Blessed Junípero Serra

Friends in Christ, today is the feast of Blessed Junipero Serra. He was born in Spain, and entered the Franciscan order, taking the name of St. Francis’ companion, Brother Juniper. Up until age 35, he spent his life in the classroom, a professor of theology and well-known for his preaching.
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Suddenly however, he gave it all up and followed a desire he had had for missionary work. He wished to go to the New World, to bring the faith to the Native peoples.
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Arriving by ship in Mexico, he walked 250 miles to Mexcio City. On the way, his leg became infected from an insect bite, and this leg would be a trouble and cross for him the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and the Baja Peninsula, he became president of the Missions there.
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Now because it seemed that Russia might invade from Alaska – which they owned at the time – and sweep down the west cost of the United States, Spain ordered an expedition into what is today California.
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Along the way of this secular expedition, Junipero went with, to bring Christ to the peoples. The first mission founded was called ‘San Diego,’ which we know well. Others included Monterey, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Santa Clara.
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Friction was occurring between the military leaders and the rights of the Indians, and so Junipero made the long trip to Mexico city to meet the military commander. Even near death, he was able to obtain an agreement protecting the Indians and the missions from unjust treatment.
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Junipero’s life in the missions was heroic; battles with cold and hunger and sickness and continually at odds with the military – his zeal was unrelenting. He often prayed all the night; he baptized over 6000 people. It is said that the distances he traveled would have circled the globe.
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Not only did he put the Catholic faith onto the west coast of the united States, but his zeal and care won the love of the Native Americans for whom he gave his life. This fall, Blessed Junipero will be canonized a saint.

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