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The Significance Of Blessed Junipero Serra
Catholic.Net ^ | March-April, 2000 | Gerard Beigel, S.T.D.

Posted on 07/01/2002 5:40:25 PM PDT by Lady In Blue


The Significance of Blessed Junípero Serra

by Gerard Beigel, S.T.D.

In the providence of God, Mission San Carlos Borromeo was destined to hold the remains of the Franciscan priest who planted the Gospel of Jesus Christ in California: Blessed Junípero Serra. It is only a matter of time, please God, before he will be canonized as a saint of the Church. As someone who is already beatified, he is held up to the faithful as a model of heroic Christian virtue. Let us reflect upon the spiritual character of this man who continues to influence the Church.

Even the many tourists who visit this mission are struck by the peace that seems to pervade the grounds, the gardens, the buildings and, of course, the Basilica itself. It is a peace not unlike that which is experienced in other holy places such as Assisi, the home of St. Francis. This abiding peace is actually a spiritual manifestation of the heroic Christian virtue of Serra. We can truly say that he has “left his mark” upon the land itself. The peace that abides here is actually a spiritual presence. This is a holy place. It is hallowed by the prayers of many visitors. But it is hallowed most of all by the relics, the spirit and the intercessory prayer of Blessed Junípero Serra. The peace that rests over this mission is an invitation to all who come here to enter into the living communion with Jesus Christ and the saints that Serra himself experienced. As we reflect upon the significance of Blessed Junípero, our primary goal should be just this—to share in his experience of Jesus Christ, Mary, and all the saints.

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, visited Carmel Mission in 1987 and spoke about the significance of Father Serra. If you have the opportunity, you might try to read the full text of the Pope’s speech. I will quote only from a small portion of it in the heart of the talk, where John Paul identifies Serra as “the apostle of California.”

Very often at crucial moments in human affairs God raises up men and women whom he thrusts into roles of decisive importance for the future development of both society and the Church. Although their story unfolds within the ordinary circumstances of daily life, they become larger than life within the perspective of history. We rejoice all the more when their achievement is coupled with a holiness of life that can truly be called heroic. So it is with Junípero Serra, who in the providence of God was destined to be the apostle of California and to have a permanent influence over the spiritual patrimony of this land and its people.… Through Christ’s paschal mystery, [the death of Serra] has become a seed in the soil of this state that continues to bear fruit “thirty- or sixty- or a hundredfold (Mt 13:9).”

    In calling Serra “the apostle of California,” the Holy Father identifies one of the most important aspects of the spiritual character of Blessed Junípero. The Church in this state is literally built upon the foundation of his missionary activity. Of course, within the Church foundations are always “living stones.” By contrast, in the perspective of secular history, Serra belongs only to the past—he is a mere footnote in the development of California. The secularization of the missions by the Mexican government and then the influx of greed and materialism with the Gold Rush left almost all the missions in ruins less than a hundred years after Serra died. It seems then that the spiritual foundation laid by Junípero Serra was overwhelmed or even destroyed by the passage of history. But this is an illusion. What is spiritual, what is truly of God, lasts forever. Even though it is hard for us in the twentieth century to grasp, the spiritual foundation laid by Serra continues to bear fruit. As the Pope says, in the providence of God, Blessed Junípero is destined to have a permanent effect upon the spiritual patrimony of this land and its peoples. This could be said in another way: God wants the life of Blessed Junípero to be a continuous source of blessings for Catholics. For us in California, and indeed for all of the Americas, the fullness of the Gospel entails a specific connection to the apostolic foundation laid by Junípero Serra. If we want this blessing to touch our lives, all we have to do is open our hearts to the work of God in Serra’s life.

