Getting to know Saint Junipero Serra
For several months I'd been looking forward to the annual October walk in the footsteps of
Padre Serra and other Franciscans along the Camino Real in California. It was made especially sweet this year as the Camino organizer asked me to "give a talk" on our 2nd night. When she made the request, I asked her if there was a particular topic she wanted me to share but she left it up to me.
I took the request to prayer and distinctly felt Father Serra spiritually nudge me and ask me to share his story while at the Mission San Antonio de Padua. I was happy to oblige him. After all, he's a saint, and who can refuse a humble request such as his?
I spent several weeks getting to know him, finding and reading reliable sources, even digesting some anti-colonialism articles that painted the Franciscans, especially Father Serra, in a poor light. I wanted to make sure I understood the man from multiple perspectives.
I will begin these posts as I began my talk. I am not a theologian nor a historian. I am simply someone who loves to read, especially about the saints. Learning about holy men and women gives me hope that if imperfect people such as them can find sanctity, then, there is hope for me.
Let's start with setting the context around what I will share. So often, I find myself reading about historical figures and failing to place them in the time and place where they reside. I see them through my 21st-century lens and forget they were humans struggling in the world of their times rather than ours. As I share the items I found compelling, I hope you, too, will work to keep Father Junipero in the context of the mid-to-late 1700s and see his life's work as authentic. I'm not sure who to quote but I really like "History is a dialogue between past and present."
The world Saint Serra knew included:
Russian outposts in Alaska.
A newly established Vatican Library.
American colonies taxed by the British to the point of war.
The discovery of Australia by Captain Cook on his 1st voyage around the world.
The newly established East India Company by the British.
The first circus in London.
The first issue of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
The survey of the Mason-Dixon Line settled the dispute over state lines between Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
The 1st controlled trial for the Small Pox Vaccine by Dr. Watson
Juan Diego's tilma is adored in Mexico City. Father Serra may have even venerated it in person.
Newly acquired Franciscan missions which had previously belonged to the Jesuits.
The extinction of the Timucua Indians in Florida.
I think it is important for us to see just a hint of what the world as it was when Saint Junipero Serra walked this earth before we set out to learn more about him as a person.
I hope you will return next week to learn more about this amazing man of God.
I took the picture of the Franciscan Friar statue in the gardens of Mission Soledad in California.