Sunday, October 14, 2012

California Missions ~ Chapter Two

Father Junipero Serra 

Father Serra, who became the founder of the California Missions, was born in 1713 on the island of Majorca, Spain.  He joined the Franciscan Order and took the name Junipero after Saint Juniper, a companion of Saint Francis. Father Serra received a doctorate in theology from the Lullian University in Palma de Majorca, where he also occupied a chair in philosophy until he joined the missionary.

In 1749, Father Serra decided to become a missionary in the New World and traveled with several Franciscan monks to Mexico, where he joined a college in the capital. He arrived in Veracruz and was offered a mule for the journey to the capital, but Father Serra preferred to walk, so he refused the offer and set out on foot. Unfortunately, he was bitten by a snake while on this journey and would suffer serious pain and a crippled leg as a result. After teaching in the capital for several years, he transferred to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions where he spent about nine years. During this time he learned the Pame language and translated the catechism to this language. Father Serra also spent some time in Baja California, where he founded that state's only Franciscan mission. 

Mission San Diego de Alcala 

Later, Father Serra was appointed to the post of presidente, with responsibility for establishing a chain of missions in Alta (upper) California, the present day state of California. In 1769, Father Serra joined an expedition to Alta California. When the expedition reached San Diego, Father Serra stayed on and founded Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of the California missions.

Father Serra

Father Serra was a serious man, who lived a spartan religious life. It was not enough for him to turn away from earthly pleasures, he would often lash himself with ropes and beat his chest with stones. This also served as a means to move others to do penance for their sins.  

Father Serra spent the last three years of his life visiting the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, a journey of 600 miles, in order to confirm all who had been baptized there. Father Serra confirmed more than 5,000 people, mostly Indians, while on this journey. Throughout his travels, he endured severe pain from his crippled his leg, but refused remedies. Father Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo, on August 28, 1784. He was 70 years old. He is buried under the sanctuary floor of the mission. Father Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo ~ Source Wikipedia

Wikipedia is the source for much of the above information and all photos.

Next Sunday, Chapter Three will cover the purpose of the 21 California missions, building the missions, and maintaining them.


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