The Campaign Against Serra

    Here we must point out that there are obstacles in the way of our appreciating the witness of Junípero Serra. The biggest obstacle comes from an aggressive ideological campaign to discredit Serra and the whole missionary effort of the Franciscans in this state. They are portrayed as mere agents of an oppressive government that sought to destroy the Native American culture in California. While the scholarship behind these accusations is less than impressive, the campaign to discredit Serra has achieved great results in the public domain. If one tells a lie often enough, many people will come to believe that it is true. The view of the missionaries as oppressors is now taught to children in fourth and fifth grades in many public schools throughout the state. Moreover, Catholics themselves seem to have become indifferent towards Serra, perhaps even embarrassed by him. They are not sure whether these accusations are true, but they feel that Serra ought not to be emphasized as a role model for the faithful today. This is a terrible travesty. I believe that this whole dynamic is simply a particular manifestation of the war that our secular culture wages upon anything that pertains to the Christian faith in Jesus Christ. It should not surprise us that there is a campaign to discredit the holiness of a man whom the Church has declared possesses heroic virtue, therefore worthy of imitation in any age.

We don’t have time here to take up every detail of this controversy. Three things must be said, however. First, the Indians themselves loved Serra and wept at his death; if Serra were an oppressor, the spontaneous outpouring of grief would be hard to explain. Love is repaid by love alone. Second, it is wrong to impose our own expectations on a previous age. For example, today we would not be in favor of “holy wars,” but St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the greatest saints in the Church, spent many years advocating the necessity of Crusades to the Holy Land. We can grant that there were elements in the California mission system that we would not repeat today. One of the biggest problems was the close connection between the spiritual power and the civil power—between “the Cross and the Sword.” On the one hand, the missions could never have been established without the support of the Spanish Crown and its soldiers. But the missionaries were never mere pawns of the Crown. They fought against the bad influence and example of the soldiers upon the natives.

Another problem was that the law of the Spanish Crown did allow for corporal punishment of the natives. But the same Law also guaranteed certain rights to the natives. Serra himself made a long and hazardous journey to Mexico City to protest the treatment the Indians were receiving from the civil authorities. His efforts resulted in a so-called “Bill of Rights” for the Indians. There is no credible evidence that Serra himself ever beat or tortured Indians. The third point to remember is that the process leading to beatification within the Church (and the declaration of “heroic virtue”) is quite demanding. In effect, the Church has subjected Serra to a far more demanding (and honest!) scrutiny than the slipshod efforts of the camp of revisionist historians. We need to educate ourselves about the controversy surrounding Serra, but the judgment of the Church about his holiness and heroic virtue is trustworthy.

Besides the negative criticisms of Serra, there is another obstacle that hinders our appreciation of him. The holiness of Blessed Junípero was achieved in the life of a missionary. He was not a spiritual writer. As Americans who are routinely impressed with external accomplishments, we are disposed to identify Serra’s greatness with what he did—the number of missions he built, the constant pastoral journeys to oversee such a large territory. This is certainly an aspect of Serra’s greatness, but we have to get beyond externals to touch the spiritual heart of the man. In that regard the best source to consult is still the biography of Serra written by his beloved student, disciple and co-missionary, Friar Francisco Palóu. Palóu’s Life of Serra is the only biography of Blessed Junípero written by an eye-witness. (After being out of print for over forty years, Palóu’s biography is now being serialized in The California Mission.)

    One of the things that Palóu points out about Serra early in his biography is the fact that Junípero lived in obvious communion with the saints of the Church. Palóu remarks on how Serra did not need to look up the feast days in the calendar. He carried it all in his heart and was able to recite events from the lives of many, many saints as if he had known them personally.

Serra and the Catholic Tradition

These observations of Palóu bring us to the spiritual heart of Blessed Junípero Serra. In him the Catholic tradition was alive and incarnate. By “tradition” I mean not simply the doctrinal deposit of faith, but the living tradition of the Church—a spiritual reality that is enfleshed in the lives of saints and can be experienced as an intense communion not only with the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary, but with all the saints throughout the ages. Blessed Junípero experienced this depth of communion in the Church’s tradition. In him the Catholic tradition was alive and therefore “communicable.”

