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.


  1. I especially like the one with all the bells, these missions are wonderful and 300 years ago? wow.

  2. This is a FASCINATING subject--thank you!!

  3. i love the 5 bells in the tower. i don't like the self-flogging habit, though. :)

  4. A wonderful history here, Inger. Part of the U.S. that I haven't visited.

  5. Thanks for the history - very interesting.

  6. Dear Inger, truly I never knew any of this about Father Junipero Serra. All I knew was that he'd founded the missions in California.

    The whole thing about "disciplining" himself (that's what the lashing and beating himself with rocks is called) always bothers me when I read it. But so many people now called "saints" did that "to mortify their flesh." The Catholic Church has always had a hard time with "flesh" and "sexuality."

    Even a man of the twentieth century who is being considered for sainthood by the Church practiced "mortification." That's Matt Talbot of Ireland.

    On a cheerier note: thank you for explaining about the first mission Father Junipero Serra built and then how the others started. He must has asked the natives there to do the building. I wonder if he paid them in food or lodging or what?

    This is all so interesting. Peace.

  7. I will write about the building of the missions next Sunday. I hope to find some answers to how it was done. Few trees here in So. California at the time. And they are such massive structures, some of them.

  8. Hmmm, nice of you to research all this then feed it to us in a nutshell. Very interesting.

  9. Father Serra sounds like he was a good man but I find it sad that anyone thinks they should practice self-flagellation. It sounds so wrong to me.

  10. Vad intressant med fina bilder...ser fram emot fortsättning

  11. Stories like these have always fascinated me. These men (and women) were so strong in their beliefs that they were able to endure a lot of suffering in the process.
    I remain skeptical however about their purpose and intent to force a mysterious religion/faith on the native peoples of the world, who already had their own beliefs which worked very well for centuries.

  12. It's a long-held dream to visit the missions in California. Each seems so special, so peaceful, so imbued with purpose. Thank you for this lovely post, Inger, and for the chance to learn about Father Serra. The flogging? Think that was a bit much, but there are some who still do that. To each his own, I suppose.

  13. I really enjoyed the post, Inger. Dee suggested I might enjoy the post. I am a California history enthusiast and love the missions. I have lived in San Gabriel my whole life, so the missions are a major source of joy for me. I posted last week on the Santa Barbara Presidio, which you might enjoy. I think we have some common interests, so I'm very pleased to be introduced to your wonderful blog. If you'd like to see my "presidio post" it's at :-)

  14. What beautiful buildings!! Father Serra certainly was faithful to what he believed.
    I love the Mission San Carlos Borromeo.. What character here! Beautiful, beautiful!


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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