Many of the newsletters in my inbox go unread, but I always at least browse the one from history.com: This Day in History. Often, there is a story of interest, sometimes there are many. Today is a good example. Here are just a few things that happened on July 16th:
- 1769 – First Catholic mission in California dedicated
- 1790 – Congress declares Washington, D.C., new capital
- 1945 – The first atomic bomb test is successfully exploded
- 1969 – Apollo 11 departs Earth
- 1995 – Amazon opens for business
- 1999 – JFK Jr. killed in plane crash
Of these, it is the Catholic Mission story that is most interesting to me. For this is the story of Saint Junípero Serra, the Franciscan Friar responsible for mission settlements from San Diego to San Francisco. But to many, Serra (who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015) is no saint. Rather, claim his critics, he was a brutal slave master.
It is up to us, the consumers of information, to do due diligence. Before taking up someone else’s talking points, educate yourself. Then you can develop an informed opinion and speak intelligently and persuasively to the issue.
As to Junípero Serra, there is an abundance of good articles about him available. Here are a few:
- First Catholic mission in California dedicated [history.com]
- Saint Junipero Serra, Saint of the Day for July 1 [franciscanmedia.org]
- Spanish Found First Mission In California [mysticstamp.com]
- In Dedication to Junipero Serra [stjunipero.org]
- Junipero Serra [pbs.org]
- Junípero Serra’s brutal story in spotlight as pope prepares for canonisation [theguardian.com]
My point is simply this: Before launching headstrong in support of a cause, or ranting about an issue, learn about it. Some of the links above are very flattering of Father Serra. Others, notably the last, might have you happy to see his entire legacy erased. I applaud Serra’s dedication, stamina, and what must have been his own sincere belief in the righteousness of his efforts. But I denounce what seem to be well documented acts of brutality that took place in the missions he founded. Is he worthy of Sainthood? That’s not for me to decide.
Jesus commanded us, all of us, to spread the Good News. Father Serra did so to the best of his ability.
God most high, your servant Junipero Serra brought the gospel of Christ to the peoples of Mexico and California and firmly established the Church among them. By his intercession, and through the example of his evangelical zeal, inspire us to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.