There are three ways in which Serra mediates the Church’s tradition to us. First, he mediates the tradition of Spanish Catholicism—a tradition of great devotion and heroism. When we think of Spanish Catholicism we think of the persistent struggle for the faith against domination by the Moors—a struggle that lasted over seven centuries. We think, too, of the Church’s great love for Mary and of the spiritual protection of the Spanish Church by the Apostle St. James. The shrine of St. James at Compestela was one of the three great centers of pilgrimage for the medieval Church. The Spanish Church was always ready to undertake the most heroic sacrifices for the defense and spread of the Catholic faith. This zeal was carried by Serra and other missionaries to Mexico and the American southwest. This tradition of zeal, of sacrifice, and of suffering is depicted in the vivid realism of Spanish portrayals of the Crucifix. The event in Serra’s life that most expresses this heroic quality of Spanish Catholicism is when he made the overland journey from Baja, California to establish the first mission at San Diego—he walked a couple hundred miles through desert terrain with an ulcerous wound on his leg. It was his own “Via Dolorosa,” and the direct fruit of this suffering was the very establishment of the missions in California.

The second way in which Blessed Junípero Serra mediates the Church’s tradition to us is as a spiritual son of St. Francis of Assisi. The Franciscan tradition is a rich expression of the evangelical life, an expression that particularly highlights the value of humility, simplicity and poverty. The simplicity of Serra can be seen by walking back into the mission museum of Carmel and looking at the cell where he spent the last days of his life. He was a deeply humble man. We think of him primarily as a missionary, but his first ministry as a priest was as a professor of theology in Mallorca. He was an intellectual and gave up the life of books and university orations in order to live in simplicity and poverty among native peoples. Palóu’s account of Serra’s journey from Vera Cruz to Mexico City just after his arrival in the New World is a wonderful revelation of the Franciscan charism that animated Serra. On that journey, Blessed Junípero chose to forgo the use of a horse and traveled with no provisions. These and other acts of self-denial were not primarily signs of heroic self-effort on the part of Serra, but rather the fruit of a very deep spiritual life based upon the evangelical vision that animated St. Francis. The original rule of the Franciscans consisted of three words from the gospels. “If you wish to be perfect sell what you have and give to the poor.” “Take nothing with you on your journey.” And, “whoever wishes to come after me must take up His cross and follow me.”

Serra and the Grace of Guadalupe

Finally, the third way in which Blessed Junípero mediates the Church’s tradition to us is especially important for us in the New World: Serra is a bearer of the grace of Guadalupe. There is actually an icon of Serra that shows him carrying an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When Serra arrived in Mexico City after the journey from Vera Cruz, the first thing he did—before even joining the Franciscan brethren at the College of San Fernando—was to stop at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and offer a Mass of thanksgiving.

It is no exaggeration to say that the intervention of Our Lady of Guadalupe is responsible for the conversion of the Mexican people to the Catholic faith. She literally ignited a fire of conversion, of faith and of devotion that to this day runs very deep in the Mexican soul. Before the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego in 1531, the Spanish missionaries had had only meager success in evangelizing the native peoples in Mexico after the conquest by Cortez. But in the seven years after the Virgin’s appearances to Juan Diego, there were around eight million conversions and baptisms among the natives. Someone has worked out the math of this astonishing spiritual transformation, comparing it to the conversion of 5,000 people on the day of Pentecost after the preaching by the Apostle St. Peter. The eight million conversions in seven years is equivalent to a Pentecost a day for seven years.

