Feast Day: July 1
Beatified: September 25, 1988
Venerated: May 9, 1985
The party of missionaries had far to go, and the sun was setting fast. Junípero Serra and his friends thought they would have to sleep on the plains in Mexico, but then they saw a house off the road. They approached the owner, a man who lived there with his wife and child, to see if they might stay the night with them. The family treated them kindly, gave them a meal, and let them sleep overnight. In the morning, the missionaries went on their way. It wasn’t long until they met some mule drivers on the road. The drivers asked the missionaries where they had been. When they described the house and the family, the muleteers said there was no such house or ranch along the road. Without a doubt, the missionaries believed that the Holy Family had provided their lodging the night before.
Born on the island of Mallorca near Spain in 1713, Miguel Jose Serra wanted to be a monk. He joined the order of St. Francis Assisi when he was 15 and called himself Junípero. He studied philosophy and became a teacher of the same subject, but his heart longed to be a missionary.
Across the ocean in the new world of the Americas, people were needed to convert those who already lived there. This is what Junípero wanted to do, so he and some other monks headed for Mexico. After 16 years in Mexico, Junípero traveled north to California, where he opened nine missions and dedicated his life to converting people of indigenous cultural groups.
The missions stretched for nearly 700 miles from San Diego to Sonoma. If they needed it, the people found lodging at the missions. There was food and clothing to help them survive as well. The missionaries taught the new converts many things, including carpentry, farming, and metal working, but especially they taught them about Jesus and how to live as Christians.
Junípero usually walked to the missions. This was not always so easy for him as he had asthma (a condition that often makes breathing difficult) and a sore on his leg that would not heal. He hurt his leg soon after he arrived in Mexico and was thrown from a donkey. The wound would be a problem for the rest of his life. Sometimes Junípero wounded himself as a result of his enthusiasm for his faith. To make a point clear and show the conviction of his words, Junípero beat his chest with a rock or put a lighted torch against his chest. He believed his actions showed the people how serious he was about his love and obedience for God and also helped his listeners be sorry for their own sins.
Before his life ended from a snake bite in 1784, Father Junípero Serra confirmed more than 5,300 in the New World. Those who knew him remembered his zeal for God, his self denial, and the absolute love and trust he had for God. He was a popular preacher and after learning the language of the Pame Indians of Mexico, Junípero translated the catechism for them. He is buried under the sanctuary floor at Mission San Carolos Borromeo del Carmel in Carmel, California.
Connecting to Blest Are We® Parish and School
Grade 4, unit 5