Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Blessed Junípero Serra — Apostle of California

An old priest had come up into the country, Father Junípero Serra, and he built missions and schools, and taught the Indians trades; and the churches were run like big ranches. They each had thousands of cattle, and horses and sheep. He was an odd old fellow. He could pray without shooting an Indian first. He was a greater humanitarian than all the Pilgrims combined, including the 3 million that come on the Mayflower. No such man ever set foot on the eastern shore. He civilized with a Bible, and the old Pilgrim boys did it with a blunderbuss. There was never a church in the east built for Indians to worship in. — Will Rogers in 1934
Miguel José Serra was born in Majorca in 1713. He became a Franciscan professor, and had taken the name of Juniper, Saint Francis’ humble and comic friar. In 1749 he was in Mexico, and soon became famous in delivering missions (preaching). In 1769, he established a mission in Baja California. The first of July, he founded, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of 9 (eventually 21) missions, he, started in Alta California. Though in poor health, he continued, till his death on 28 August 1784, as the indefatigable “Father Presidente” of the friars and Indians.

Alta California was Spain’s last colonisation in the new world, it was New Spain’s northwest territory. Jose de Galvez, the King's Visitor General for New Spain, wanted Fray Junípero Serra to lead the Franciscan friars in the new missions. There would be conflict from the military. Serra looked upon the Indians, not as pagans, but as gentiles and children to be converted, converted to Christian Spaniards as full and equal Christian Spaniards, according to the Laws of the Indies (1542) which were binding codes of conduct, based on the views of the Dominican Bartolome De Las Casas. Both friars were the titular “Protector of the Indians”. It was from the civil and military authorities and mercenary economic motives, that, the natives needed protection from. The highest Spanish authorities judged in the the favor of the Indians and the friars.

Blessed Junípero Serra was the first San Diego Padre. He and the Indians were teammates.

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