Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

An Early Champion Of Native American Rights

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, July 1, 2017

A baptism conducted by California mission friars is shown in a sketch displayed at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego, California July 27, 2016. This drawing is part of a collection of sketches depicting mission life by California artists A.B. Dodge and Alexander Harmer rendered in the early 1900’s. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Today, Catholics recognize the life and work of Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who in 1776 was working in California to demonstrate the love of Christ.

In 1988 Pope John Paul II beatified him, and in 2015 Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during his first visit to the United States.

Among the most famous of the 9 missions Fr. Serra established is San Juan Capistrano, which today is renown for the beautifully massive annual migration of swallows from from Argentina, which occurs March 19, when they establish nests in the ruins of the Great Stone Church.

Fr. Serra was born on the Spanish island of Majorca 1713, and up until the time he entered priesthood aged 35, he had been a professor. Inspired by the story of the missionary work of Saint Francis Solano in South America, he traveled across the Atlantic to a largely unknown land, and landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico, where he and a companion friar followed the rule of his patron saint Francis of Assisi that friars “must not ride on horseback unless compelled by manifest necessity or infirmity,” and walked 250 miles to Mexico City. During his journey, his leg became infected after he severely scratched an insect bite, and it troubled him the rest of his life.

At the time, Russia was considering invading North America from land south of present-day Alaska, and Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to to beat Russia to the territory. José de Galvez, a conquistador who led the expedition, convinced Fr. Serra set out for the 900 mile trek to Monterey, California with him, and along the way, Fr. Serra founded the San Diego mission in 1769. That same year, a food shortage threatened the expedition members’ lives, and following a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, a relief ship arrived.

Other missions he established include 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).

Fr. Junipero continued his long journey with José de Galvez to Mexico City to settle significant differences with the military commander there, and his journey was immensely taxing upon him and he arrived near the point of death. However, the outcome was exactly what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions, which was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Spanish thought Native Americans were living a nonhuman life, the friars were made their legal guardians, and protected them. Saint Junípero Serra died 1772, and was buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel.


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