Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Location: Monterey County, California
|Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:10 pm Post subject: Notes - Serra the Man
|FRAY JUNIPERO SERRA was born in the little town of Petra, Isle of Mallorca, on November 24, 1713. The isle is a favorite spot for American expatriates in which to ride out the financial storm. They find peace, beauty and romance on the island that gave birth to the "Father of California.”
His parents, Antonio Serra and Margarita Ferrer, were gentle, grave Mallorcans of middle class, who gave to their son, Miguel Jose, an environment that fed his imagination and stimulated his ardent personality. He served in his parish church as acolyte and chorister, always with high spirit and verve. And at seventeen, it surprised no one when he entered the Order of St. Francis, at the monastery at Falma—the Order of Friars Minor (September 14, 1730). A year later, he made his profession, taking the name of Junipero, in honor of the dynamic disciple of Francis of Assisi, who had borne that name. A brilliant student, Serra was teaching philosophy at the monastery at Palma before his ordination. It was during this formative period that the young students, Juan Crespi, Fermin Francisco Lasuen and Francisco Palou, came under his influence, and came to share his dream that together they would carry the Cross to the New World.
Their dream came to pass, when eventually all four were commissioned to cross the seas, and ultimately to the furthermost end of the known world'—Alta California, Here all but Palou remained, until death called them. Their tombs lie side by side in Carmel Mission, scene of their labors, joys and sorrows.
Had Junipero Serra remained in Spain, a brilliant career in the Church unquestionably would have been his. He had won an appointment to the John Scotus chair of philosophy, Bancroft tells us, in the Lullian University, which, young as he was, he held with distinction until he took ship for the Western Hemisphere.
He set sail for the New World on August 28, 1749. It is significant that, thirty-three years later, his soul set sail for the World of the Spirit on August 28th.
En route to Mexico, the ship docked at Puerto Rico, remaining for two weeks. Here Junipero at last realized his heart's desire to preach The Word in New Spain.
The ship reached Vera Cruz, December 6th, whereupon the young friar proceeded to walk—always to walk—to Mexico City. He reached the capital on New Year's Day (1750), reporting to the College of San Fernando, headquarters of his order, where he was affectionately greeted. It was on this walking-trip that his leg became infected, probably from an insect bite, aggravated by the long, hard trek. To the day of his death, that leg was a ceaseless source of trouble, often of acute pain; and always a threat to his life.
Assigned to the Sierra Gorda Missions, he spent the next nine years teaching and Christianizing the Pames, building a stone church that is thought by many to have been the inspiration for the church in California that was to become his last resting place.
An abortive call to the Apache Missions in 1759, or 6o, gave his college the opportunity of employing him in Mexico City and its outlying districts preaching and teaching. His magnetism and personal power, here, as in Mallorca, won him powerful friends.
Then came the call to the Californias. Nearing his goal. In 1767, Junipero was appointed Presidente of the Baja California Missions. The first step. He sailed from San Bias for Loreto, then the capital of the Californias, to begin his life work. He was now fifty-six. On March 20, 1769, he set out afoot—always afoot—for Alta California.
The old leg-wound almost cost him his place in the Portola expedition. A muleteer's poultice of mutton tallow saved the day.
On the way, Serra founded Mission San Fernando de Velicata; and then on to San Diego. A long, heartbreaking march. But he was at last in Alta California (July 1st) .
The founding of the Mission of San Diego de Alcala —the first center of civilization in Alta California-took place July 16th. The Spanish frontier was pushing north.
The following year he sailed in the San Antonio for Monterey: there, with Crespi and Portola, to establish the northernmost outpost of Spain, in fulfillment of the plans of Jose de Galvez, visitor-general of New Spain, in the name of their King, clear-headed, far-seeing Carlos III.
Arriving in the Port of Monterey on May 31st, he was met by Gaspar de Portola and his soldiers, who had arrived overland a short time before. Headwinds had delayed the San Antonio.
On June 3rd, the Mission and Presidio of Monterey were founded.
From that day to the day of his passing, Serra's life was woven inextricably with the beginnings of Monterey and of California. He saw the capital of the Californias change from Loreto to Monterey (1776), and he welcomed the first resident-governor, Don Felipe de Neve (1777).
During the fifteen years of his life in Alta California, during which Carmel Mission was his headquarters, he founded the following Missions, in person or by his order:
San Diego de Alcala, July 16, 1769.
San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey del Carmelo (Carmel) June 3, 1770. (Moved from the Port of Monterey, December, 177O
San Antonio de Padua, July 14, 1771.
San Gabriel de Arcangel, September 8, 1771.
San Luis Obispo, September 1, 1772.
San Francisco de Asis (Dolores) October 8, 1776, though occupied since June 29th.
San Juan Capistrano, November 1, 1776.
Santa Clara de Asis, January 12, 1777.
San Buenaventura, March 31, 1782.
The little Padre Presidente was not present at the founding of Mission San Francisco, of which he had so long dreamed—a matter of deep disappointment; but he was on the ground the following year. He was, however, present when the Presidio of Santa Barbara was founded, and saw the little Presidio Church within the palisade launched on its way, somewhat allaying the grief caused by the recalcitrant de Neve, who withheld, with apparently no reason that would hold in court, his cooperation in the project, already approved at Mexico. De Neve was against anything that Serra was for, unless de Neve first suggested it.
Almost from the first, the dynamic head of the Mission colonization project met with opposition from the heads of the civil-military authorities, who were unwilling to stay on their own reservations, with the obvious purpose of curtailing the power and activities of the fiery mystic, to whom had been intrusted by the government the successful founding of centers of civilization in the wilderness—not only to start them, but to nurse them in their infancy and stabilize them into going institutions. Junipero and his friars were the only men to stay to see it through.
How successful was Serra?
The answer is, California is dotted with Mission or Mission-Presidio towns grown-up. He started them, and saw the first nine on their way—their infancy, obviously, the period of their greatest peril. And Spanish culture and the Spanish language have persisted in California. His Missions are still serving the people.
The arrogant, self-seeking governors, one by one, left the province, only to be forgotten, even by their countrymen, except in the "frozen page" of history. That and no more.
But Serra lives, not only in the "frozen page," but in the heart and mind of California, Witness his place of honor in the Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C, representing the State whose foundation he had laid in love and sacrifice.