I want to begin this last post about St Junipero by sharing how much I have loved getting to know him. As with every person, there are layers to pull back to discover his complex character. He was a humble man who struggled with pride, a gentle man who struggled with anger, a philosopher who struggled to make the reality of his philosophy compatible with the world he lived in and for the people he loved. As I said a the start of this series, knowing a saint has all of these struggles gives me comfort as I grapple with my own vices.
Father Paulo, his best friend and colleague, stated "he was most happy working face-to-face to bring people to Christ." Despite his longing to do just that all the time, he managed to complete his duties of recordkeeping, report writing, and all the other administrative tasks associated with his Franciscan position as President of the Alta California Missions. Administration must have been one of his gifts from the Holy Spirit, even if he didn't like it.
The parting salutation of the CA Mission Walkers is Siempre Adelante in honor of St Junipero. Always forward, just as he lived his life. For the padre, this meant:
having the singlemindedness to do the right thing,
being convicted that social rules were less important than religious motivation,
good intentions will eventually triumph over stubbornness and short-sighted social conventions,
the use of academic skills for diplomatic purposes will outmaneuver military commanders, and,
sometimes it is more important to protect the native peoples than to follow instructions from his religious superiors who are not present to see harm in all its horrible forms.
For Father, his greatest joy was baptizing and confirming new followers of Christ. Yes, he had special permissions from the Vatican to perform confirmations since there were no Bishops in Alta California. This authorization gave him the ability to travel to all the Missions, affording him the chance to connect with his brother priests and to bolster their fortitude so they would remain. I'm sure it bolstered him just as much as it did his brothers. The travels also gave him time to spend with the people whom he was called to minister the word of Christ.
Jose Miguel Serra was born on the fringe of Spain. Over the course of his 70+ years of life on this earth, he would become Padre Junipero Serra who left everything and everyone he knew for an unknown world in the hopes of bringing Christ's salvation to unbaptized natives. Despite what our modern lens wants to say about the process of colonization, Father's intentions were pure and holy. He passed to his eternal reward exactly where he wanted to be-- on the fringe of the Spanish Empire and among the people whom God had sent him to minister.
Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us.