- Ave Maria Mediations
- Blessed Junipero Serra
- Also known as the Apostle of California
After much preparation and discernment of his vocation, Serra received his Franciscan habit in 1730 and took the name Junipero (which meant ‘Jester of God’, named after the real-life companion of St. Francis). Ordained in 1737, he taught for seven years at Llullian University of Mallorca. But his dream was to become a missionary. In 1749, his dream became reality. He left his family and friends and sailed off to a “New World”. Serra landed in the port city of Vera Cruz and then traveled by foot to Mexico City to begin his work. (On that journey, Serra’s leg became swollen from a mosquito bite. This would hinder Serra physically for the rest of his life. It especially made walking very painful.)
When he arrived in Mexico City, he studied and prepared for missionary work at San Fernando College. Afterwards, he began missionary work with other Franciscan friars in the Sierra Gorda Mountains. While he was there, he was named ‘Presidente’ of the region. Serra then returned to San Fernando College in 1758 where he taught philosophy for nine years. In 1767, King Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from the Baja California region (and the rest of the Spanish colonies too!) and named Serra ‘Presidente’ of the regional Missions.
Two years later, Serra’s was given the opportunity to establish missions under his own direction. He was commissioned by the King to lead the Franciscans into Alta California (present day California U.S.). Fr. Serra traveled across the border to Alta California on July 1, 1769 and established his first mission, San Diego de Alcala, that same month. He then journeyed by sea on the ‘San Antonio’ to what he called “a pleasing stretch of land”, Monterey, the capital of Alta California. There he founded his second mission, San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo (St. Charles Borromeo by the Carmel River). This mission became the headquarters of all the missions in California missions and served as Serra’s residence when he was not traveling and evangelizing the natives. Presidente Serra established an additional seven missions* during his lifetime. He died in 1784 of tuberculosis at Mission San Carlos. His grave has never been moved and lies today in the front altar of the San Carlos Mission.
Serra traveled thousands of miles, suffered many pains and hardship, founded nine missions over a span of 800 miles, and converted many Indians to Christianity for the salvation of their souls. Today, he is in the process of canonization and is currently regarded by the Catholic Church as Blessed.
*San Antonio (1771), San Gabriel (1771), San Luis Obisbo (1772), San Francisco (1776), San Juan Capistrano (1776), Santa Clara (1777), and San Buenaventura (1784).
PRAYER FOR THE CANONIZATION OF BL. JUNIPERO SERRA:
Heavenly Father, we ask you to look lovingly on the missionary journey of your faithful servant, Junipero Serra. His steadfast efforts in founding nine missions in California and the conversion of thousands of Native Americans have inspired the formation and work of Serra International. This ministry in Father Serra’s name is to encourage and affirm vocations to priesthood and vowed religious life. We pray that you bless his holy and courageous missionary and grant him the ultimate honor of Sainthood in your heavenly kingdom. We ask this in the name of Thy Blessed Trinity and of Mary, Queen of vocations. Amen.