Home -> Philopolis Press -> Chimes of Mission Bells -> Appendix - A Letter of Junipero Serra

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Letter of Junipero Serra[7].

"Long live Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

"R. P. Fr. Miguel de Petra.

"My dearest nephew, brother and Sir.

"It was not for want of love that I did not answer some of your letters. For it was not merely bodily that I left my beloved country. I could have been communicating with many persons by letters and friends, both in and outside our order, but, if our minds were constantly intent upon what we once left, what would be the use of leaving it?

"I wrote a long letter to your reverence after your religious profession. Besides, your reverence heard of me through the Padre Lector Verger, who is at present our guardian. I received your letter when I was among the Gentiles over three hundred leagues away from any Christian settlement. There is my life and there, I hope, God helping, to die. When this hour comes, some member of our province will take care to notify our brethren that they may pray for me, and then, your reverence will know it. What else does your reverence desire? Your reverence lives among saints, and, therefore I do not deem you in need of my advice and counsel, which indeed would be the only justifiable motive for my writing.

"Let us improve and make good use of our time, let us walk worthy of the vocation in which we were called, let us work out our spiritual salvation, with fear and trembling, and that of our brethren, with the most ardent charity and zeal, and let all glory be to our great God. In connection with this, I took great pleasure in learning that your reverence was preaching a mission at Ivisa when Padre Commissary Verger passed through there. The time given to this apostolic ministry with the blessing of your superiors, preaching in your words and deeds, hearing confessions with love and patience, I believe, will be the best and most fruitful you ever spent.

"Though a lukewarm, bad and an unprofitable servant, I remember every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, my only and most dear sister Juana, your mother, her children, and specially my Capuchin. I hope all of you do the same for me that the Lord may secure me from all dangers among these naked and barbarous peoples. Let this be our mutual correspondence, and let God do the rest.

"And that I may give your reverence some news of my destination, I beg your reverence to look on the maps of America. You will see in the shores of the South Sea, most improperly called Pacific, the Peninsula of California [Lower California]. I was there for a year in the capacity of President of the Missions already founded by the exiled Jesuit Fathers. Then followed north along the same coast and just a little before what is called Cabo Mendosino, you will find in some maps, the title or name the Port of Monte Rey.

"There your uncle lives, among those poor people. There I went with the first Christians in 1770. There I sang the first Mass and there I have been in company with Fr. Juan Crespi until the latter part of August. Then I left for this college in order to transact some very important business with the Most Excellent Lord Viceroy concerning the maintenance and increase of those Christian settlements and the establishment of those already proposed and planned, or that may be planned.

"Thanks to God, I have been kindly received and given close attention by His Excellency and he has granted me whatever I have asked of him; so, God helping, I hope for a quick and very extensive expansion and spreading of our Holy Faith and of the domains of our Catholic King.

"In addition to one Mission where we spread Christianity in California [Lower California] which I called San Fernando de Vellixata, there are five already founded in that far off land; Monterey which said Padre Crespi and I administer, San Antonio de Padua, twenty-five leagues distant, with Padre President, Fr. Miguel Pieras and Fr. Buenaventura Sitjar; that of San Luis Obispo, twenty-five leagues farther away, where I placed two religious members of the Province of Catalonia, Padre Juncosa and Padre Cavallier, that of San Gabriel, seventy leagues farther away towards California [Lower California], for which I appointed one father from the Province of Los Angeles and another from that of Andalucia; and finally that of San Diego, which is the nearest to California [Lower California] though over one hundred leagues distant, and I appointed as ministers Padre Fr. Francisco Dumetz and Padre Fr. Luis Jaume. They are all working with earnestness and abundant fruit in their respective fields of labor.

"When in 1769 I left California [Lower California], I appointed Padre Paloú President of the Missions there and I have not seen him since; but now these missions, formerly in charge of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, are being turned over to the Dominican Fathers. So said Padre Paloú with others, will come to us in order to found the Missions of San Buenaventura, Santa Clara and San Francisco for which missions I have already there the ornaments, the sacred vessels, utensils and other necessary things.

"The number of Christians in those places, where the name of Jesus had never been spoken, though there are some in all the Missions, still up to the present, is not very great; because while we have been very busy building our poor houses, little churches, teaching some children to be interpreters, and providing other necessary things, our efforts could not equal our ardent desires.

"Now that things are going, and His Excellency has given, upon my request, various things of which we stood in the greatest need, I hope in God, we shall reap abundant fruits from our humble work. And I say that our work is so-so, such as it is, because, if I told you all we are doing, it might seem a great thing, when in reality, upon a closer view, it would seem very insignificant.

"In spite of the cold, which is very intense in California, the lack of victuals, the poverty of our houses, I have been enjoying very good health, thanks be to God! But this trip to Mexico has been very hard on me. From the hardships of the journey, I arrived in the City of Guadalajara burning with fever. I was so sick and in such danger that the last Sacraments were administered to me a few days after.

"As soon as the continual fever became intermittent, I continued my journey, and arrived in the city of Queretaro, again, so weak and sick, that fearing for my life, they administered to me the last Sacraments of the Church. Yet soon after I experienced a change for the better and finally I reached this Holy College on February 6th of this present year. I remained, however, for a long time exhausted, weak and without any ambition or appetite.

"But now, blessed be God! I am restored and brought back to health, I am transacting the business for which I came, and feel ready to set out on my journey back to that vineyard of the Lord.

"During my sickness in Queretaro, I was nursed with remarkable charity and diligence, by Padre Procurador Fr. Alexandro Llaneras, and soon after I arrived here, in this College of San Fernando, we heard of his death. He died of a serious fever. Death found him well prepared with all the Sacraments, assisted by Holy Communion, equipped with patience and entire conformity to the will of God, thus preaching to all with his example. I beg your reverence to pray for him.

"It is only once a year that we can receive letters from and send them to, this College. And if we can only once a year receive and write a letter, is it surprising that we are so slow to write to those living in another world? However, if with the help of God, I safely arrive in California, I may drop you a letter telling at least of my arrival, should there be nothing of more importance to communicate to your reverence. Meanwhile, I send my best regards to your mother, my dearest sister, to my niece, and to all our brethren. Remember me to my beloved Dr. Onofre Verd, and to the other pupils of mine, friends and neighbors and acquaintances, specially to Fr. Rector de Selva, Dr. Jayme Font, and finally to all, not without the request that they pray to God, that His Divine Majesty deign, through His infinite mercy, to make me fit and worthy minister of His Divine Word, and grant me a holy and happy death.

"From this Apostolic College de Propaganda Fide of San Fernando, Mexico, August 4, 1773.

"May God keep your reverence for many years;
"Most affectionate uncle, brother and servant.

"Fr. Junipero Serra."

[7] This letter was written by Junipero Serra soon after his arrival at the College of San Fernando, Mexico, on a business trip he made there four years after his coming to California. The letter was written to his nephew, also a priest, in Petra, Spain.

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