In the two thousand-year history of the Church, the grace of Guadalupe stands in a class by itself. Again, it is a grace that is not confined to the past, but one that endures to this day, bringing glory to God and bearing enormous fruit for the Church. For three hundred years after Our Lady’s intervention at Guadalupe, Mexico City was the hub for a far flung missionary enterprise that covered an enormous territory—Baja and Alta California, northern Mexico, southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Everywhere the missionaries went they carried the grace of Guadalupe, rooting all their missionary efforts in the fruitful womb of Mary. In the 1580s, there was even a Spanish mission in southern Georgia devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The first college established in California, in the 1830s at Santa Inez Mission, was named Our Lady of Guadalupe College. Without the grace of Guadalupe, it is hard for us to imagine the existence of much of North American Catholicism. Rightly, therefore, has Pope John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe “the star of the first and the new evangelization” for the Catholics in this hemisphere. Junípero Serra was one of many missionaries who was a bearer of this grace of Guadalupe. He recognized and served the plan of God for this hemisphere that was unfolding within the maternal embrace of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For most people, Junípero Serra is known and appreciated as the builder of the California missions. On a purely human level, this accomplishment would make him a significant figure in history. But behind the work lies the spiritual sources that animated the heart of Blessed Junípero. He had a great heart for God. His dream was to establish missions from Baja, California all the way to Alaska. This evangelical zeal was the fruit of his abiding in the Church’s tradition—particularly in the tradition of Spanish Catholicism, in the tradition of the Franciscan order, and in the tradition of the grace of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Serra’s greatness was not the external work of the individual, but his openness to these three streams of grace that are part of the living tradition of the Church. We give thanks to God for Serra’s holiness, which is an incentive for us to make our own the living tradition of the Church.

As we close, it is appropriate to look forward, with Pope John Paul II, to the dawn of the third millennium of the Church’s life. For Catholics in this hemisphere, the Holy Father held up Our Lady of Guadalupe as “the star of the first and new evangelization”—the new evangelization of the world in our day. In his letter on the Advent of the Third Millenium, the Pope also declares “as the third millenium of the redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity; and we can already see its first signs.” I invite you all to contemplate the truth that the holiness and witness of Blessed Junípero Serra is a grace that continues to abide for Catholics in the Americas. The abiding spiritual influence of Blessed Junípero Serra upon this land is itself one of the first signs of the new springtime for the Church for which we are all praying.

Rev. Gerard Beigel is a parochial vicar at St. Francis Cabrini Parish in Littleton, Colorado. He helps produce The California Mission, a bimonthly magazine. He can be reached at

A View From Another Source:

Father Junipero Serra

Father Junipero Serra played a major role in the founding and development of California. Learn more about his life.

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His Life

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Serra was born of lowly people in the island of Majorca, and while he was yet a little child sang as chorister in the convent of San Bernardino. He was but sixteen when he entered the Franciscan Order, and before he was eighteen he had taken the final vows. This was in the year 1730. His baptismal name, Michael Joseph, he laid aside on becoming a monk, and took the name of Junipero, after that quaintest and drollest of all Saint Francis's first companions; him of whom the saint said jocosely, "Would that I had a whole forest of such Junipers!"

At last, in 1749, there assembled in Cadiz a great body of missionaries, destined chiefly for Mexico;

For nineteen years after their arrival in Mexico, Father Junipero and his three friends were kept at work there, under the control of the College of San Fernando, in founding missions and preaching. On the suppression of the Jesuit Order, in 1767, and its consequent expulsion from all the Spanish dominions, it was decided to send a band of Franciscans to California, to take charge of the Jesuit missions there. These were all in Lower California, no attempt at settlement having been yet made in Upper California. Serra was put in charge of it, and was appointed president of all the California missions.

The history of the next fifteen years is a history of struggle, hardship, and heroic achievement. The indefatigable Serra was the mainspring and support of it all. There seemed no limit to his endurance, no bound to his desires; nothing daunted his courage or chilled his faith. When, in the sixth year after the founding of the San Diego Mission, it was attacked by hostile Indians, one of the fathers being most cruelly murdered, and the buildings burned to the ground, Father Junipero exclaimed, "Thank God! The seed of the Gospel is now watered by the blood of a martyr; that mission is henceforth established;" and in a few months he was on the spot, with money and materials, ready for rebuilding; pressing sailors, neophytes, soldiers, into the service; working with his own hands, also, spite of the fears and protestations of all, and only desisting on positive orders from the military commander. He journeyed, frequently on foot, back and forth through the country, founding a new mission whenever, by his urgent letters to the College of San Fernando and to the Mexican viceroys, he had gathered

Father Junipero's most insatiable passion was for baptizing Indians; the saving of one soul thus from death filled him with unspeakable joy.

