Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas
Born in La Mure d'Isere in southeastern France, Peter Julian's faith journey drew him from being a priest in the Diocese of Grenoble (1834) to joining the Marists (1839) to founding the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (1856). In addition to those changes, Peter Julian coped with poverty, his father's initial opposition to Peter's vocation, serious illness, a Jansenistic striving for inner perfection and the difficulties of getting diocesan and later papal approval for his new religious community.
His years as a Marist, including service as a provincial leader, saw the deepening of his Eucharistic devotion, especially through his preaching of Forty Hours in many parishes.
The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their first Communion. It also reached out to non-practicing Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Holy Communion again. He was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, an idea given more authoritative backing by Pope Pius X in 1905.
Inspired at first by the idea of reparation for indifference to the Eucharist, Peter Julian was eventually attracted to a more positive spirituality of Christ-centered love. Members of the men's community, which Peter founded, alternated between an active apostolic life and contemplating Jesus in the Eucharist. He and Marguerite Guillot founded the women's Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.
Peter Julian Eymard was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1962, one day after Vatican II's first session ended.
Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.
In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.
The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata near Naples, and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.
In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.
Almighty God, from whom all good things come: Thou didst call St. Ignatius of Loyola to the service of thy Divine Majesty and to find thee in all things. Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labour without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do thy will; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
|Church of the Gesu, Rome.|
O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Peter Chrysologus, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."
O God, heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of St. Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love thee, open our hearts to hear thee, and strengthen our hands to serve thee in others for his sake; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
|Santiago de Compostela, hanging at the entrance to the Lady Chapel|
St. James the Greater and his brother John were apparently partners with those other two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and lived in Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. How and where James first met Jesus, we do not know; but there is an old legend that makes Salome, his mother, a sister of Mary, and if this were the case, he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "son of thunder," the brother of John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.
Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and one legend, very unlikely, even has him going to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.
His prominence and his presence in Jerusalem must have been well known, for scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection, he became involved in the political maneuverings of the day and was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat to Judaism.
Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. The two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him in a far different way than they expected.
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Sharbel Makhluf, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bridget of Sweden recognized and honoured Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
|The Altar in the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels.|
O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Lawrence of Brindisi, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Bonaventure, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
|One of the earliest portraits of St. Kateri|
by Fr. Claude Chauchetiere, S.J. (ca. 1696)
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant Blessed Kateri, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with her attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.
Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defense a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.
He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odor of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life's work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints.
O God, who didst call thy servant St. Henry of Bavaria to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.- from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
Deus, qui dispersa congregas, et congregáta consérvas: quæsumus, per intercessiónem beatíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ, Dóminæ nóstræ Adunatiónis, super ecclésiam tuam uniónis grátiam clementer infunde; et Spíritum Sánctum in totam múndi latitúdinem defunde ut omnes unum sint; per Dóminum nostrum Jésum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sáncti, Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
O God, who dost gather together those who have been scattered, and who dost preserve those who have been gathered together: We beseech thee through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement, that thou wilt pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title in 1919:
I am writing this letter on the day which we are accustomed to observe at Graymoor in special honor of Our Lady of the Atonement. This particular name of Our Blessed Mother is very dear to us and we believe it is dear to Our Lady herself. We hold it as among the most treasured and sacred traditions of our Institute that it was the Blessed Virgin who first taught us to call her by that name and there are cogent reasons why she should give this title a favorite place among the many by which she is invoked.
First among these reasons must be her own devotion to the mystery of the Atonement, for it was by the death of her son on the Cross, which cost him the last drop of his blood and made her preeminently the mother of sorrows, that the wall of division between God and man was broken down and both were made one (Ephesians 2:14), through Christ's atoning sacrifice.
As the Blessed Virgin is inseparably associated with our divine redeemer in the mystery of his incarnation, so is she closely associated with him in the great act of the atonement. Thus, is she always represented in the Gospel and in the liturgy and thought of the Catholic Church as standing by the cross, when Christ was crucified there.
There is a second reason, hardly less weighty than the first, why the title, Our Lady of the Atonement, should powerfully appeal to the mother of God. It was through the Incarnation she become the mother of Christ, but through the atonement she became the new Eve and the mother of all the regenerate, who being redeemed by the precious blood are predestined to eternal life as the adopted sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. The third time Our Lord spoke upon the cross it was to emphasize this phase of the Atonement, when he said to his mother: "Woman, behold your son," and to St. John, "Son, behold your mother." [John 19:26-27] Thus by virtue of the atonement Mary is the mother of all who live through Christ. Can anyone therefore possibly conceive the depth of significance this title "Our Lady of the Atonement" must possess for Our Blessed Mother herself?
But someone will ask, if so highly esteemed, why should it be kept hidden for nineteen hundred years, to be made known to the faithful in the twentieth century? Is it not the custom even of earthly mothers to preserve the choicest fruits in the summer time and hide them away under lock and key, to bring them forth to their children's delight in the depth of winter and did not the master of the wedding feast say to the bridegroom at Cana, "Every man at first brings forth good wine and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But you have kept the good wine until now." [John 2:10] "My ways are not your ways," [Isaiah 55:8] says the Lord of Hosts.
