Today in the United States is the optional Memorial of Blessed Junipero Serra, founder of the Spanish Missions of California. One of the great pleasures of my sabbatical in California way back in 1996 and in subsequent visits was to visit a number of those Missions - 21 in all, establish by Father Serra and his followers along the El Camino Real (the Royal Road) from San Diego through to the Russian River in the North. Declared a Blessed by the Church, he is recognized for his leadership, his organizational skills but most especially his holiness and zeal. I have been blessed to have visited some of these Mission Churches over the years - San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Barbara (one of the most beautiful mission locations and churches), Santa Inez in Solvang, San Luis Obispo, and San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel (the burial place of Father Serra). I have included a few pictures that I took from my trip to Carmel plus one that I borrowed.
Father Serra's statue can be found in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol as one of the representatives from the State of California. Father Serra has been criticized by some in more recent times for his treatment of the native population, having them westernized and serve as farmers and tenants. The criticism is unfair since it is unfair to judge the 1700's by our sensibilities and understanding today. The simple fact is that Father Serra brought an insight and a gift that was rooted in experiencing Christ. I look forward to his someday being raised to the Altar as a Saint.