The main purpose of all of the missions from the viewpoint of the Spanish Crown was to confirm the claim of Spain to this wilderness by settling it and creating communities (and ultimately four presidios or forts) that would defend the land. The purpose of the missions from the perspective of the padres was to convert the Native Americans, who were recruited into the missions and converted to Catholicism.
Daily Life and Food at the Missions
In 1992 Fr.Thom Davis described the daily life of a padre at the California Mission Studies Association (CMSA) Annual Conference. This has bee reproduced on the association site.
First of all, why did they have missions and why were they important?
The blacksmiths were very important to the functioning of the mission, and only strong, bright Indians who showed an aptitude for working with their hands were chosen.
Weaving was very important. The missions had to make their own clothing, rugs and blankets. The primary material used was wool .Most of the missions had herds of sheep. In 1832, the last year for which records were kept, there were 137,969 sheep at the 21 missions.
There was a lot of activity connected with the sheep and weaving. Some of the neophytes became sheep herders. The sheep had to be sheared. Later the wool was washed, dyed, carded and combed by the women at the mission. Then looms were used to weave the prepared wool.
This is really a subject for an expert on the details of Catholic religious practices in Spain and Spanish America. As I recall (and I studied this a long time ago) the Council of Trent, which convened three times between 1545-1563 standardized the Mass and many other religious practices throughout the world. I believe they also ruled that it was not necessary to receive both "bread and wine" and that the Body of Christ was fully present in the "bread" which was much easier and safer to use.
I have no information on the exact form and nature of the communion wafers.
Virtually all of the common fruit trees were imported by the Spanish - with apples, oranges and lemons quite prevalent. Each mission had an orchard and extensive plantings of grapes, to produce wine. The primary crops grown in the field were wheat, barley, corn, peas, lentils and beans. While some plantings came from Spain most reached California from New Spain (current day Mexico) which a Spanish possession for a couple centuries at the time the missions were founded in what the Spanish called Alta California.
San Gabriel is a particularly interesting mission. It was the fourth mission, founded on September 8, 1771. The present church was begim om 1791 and not completed until 1805. It is Moorish in appearance, with capped buttresses and long narrow windows. It has an appearance that is found in no other mission. Experts thing that the design can be traced to the Cathedral of Cordova, Spain. One of the priests who served at San Gabriel, Fr. Antonio Cruzado was in charge of the building of the original church, and he was born and brought up in Cordova.
These are serious questions that deserve candid answers:
In the very early days all of the missions struggled to get established. San Juan Capistrano's beginning was interrupted for a year when Indians attacked and burned the San Diego Mission, and work on the new mission was suspended. When the missionaries returned they gradually developed the mission by recruiting and training neophytes, beginning to plant in the fields and build structures, the first of which was a chapel. Because the mission was in a fertile valley blessed with a moderate climate the mission soon flourished.