When he preached he was carried out of himself by the fervor of his desire to impress his hearers. Baring his breast, he would beat it violently with a stone, or burn the flesh with a lighted torch, to enhance the effect of his descriptions of the tortures of hell.

There were nine of these missions, founded by Serra, before his death in 1784.

Father Junipero Serra

(Source: Library of Congress).


His Funeral

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Ever since morning the grief-stricken people had been waiting and listening for the tolling death-bell to announce that all was over. At its first note they came in crowds, breathless, weeping, and lamenting. It was with great difficulty that the soldiers could keep them from tearing Father Junipero's habit piece-meal from his body, so ardent was their desire to possess some relic of him. The corpse was laid at once in a coffin which he himself had ordered made many weeks before. The vessels in port fired a salute of one hundred and one guns, answered by the same from the guns of the presidio at Monterey, --an honor given to no one below the rank of general. But the hundred gun salutes were a paltry honor in comparison with the tears of the Indian congregation. Soldiers kept watch around his coffin night and day till the burial; but they could not hold back the
throngs of the poor creatures who pressed to touch the hand of the father they had so much loved, and to bear away something, if only a thread, of the garments he had worn.

Father Junipero Serra's funeral

(Source: Library of Congress).


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Copyright © 1998, 1999 Kidport, Inc.


TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: california; catholiclist; juniperoserra; popefrancis; romancatholicism; walkedwithbadleg

Blessed Junipero Serra's Memorial Day is July 1st.


San Diego de Alcala Founded 1769

Carmel Founded 1770

San Antonio de Padua, Founded 1771

San Gabriel,Archangel,Founded in 1771

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Founded 1772

Mission Dolores

San Juan Capistrano,Founded 1776

Santa Clara de Asis, Founded 1777

San Buenaventura,Founded 1782

Santa Barbara,Founded 1786

San Purisima, Founded 1787

Santa Cruz,Founded 1791

Senora de la Soledad, Founded 1791

San Jose, Founded 1797

San Juan Bautista, Founded 1797

San Miguel Archangel, Founded 1797

San Fernando Rey de Espana,Founded 1797

San Luis Rey,Founded 1798

San Ines, Founded 1804

San Rafael Archangel,Founded 1817

San Francisco Solano, Founded 1823

1 posted on 07/01/2002 5:40:25 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
I'm sorry that a few of the mission pictures didn't come out.I double checked a number of times.I guess the "address" was changed.
2 posted on 07/01/2002 5:48:45 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; nickcarraway; SMEDLEYBUTLER; fatima; Salvation; Siobhan; BlackElk; ..
3 posted on 07/01/2002 5:51:03 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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IGNATIUS, you might be interested in Blessed Junipero Serra,since the California Missions are an important part of California's history.
4 posted on 07/01/2002 5:53:09 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Polycarp
5 posted on 07/01/2002 7:11:45 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
Thank you for the ping! Fr Shaunessy had a wonderful homily during the EWTN mass regarding Fr Serra. We need a few thousand more like him!!!
6 posted on 07/01/2002 7:25:06 PM PDT by Polycarp
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To: Polycarp
You're welcome.I'll be glad when Eccostar buys Hughs(my system).When it's approved I should be able to get EWTN(finally).I would have loved to have heard Father's homily!
7 posted on 07/01/2002 7:27:57 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
We do not own a TV. I listen on shortwave radio. Its worth the investment!
8 posted on 07/01/2002 7:35:56 PM PDT by Polycarp
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To: Lady In Blue
Thanks, Lady in Blue. I thought about posting something today after I noticed it as the optional Mass when I went to the Communion Service at noon, but just did not get around to it.
9 posted on 07/01/2002 7:41:07 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Lady In Blue
Thanks, Lady in Blue. I thought about posting something today after I noticed it as the optional Mass when I went to the Communion Service at noon, but just did not get around to it.
10 posted on 07/01/2002 7:41:37 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Lady In Blue
Thanks for all the wonderful pictures! I live in Florida, where the Spanish also established a much less well-known mission chain through North Florida and Georgia. We have no pictures, unfortunately! The climate here contributed to that, of course, since the missions were built of wood and were either destroyed by the English from South Carolina or simply reclaimed by Florida's active insect population after the Spanish left.

