle in every Catholic church across the globe!  Yet we walk in as though it is just a room, just a meeting place, just a building of tradition and antiquity.  I resolved that I would do what I could, using the skills that for so long I had been training in, to remind people of the Beauty that is always before us.

That was the beginning of this project.  This is just the first small piece.  God willing there will be much more to come.