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The Mission
The Wishing Chair
by Nicholas Canigiula
Author and Teacher

Mission San Miguel Historian Wallace Ohles researched the topic of the existence of the "Wishing Chair" extensively, and reached the firm conclusion that the chair never existed - it is just one of the beautiful legends of the Old Mission.

But as the author explains, Mission San Miguel is a special and magical place, any chair there can be a wishing chair if we only “believe in the impossible, reach for the unreachable, or hope for the best.”

With the closing of the Old Mission Church after the earthquake of December 22nd, 2003, as we face the tremendous and difficult task ahead to restore and reopen the Old Church, this is a lesson we all need to take to heart.

WAS DOING some carpentry work at Mission San Miguel. The arch between the sacristy and the sanctuary needed some attention. It was mid morning on a clear spring day and there was that usual quiet one would expect in the Old Mission Church. The lingering aroma of incense and flickering candles filled the church. Shafts of light were beaming in from the high windows on the south side of the thick adobe walls. I could feel the special feeling of being alone in this special place. It was special to me because I have had little opportunity to be on this side of the altar, much less working on this historic site.

As I went about my task the side door opened and Sister Maria and another woman entered the church. There was no longer the stillness or silence as the two women walked down the main aisle. They were chatting and in a good mood. They approached the altar, climbed the three steps, then bowed in reverence.

We exchanged greetings and they walked to the large upholstered chair, occasionally used by the priest as he serves mass. I could hear the conversation now and gathered that Sister Maria was guiding the woman to the big chair. The woman was quite anxious to hear about the chair and definitely ready to sit in it. What was all this about? It was about the “Wishing Chair”.

The vintage chair is upholstered in velvet with two doves woven into the tapestry. There is a legend that Father Magin Catala, who was visiting the Mission, gave an Indian maiden his blessing and assured her that if she sat in the chair and wished, within a year she would get her heart's desire, a husband of her own.

Her wish did come true and the chair became very popular with all the other maidens. It is obvious the legend carries on. I watched as the woman I spoke of sat in the chair and made her wish. The expression on her face was one of faith and hope that her wish would come true. She arose from the chair and she and Sister Maria faced the altar, bowed, turned and walked back to the door and left the church. It became still again and I returned to my task.

There probably is a rational explanation for the wish of the first Indian maiden coming true but sometimes we should believe in the impossible, reach for the unreachable, or hope for the best. Sometimes that's all we have left and sometimes those wishes DO come true.

I have to admit when no one was around I sat in the wishing chair and made my wish...

The Mission