It's a wonderful history, though, and I sometimes wonder if Catholics here realize what they owe to the many missionaries sent by Spain to this wild, inhospitable land. In many places, the Catholicism they planted seemed to disappear; but I prefer to think that it simply sank in deep and took root, and will reappear one of these days.
11 posted on 07/01/2002 7:44:52 PM PDT by livius
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To: Salvation
You're welcome,Salvation.Blessed Junipero Serra was a true son of the Church.Imagine, walkng from one end of California to the other with an ulcerous leg,and by choice!
12 posted on 07/01/2002 7:48:25 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: livius
You're welcome,Livius.I'm glad that you liked the pictures.I'm just sorry that a couple of them didn't come out!

"It's a wonderful history, though, and I sometimes wonder if Catholics here realize what they owe to the many missionaries sent by Spain to this wild, inhospitable land. In many places, the Catholicism they planted seemed to disappear; but I prefer to think that it simply sank in deep and took root, and will reappear one of these days."

Beautifully said! And I couldn't agree with you more.BTW,I hate to admit it but I didn't know that the Spaniards build Missions in Florida and GA! It's too bad that they didn't survive for whatever reasons.

13 posted on 07/01/2002 7:54:08 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue; All
Here's the two Missions which didn't come out:

Mission Santa Barbara

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

14 posted on 07/01/2002 9:10:20 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Polycarp
I have a shortwave radio.Do you know if that program will be repeated this evening? I sure hope so. I usually turn my shortwave radio on when I go to bed for a few minutes before I go to sleep.
15 posted on 07/01/2002 9:16:37 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: NYer; Theresa; Askel5
16 posted on 07/02/2002 8:28:11 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue; livius
I love the missions! I used to make day trips to Carmel to visit the mission and a few other places there. San Luis Obispo has a nice little plaza too. (I may be biased because I sure like those two towns!)

I didn't know there were missions established in Florida either:-)

17 posted on 07/02/2002 9:09:54 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: Lady In Blue
I don't know what happened but when I came back on this thread this evening,these pictures didn't show up above,so I'm reposting them.

Mission Santa Ines

Mission San Rafael the Archangel

Mission San Solano

18 posted on 07/02/2002 9:28:45 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: goldenstategirl
I love them too! They're just beautiful! Last year PBS had a special on them with beautiful Mariachi music.I taped part of it.I'm sitting here now wondering where I put that tape?!
19 posted on 07/03/2002 9:29:19 AM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: All

Time to bring this 2 year old thread back on the feast day of Blessed Junipero Serra.

20 posted on 07/01/2004 7:45:51 PM PDT by Lady In Blue (On Election Day,President Bush: "WIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER!")
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To: Lady In Blue

/what an outstanding post. Thank you for all the work here.

21 posted on 07/01/2005 7:16:34 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on July 1, 2005.

California history is recorded here! How can they propose to take San or Santa out of names?

It's part of history!

22 posted on 07/01/2005 7:19:05 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Optional Memorial of Blessed Junipero Serra, July 1, 2006!

23 posted on 07/01/2006 7:34:26 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day

July 1, 2006
Blessed Junipero Serra

In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard.

Born in Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadors—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.


The word that best describes Junipero is zeal. It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will. “Always forward, never back” was his motto. His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians. When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been—God again writing straight with crooked lines.


During his homily at Serra’s beatification, Pope John Paul II said: “Relying on the divine power of the message he proclaimed, Father Serra led the native peoples to Christ. He was well aware of their heroic virtues—as exemplified in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha—and he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their new-found faith as persons created and redeemed by God. He also had to admonish the powerful, in the spirit of our second reading from James, not to abuse and exploit the poor and the weak.”

24 posted on 07/01/2006 8:13:16 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
Blessed Junipero Serra

Blessed Junipero Serra, Priest
[In the diocese of the United States]
Optional Memorial
July 1st

Portrait discovered in a Zacatecas, Mexico second-hand store in 1954 by Harry Downie.

