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Junipero Serra and the California Missions
Transcript of Junipero Serra and the California Missions
I apologize in advance for any ruthless western-European ethnocentric bias present in and throughout this presentation.
Voltaire- history is a trick played on the dead
Napoleon- history is a set of agreed upon myths
Timeline of the Missions
- Political (the Russians are coming)
- Commercial (mo people mo money)
- Spiritual (for the good of souls)
Conflicts of Perspective- Historical Research
- He risked his own health and safety to ensure the salvation of California's Indians and toiled at their side..
- He represents a model of perseverance and self-sacrifice, as he abandoned a comfy theology chair position to bring Catholicism to California.
- He opposed lengthy imprisonment and capital punishment for Indians and sought to protect converts from Spanish soldiers.
Controversy in the Cause for Sainthood of Blessed Junipero Serra
"Serra brought with him to California the prevailing religious attitude toward Indians, their conversion, and their treatment. In Spanish law, the Franciscans' relationship to their Indian converts was that of parent to child or custodian to ward. Once an Indian accepted Roman Catholicism as symbolized by baptism, the neophyte had to live according to the church's precepts, and disobedience or backsliding was corrected physically. Ordinary corporal punishment included whipping, imposing shackles, or imprisonment in stocks. Fugitive converts were pursued and, when found, returned to the mission.
Junípero Serra's Canonization and the Historical Record
in the journal The American Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 5 (Dec., 1988)
Evangelization and the Modern Missionary
19. Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth.
ACE Teachers as an Evangelizing Community
Junipero Serra and
The California Missions
- Born in 1713 on the Spanish island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean
- Enrolled in a Franciscan school in Parma at age 15, became a novice the following year, and a priest shortly after that.
- Became a professor of theology at age 24
- Despite his successes as a speaker and professor, he wanted something more and decided to travel with some fellow Franciscans to serve at a mission near Mexico City in 1749.
- For 15 years, Serra worked at Mexico City's College of San Fernando where he also ministered to the nearby Indian population
- In 1767, he was appointed head of the missions and tasked with founding new missions in upper (alta) CA
"Serra spent the rest of his life as head of the Franciscans in Alta California. Already over fifty years old, dangerously thin, asthmatic, and seriously injured in one of his legs, the undaunted Serra led the founding of the Mission of San Diego in 1769, aided an expedition in locating San Francisco Bay, and personally founded eight other missions, including his lifelong headquarters, the mission San Carlos Borromeo at Carmel.
His Herculean efforts subjected him to near-starvation, afflictions of scurvy, and hundreds of miles of walking and horse riding through dangerous terrain. Moreover, he was notorious for his mortifications of the flesh: wearing heavy shirts with sharp wires pointed inward, whipping himself to the point of bleeding, and using a candle to scar the flesh of his chest.
His sacrifices bore fruit for the missionaries; by his death in 1784, the nine missions he had founded had a nominally converted Indian population of nearly 5,000."
From Junipero Serra’s Diary:
“Of the expedition to the Ports of San Diego and Monterey by land, which
for God's greater glory and the conversion of the infidels to our Holy Catholic Faith
, I began, on March 28, the third day after the feast of the Resurrection, in the year 1769, starting from my Mission and the Royal Presidio of Loreto, in California, after a visitation of the southern missions…”
January 6, of this same year, finding myself at the Port of La Paz, with the Most Illustrious Lord Inspector, I blessed the packet boat named the San Carlos. I went aboard to sing the Mass and bless the flags. The litany was sung and other prayers in honor of Our Lady. And the Most Illustrious Lord made an eloquent speech which greatly encouraged those who were to sail on the boat for the said Ports of San Diego and Monterey…”
An evangelizing community:
- Knows God has loved us first, giving us strength to go out to love and show mercy in the world.
- Gets involved by word and deed in people's daily lives, taking on the "smell of the sheep" to minister to them where they are.
- Is supportive, standing by people at every step, no matter how lengthy or difficult. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time.
- Bears fruit, paying attention to the grain and does not grumble at the weeds.
- Is filled with joy, knowing how to rejoice always and celebrate every small step forward.
Serra detractors (including many American Indian scholars and activists):
- He was an emissary of Spanish colonial rule, an architect of forced labor and confinement that regarded Indian cultures as inferior.
- Forced Indians against their will to live at the missions, where they were subject to slave-like labor and whipped if they disputed Church teachings or tried to escape.
- It is unfair to judge an eighteenth-century missionary by present-day standards.
- Many European colonizers assumed a paternalistic superiority over native populations
- Corporal punishment was widespread
- Many missionaries felt a divine imperative to Christianize and civilize non-western people.
Vatican researchers argued that Serra was more a champion of the Indians than he was their oppressor and that there is no evidence that he ever personally beat Indians.
Pope John Paul II acknowledged in 1987 that the Indian encounter with Spanish culture was "a harsh and painful reality" that entailed "cultural oppression" and injustices." But he went on to praise Serra who, he said, "had frequent clashes with the civil authorities over the treatment of Indians" and that Fray Serra "admonish[ed] the powerful not to abuse and exploit the poor and weak."
- Sense of historical time
- Serra was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II