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Our Lady of the Atonement; Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost: we consecrate ourselves anew to thy service and to that of thy Divine Son. We beseech thee to enlighten our minds and inflame our hearts; to obtain for us a deep faith, a strong hope and a burning love; that through sanctifying grace, the source of our reconciliation with God, we may live the life of the Gospel as we have promised; that we may use the things of this world as though we used them not; that the great Atonement of thy Son upon the Cross may be more and more fruitful in our souls. We beseech thee to look ever more graciously upon the Church, which thy Son has founded, and upon His Vicar on earth, our Holy Father. Obtain light and strength for him in his many endeavors for the glory of God. We beseech thee to be gracious to our Parish which invokes thee under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. May it be ever pleasing to God and to thee. May it ever work for the glory of Christ and the salvation of mankind. May it grow and prosper. May it ever seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. May each and every member be fruitful in every good work and pleasing in all things to the Heart of thy Son. Lastly, we beseech thee to obtain for all men the grace of a true and lasting conversion to God; that the prayer of thy Divine Son may be the sooner fulfilled: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Amen.
|Shrine of St. Benedict|
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas
Almighty and Everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of thy servant St. Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let thine ears be open unto our prayers; and prosper with thy blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
|The original outdoor Shrine to Our Lady of the Atonement|
|The outdoor Shrine as it is today|
|The first Mass offered on our property, 9 July 1985|
|The crucifix which was found on the parish land|
There was a man who, despite living a sinful life, nonetheless had a pious love and devotion to the Mother of God. Without fail, he prayed daily before her image, saying those words once spoken by the Archangel Gabriel, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!”
It happened that as he was about to go off to engage in some sinful activity, he turned to pray before the icon of the Mother of God. Immediately he began to tremble, as he saw the image of the Mother of God appear to move. The wounds on the hands, feet and side of the Divine Infant opened, and from them blood began to flow. Falling down before the image, the man cried out, “O Lady, who has done this?”
The Mother of God answered, “You and other sinners once again are crucifying my Son. You call me merciful, but then why do you insult me with your lawless acts?” “O my Mistress,” answered the sinner, “may my sins not overcome your inexpressible goodness! You are the only hope of all sinners. Entreat your Son and our God on my behalf.”
Our Lady twice repeated her prayer to the Infant Christ, but He remained adamant, until finally He responded to the persistent entreaties of the Mother of God: “I will fulfill your request. May your wish be granted. Because of you, this person’s sins are remitted. Let him, in token of forgiveness, kiss My wounds.”
And so, the forgiven sinner, before whom the inexhaustible mercy of the Mother of God was manifest in such a wonderful manner, raised himself up from the ground, and with inexpressible and unexpected joy kissed the wounds of his Saviour. From that moment, he lived a clean and pious life.
"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl - I shall concern myself only with highlights - we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven."
Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born of a noble family at Cremona in Lombardy, and even in childhood gave signs of his future sanctity. Very early he was distinguished for his virtues, piety towards God, devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and especially mercy towards the poor, who he more than once gave his own rich clothing for their relief. He studied the humanities at home, and then went to Pavia for philosophy and Padua for medicine, and easily surpassed his contemporaries both in purity of life and in mental ability. After gaining his degree in medicine, he returned home, where he understood that God had called him to the healing rather of souls than of bodies. He immediately gave himself to sacred studies. Meanwhile he never ceased to visit the sick, instruct children in Christian doctrine, and exhort the young to piety and the elders to reformation of their lives. While saying his first Mass after his ordination, he is said to have been seen by the amazed congregation in a blaze of heavenly light and surrounded by angels. He then made it his chief care to labor for the salvation of souls and the reformation of manners. He received strangers, the poor and afflicted, with paternal charity, and consoled them with holy words and material assistance, so that his house was known as the refuge of the afflicted and he himself was called by his fellow-citizens an angel and the father of his country.
Thinking that he would be able to do more for the Christian religion if he had fellow laborers in the Lord's vineyard, he communicated his thoughts to two noble and saintly men, Bartholomew Ferrari and James Morigia, and together with them founded at Milan a society of Clerks Regular, which from his great love for the apostle of the Gentiles, he called after St Paul. It was approved by Clement VII, confirmed by Paul III, and soon spread through many lands. He was also the founder and father of the Angelic Sisters. But he thought so humbly of himself that he would never be Superior of his own Order. So great was his patience that he endured with steadfastness the most terrible opposition to his religious. Such was his charity that he never ceased to exhort religious men to love God and priests to live after the manner of the apostles, and he organized many confraternities of married men. He often carried the cross through the streets and public squares, together with his religious, and by his fervent prayers and exhortations brought wicked men back to the way of salvation.
It is noteworthy that out of love for Jesus crucified he would have the mystery of the cross brought to the mind of all by the ringing of a bell on Friday afternoons about vesper time. The holy name of Christ was ever on his lips, and in his writings, and as a true disciple of St Paul, he ever bore the mortification of Christ in his body. He had a singular devotion to the Holy Eucharist, restored the custom of frequent communions, and is said to have introduced that of the public adoration of Forty Hours. Such was his love of purity that it seemed to restore life even to his lifeless body. He was also enriched with the heavenly gifts of ecstasy, tears, knowledge of future things, and the secrets of hearts and power over the enemy of mankind. At length, after many labors, he fell grievously sick at Guastalla, whither he had been summoned as arbitrator in the cause of peace. He was taken to Cremona, and died there amid the tears of his religious and in the embrace of his pious mother, whose approaching death he foretold. At the hour of his death he was consoled by a vision of the apostles, and prophesied the future growth of his Society. The people began immediately to show their devotion to this saint on account of his great holiness and of his numerous miracles. The cult was approved by Leo XIII, who solemnly canonized him on Ascension Day, 1897.
At that time: Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
- St John 20:24-31
In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.
Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.
Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.
Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.
Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.
Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.
Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to lay hands upon men to serve thee as Sacred Ministers in thy Church: Grant that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Church may choose men wisely and in accordance with thy Will for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through Him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.