Blessed Junipero Serra was born at Petra, Island of Majorca, November 24, 1713; he died at Monterey, California, August 28, 1784.

On September 14, 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood. Later he received the degree of Doctor of Theology from the Lullian University at Palma, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until he joined the missionary college of San Fernando, Mexico (1749). While traveling on foot from Vera Cruz to the capital, he injured his leg in such a way that he suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever possible. At his own request he was assigned to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions. He served there for nine years, part of the time as superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the Catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions. His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary means in order to move the people to penance. He would pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit, scourge himself, or apply a lighted torch to his bare chest. He was appointed superior of a band of fifteen Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Lower California. Early in 1769 he accompanied Portolá's land expedition to Upper California. On the way he established the Mission San Fernando de Velicatá, Lower California. He arrived at San Diego on July 1, and on July 16 founded the first of the twenty-one California missions, which accomplished the conversions of all the natives on the coast as far as Sonoma in the north.

In 1778 he received the faculty to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. After he had exercised his privilege for a year, Governor Neve directed him to suspend administering the sacrament until he could present the papal Brief. For nearly two years Father Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights. During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, six hundred miles, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5309 persons, who, with but few exceptions, were Indians converted during the fourteen years from 1770. Besides extraordinary fortitude, his most conspicuous virtues were insatiable zeal, love of mortification, self-denial, and absolute confidence in God. His executive abilities has been especially noted by non-Catholic writers. A bronze statute of heroic size represents him as the apostolic preacher in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. In 1884 the Legislature of California passed a concurrent resolution making August 29 of that year, the centennial of Father Serra's burial, a legal holiday.

He was beatified September 25, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition)

God most High,
your servant Junipero Serra
brought the gospel of Christ
to the peoples of Mexico and California
and firmly established the Church among them.
By his intercession,
and through the example of his apostolic zeal,
inspire us to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.


25 posted on 07/01/2008 8:47:47 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

In His Steps Prayer

"Walk with Blessed Junipero Serra as he traces our Lord's footsteps in search of workers for the vineyard."

Holy Spirit, you are the love and light of the world. Continue to give all Serrans the courage and generosity to respond ardently to your call.

With one voice now, all Serrans say, "Here I am Lord." Fire each of us with a renewed spirit and enthusiasm to work for vocations for our Church.

Deepen our commitment to the Serran mission that we may, indeed, walk "in his steps" on our journey.

Father, we ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord, through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra and Mary, the Mother of the Church and religious vocations.


26 posted on 07/01/2009 2:17:20 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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To: All
Conventual Franciscans

July 1: The Feast Day of Blessed Junipero Serra

Blessed Junipero Serra

One of the seminal figures in the 18th century history of what is today the state of California is Blessed Junipero Serra. A Franciscan friar from the Spanish island of Mallorca, Blessed Junipero was born in 1713. We celebrate his feast day on July 1.


Junipero – a religious name (his birth name was Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer) – spent the first 35 years of his life as a student and professor of theology and then as a preacher. At 35 years of age, however, he felt a call from God to become a missionary in the Americas, much like St. Francis Solanus.


Veracruz, Mexico

Landing in Veracruz, Mexico, Junipero and a friend hiked 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way one of Junipero’s legs became infected after an insect bite. It would bother him for the rest of his life, but would not deter him from his missionary work. This included 18 years of activity in Central Mexico and the Baja Peninsula, a number of which were spent as president of missions for those regions.

Mission San Carlo Borromeo in Carmel, California

In 1769, King Charles III of Spain ordered the exploration and settlement of what is today the state of California. He did not want the Russian Empire to swallow the area from the north. Part of the settlement plan involved the foundation of missions along the way. The Franciscans took on this role and Junipero was a key presence among them. He travelled as far north as San Francisco, stood up for the rights of Native Americans, baptized 6000 people and confirmed 5,000. He died in 1784 and was beatified in 1988. His grave can be found at Mission San Carlo Borromeo in Carmel, California.

27 posted on 07/01/2010 8:42:26 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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