July 1, 2010
Today the Church in the United States honors one of the most well known of all missionaries to the New World: Padre Junipero Serra. He was born on the Spanish Island of Majorca on 24 November 1713 and entered the Franciscan Order at the age of 17.
Following his ordination to the Priesthood, his superiors assigned him to teach philosophy and theology in their colleges and seminaries in Spain and Mexico. After several years in the classroom, Father Serra and a number of his Confréres volunteered for the Missions in Lower California. Over the next several years, Padre Junipero founded the now well known Missions from San Diego to San Francisco.
Their missionary labors firmly established the Catholic Faith throughout the Southwestern United States. Thanks to these tireless missionaries, well known American cities have familiar Catholic names.
For example: Sacramento, Ciudad La Nuestra de Los Angeles (known today by its more familiar and shortened form of “Los Angeles). Also, cities such as San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara and many others.
But just why does the Church continue to honor a man like Junipero Serra? What is the significance of his life and work, 400 years after his death? It is precisely this: as a young person, quite near your age in fact, this very generous person answered the call of Christianity to “preach the Gospel to all peoples.”
Young Junipero did not keep the Faith to himself; he offered it to others through his words and example. This dedicated missionary was a witness to the Truth, personified in Christianity Jesus. He lived that Faith every moment, day in and day out until, exhausted by his labors and travels, he died at Monterey, California on 28 August 1784 at the age of 71.
Through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, may we, you and I, remain faithful to our Baptismal Vows; may we be witnesses to the Risen Christianity.
Today also, missionaries are needed once again in the United States where Christianity, the Church and the Gospel have been marginalized and replaced by the single minded pursuit of comfort, ease, pleasure, money, power, popularity and a studied indifference to all that pertains to God.
Blessed Junipero Serra, pray for us and for our beloved country.