Saint Junipero Serra: Priest, Missionary and Founder
Apr 28, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast July 1
Apostle of the West
Junipero Serra, the indomitable apostle of California, was born on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea and received the name Miguel Jose in Baptism.
Later entering the Franciscan Order, he took the name of Saint Francis of Assisi’s childlike companion, Brother Juniper, and came to be known as Fray Junipero.
His was a “rags-to-riches” story. Born into poverty but brilliant of intellect, before the age of 30 he held a doctorate in theology and occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy at the Lullian University in Palma de Mallorca.
Renowned as a preacher and professor, he could easily have become the dean of the university and more but at the age of 36 he gave up all earthly semblance of glory to follow his long-harbored desire to evangelize the natives in the New World.
The inspiration of his missionary zeal was another Franciscan, the great 16th century apostle of South America, St. Francis Solano.
Arriving in Vera Crux in Mexico, Fray Junipero and a companion walked 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way, Fray Junipero hurt his leg, which never fully healed, a condition that was life-threatening at times and which caused him much discomfort for the rest of his life.
He worked for eighteen years in central Mexico and the Baja California Peninsula, and then was convinced by Capitan Juan Galvez to follow him on a 900-mile journey to present-day Monterey, California.
When insurmountable difficulties arose with a military commander, he made the grueling trip to Mexico City and there obtained from the Viceroy the famous document known as the “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation of California, a sort of “Bill of Rights.”
Serra was 54 when he took charge of the missions in Alta California, heading a group of fifteen Franciscans. He founded his first mission – San Diego de Alcalá – in 1769. This mission almost had to be quit due to a shortage of food. Vowing to stay with the local people, Saint Junipero began a novena to Saint Joseph. On March 19, the feast of Saint Joseph and, coincidentally, the scheduled day for departure, the relief ship arrived.
From San Diego, the holy Franciscan, traveling indefatigably despite his bad leg, established another eight missions. Twelve more missions were founded after his death. Many of these missions became the centers of great cities like San Diego. The Apostle of California baptized 6,000 people and traveled 20,000 miles.
Fray Junipero Serra’s life was one long battle with the elements, the terrain, cold and hunger, unsympathetic commanders, and even danger of death from non-Christian natives. But he fed his unquenchable zeal with a life of intense prayer, often from midnight to dawn.
He brought the Native Americans the gift of faith and a better quality of life, and won their love in the process. This ardent and zealous son of St. Francis died in 1784 at the age 70 at Mission San Carlos Borromeo and was beatified in 1988.
Such was the virtue, the tenacity, and the sheer courage of this man of God, that even secularist biographers, who struggle to understand Fr. Junipero’s astounding asceticism and heroic generosity, salute the man. Such was his contribution to the civilization of our nation that a bronze representation of him, cross held high, stands in the National Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol, in Washington D.C. 1
Nine missions Saint Junipero founded:
- Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, July 16, 1769, present-day San Diego, California.
- Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, June 3, 1770, present-day Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
- Mission San Antonio de Padua, July 14, 1771
- Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, September 8, 1771, present-day San Gabriel, California.
- Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, September 1, 1772, present-day city of San Luis Obispo, California.
- Mission San Juan Capistrano, November 1, 1776, present-day San Juan Capistrano
- Mission San Francisco de Asís, June 29, 1776, present-day San Francisco, California chain of missions.
- Mission Santa Clara de Asís, January 12, 1777, present-day city of Santa Clara, California, and
- Mission San Buenaventura, March 31, 1782, present-day Ventura, California.
- 1 Just weeks after Pope Francis announced his intention of canonizing Blessed Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States, California’s openly homosexual Senator Ricardo Lara began moving to replace the statue of our venerable saint with that of Sally Ride the first female astronaut, who was also a lesbian.