Saint Junipero Serra - The Apostle of California 

This week’s bonus Saint of the Week is Saint Junipero Serra, (1713-1784).  Known as the Apostle of California, he was a Franciscan missionary who brought Christianity to the Western United States.  Born on the Spanish Island of Mallorca in the early 18th Century, he became a Franciscan Friar at the age of 18.  For nearly two decades he lived the relatively obscure life as a professor at Lullian University in Mallorca.  At the age of 35, he caught the Missionary bug and found himself on aboard a ship headed for Mexico, where he applied his academic skills to learn the the local languages and the skills of a missionary.  Father Serra travelled the Mexican countyside by foot preaching the Gospel.   

In 1767, “Fray” Serra was appointed administrator over the Jesuit Missions in Baja California.  It was then that he began the mission he is best known for today.  True to his motto, “Siempre adelante!” (Always forward!), Father Serra spent the remainder of his life building the Mission System of Churches, housing and schools throughout California.  Between 1769 and 1782 he personally founded the first 9, of what would eventually become 21, California Missions, San Diego, San Carlos Borroméo, San Antonio, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara and San Buenaventura.

Saint Serra was widely revered throughout Mexico and the United States until the 1980’s when a new wave of radical, anti-christian propagandists began a campaign to misrepresent his life’s work and tarnish his reputation.  Saint Serra was a missionary, not a conquistador.  In truth, Father Serra clashed repeatedly with military commanders because of their exploitation of the native population.  In 1773, at the age of 60, Father Serra journeyed from California to Mexico City, a long and perilous trek that almost cost him his life, to petition the Viceroy with a document called the “Representacion”.  This document which later became known as the “Indian Bill of Rights”, was accepted and implemented by the Viceroy.  It provided legal protection the native people and the Missions from the oppression and abuse of the military.  

Father Serra did bring the Gospel to the native people living in the Southwestern United States, but no one was forced to become a Christian.  Most of the natives converted to the faith  because of their love for Father Serra and because the quality of life was far superior to the one they were living before the arrival of the Missions.  In addition to the Christian faith, he brought education, medical care, housing and modern skills of farming, crafts and trades to the native people; greatly enhancing the quality of their natural lives and providing for the salvation of their eternal souls in the afterlife.  

Father Serra stated, “California is my life and God willing, there, I hope to die”.  He passed to his eternal reward at Mission San Carlos on August 28, 1784.  Father Serra May not have been perfect, but neither were any of our other great Saints.  He toiled hard in the service of the Lord and led many souls to Christ.  He is one of the most widely known and celebrated Saints in California and statues of him appear up and down the state.  Sadly, they have recently become the target of radical vandals pushing an intolerant, godless agenda.  Saint Father Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, is a shining lamp who should be defended and celebrated by Catholics, not hidden under a bushel basket because of the lies and deception of those who hate Christianity and all it stands for.  He was beautified by Saint John Paul II in 1988 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.

Patron Saint of:  Vocations, Hispanic Americans, California

Feast Day:  June 1st

Saint Junipero Serra, your missionary zeal brought the light of Christ to millions. You endured so many hardships, and labored so much that your work resonates today in the hearts of hundreds of millions of Catholics.

Saint Serra, I petition you today to help me deliver the light of Christ through my words and deeds to others. May I instruct by example and faithfully guide others to Christ, just as you so wonderfully did centuries ago.

pray that you stand beside me, that you grant me the wisdom and words to share. Please intercede for me before the throne of Christ, may you both witness the work I do on His behalf. I offer my labor and my sacrifice to you. Please receive me as your faithful servant, in Christ, My Lord, I pray.


Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us!

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