July 1: St. Junipero Serra

St. Junipero Serra was born in Spain in 1713. As a young man, he joined the Franciscans and quickly gained prominence as both a scholar and professor. He chose, however, to give up his academic career to become a missionary in the territory of New Spain, in which Spanish colonizers had already been active for over two centuries.

It is abundantly clear from “Father Serra’s” own writings and the testimonies of others that he was motivated by a missionary zeal to bring salvation to the Native people through the Catholic faith, rather than by any other motivations. At one point, he wrote excitedly about how he had finally found his life’s calling, and that he would give his life to the Native people and their salvation.

Traveling almost everywhere on foot and practicing various forms of severe penance, St. Junipero founded mission churches all along the Pacific coast, including the first nine of the 21 missions in what is today California. Many of the missions would form the cores of what are today California’s biggest cities, such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Although he has become a lightning rod for controversy lately, St. Junipero specifically advocated for the rights of Native peoples. At one point, he drafted a 33 point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements. He walked all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the Spanish Viceroy.

For more: https://catholicreadings.org/saint-junipero-serra/ or https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-junipero-serra/ or https://cacatholic.org/saint-junipero-serra-california-missions

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