OCEANSIDE — Mission San Luis Rey will celebrate its patron saint, St. Louis IX, King of France, with The Great Procession of the Saint Aug. 24. The cumulative day of the nine-day Feast of King St. Louis IX starts with a mass at 5:30 p.m. followed by The Great Procession and then fireworks.
“It’s a major celebration for us,” Father David Gaa, Mission San Luis Rey executive director, said. “It’s a celebration of all blessings God gives us.”
The procession has historic and religious significance. The historic statue of St. Louis is taken off the high altar inside the chapel and paraded half-a-mile through mission grounds.
Several representatives including those from the Camp Pendleton Marines to the Samoan community, Filipino community, and other local groups take turns carrying the statue during the procession. Carriers are switched every 500 feet.
“It’s a great honor to carry the saint,” Gaa said. “The statue is very old and fragile.”
Food venders are set up and dancers perform until the fireworks begin later that evening. The dancers also represent different cultural groups in the community.
“This procession is an amazing site from the parade, to the music, to the dancers,” Melissa Gillespie, Mission San Luis Rey volunteer, said. “What I love about processions is the mixing of cultures, history and community.”
Another unique feature of the event is that the historic bell in the mission tower will be rung. Usually a recording is played.
“It’s the only time to hear the original bell,” Gaa said. “Altar boys and girls will ring the bell.”
The event is a celebration that is free to the public. It is not a fundraiser.
“It’s really just a time of giving thanks,” Gaa said. “It’s a celebration of life. It’s a free event everyone can come to.”
The Feast of St. Louis IX is a Catholic tradition. The procession is held the Friday closest to the day of St. Louis’ death, Aug. 25.
The procession day is celebrated worldwide. It is a major holiday in France and in the French communities of New Orleans and cities named after the saint.
Mission San Luis Rey first held The Great Procession of the Saint last year. About 2,000 spectators attended the event.
Mission San Luis Rey is at 4050 Mission Ave.