Father Junipero Serra

Father Junipero Serra
Father Serra

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Giving our good Father Baegert a rest

I haven't forgotten about the good father. Just reached a stage in writing Leatherjacket Soldier where I don't seem to be able to find the time to continue the story.

But also maybe because he now pops up in the novel!

In 1751, totally without the faintest idea of what it was about, Sergeant Fernando Rivera gets called to Loreto. Captain Bernardo Rodriguez died in Dec '50 and everyone expects either Lieutenant Riva or Sergeant Gutiérrez to be promoted to fill his place as commandant and governor.

Nobody expects Rivera to be the one. After all, he's young, uneducated - no college, and lacking experience.

Guess what? Wanting someone not indebted to the Rodriguez family, the Jesuits skip over everyone and promote Fernando Rivera from sergeant to captain.

Can any of us even begin to understand or appreciate the shock that came with that? I certainly couldn't. It would compare a store clerk being promoted to general manager. Or a receptionist being given the position of a company's CEO.

And, to make matters more interesting, '51 is the year when 3 new Jesuit priests are sent to California. This is where my story line gets a bit interesting – and complicated.

There are only two ways the new priests can get to California – a launch from Guaymas or a supply ship from near San Blas. And, who would be captain of that ship but Basilio de Rivera. Fernando's half-brother.

And, one of the new fathers is Father Baegert. During the time the good father gathers his strength and gets over the sea sickness, Fernando makes it a point to visit all the missions in the north that he's never seen. And, after doing that, he is part of the escort who takes Father Baegert to Mission San Luis Gonzaga.

To make the story interesting he will escort one padre south where he will encounter Lieutenant Riva, the man he once worked for and who he was promoted over.

Won't that be fun?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jesuit California - A Brief Diversion

My deepest apologies for not continuing with Father Mayorga's introduction to and travails in founding Misión San José de Comondú but I came upon a most eye=opening time written in the late 1700 by Father Johann Baegert, S.J. who served for 17 years at Mision San Luis Gonzaga in the heart of Baja California.

A most awesome tome with detailed insight into just about every phase of life as he saw it. He included his observations of California's characteristics, climate, and products in most descriptive terms. The first thing I noticed was he decision to describe distances in the hours needed to cross them instead of European measurements. There are details of the terrain, soil, plants, animals, and people – that latter of which he shows little favorable.

In Part II, he goes to great length to describe the Indians, their appearance, habits, customs, and other things – most of them quite unflattering. Of the many things he pointed out, their language was the most interesting. He even says that men and women spoke different forms of their language – not so different than today?

In Part III, he deals with the Spaniards and the Jesuit efforts to establish missions. Nowhere in this piece does he give the names of any of the soldiers, no even those who were his close companions and confidants during his 17 years. In fact, he was most unflattering, calling them undisciplined amateurs. The only soldier he discussed by name was Commandant and Governor of California, Captain Don Fernando de Rivera y Moncada – just the individual who is the main character of my work in progress, Leatherjacket Soldier.

This is a drawing of the capitol of Jesuit California, Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto.

Back to Captain Rivera. Here's what he had to say about the man I consider to be a hero of Spanish California:

The captain of the old California militia, Don Fernando Rivera y Moncada,[50] a man of great virtue, scrupulously conscientious and a faithful servant of the King of Spain, happened to be in this region when the Governor arrived in San José.

David Kier, probably one of the most informed individual I know about California missions, has a link to this book on his website @ http://vivabaja.com

Friday, September 12, 2014

The California Jesuits – How Did They Do It? Part VII

The shock of seeing the site where he will be responsible for building a mission does not wear off as they ride down into the valley the natives call Comondú. There is no trail, just a worn-out series of grooves in the stony earth where game and the Indians have traveled.

Towering palms and other trees signal the presence of the rarest commodity in this barren land – water. It bubbles up out of the earth at the base of a cliff forming a large pool which then turns into a stream flowing down the valley. The spring is filled with roots and other plants and there is no doubt that great effort will be needed to clear it out. The area surrounding it is thick with tall reeds. If necessary, they can be used to thatch roofs. Father Mayorga looks around and smiles when one of the converts points out signs of various animals that have come to drink. He has never hunted an animal in his life but pays close attention as Father Ugarte has warned him that being aware of what is around one makes the difference between life and death. To him and his converts.

El Señor Reverendo Padre, see this?” The guide points to a series of large tracks with pointed slits in the front. When Mayorga nods, the Cochimi says, “Es el Tigre, Señor. She bring babies here to drink. See small marks?”

Mayorga looks around and wonders if the big cat is nearby.

Seeing the priest's concern, the Cochimi's lips turn up in a faint smile and he assures the priest the cat and her cubs are far away. He then places a finger to his lips and points to a nearby boulder where something lays in a coil. “Vibora,” he whispers. “Mordida veneno.”

Mayorga holds very still, having learned the snake with rattles on its tail is not something to be trifled with. He relaxes as the snake lowers its head, uncoils, and swiftly glides deeper into the rocks.

Father Ugarte previously surveyed the site and knows exactly where he want the mission sited. “Our first order of business is to ensure water to irrigate the crops.” He points to a spot along the stream, indicating it is where boulders should be placed to hold back the water so it can be diverted into the irrigation ditches. He then leads the way about two hundred paces downstream to a place where the land is elevated above the stream bed.

Here is where the chapel, your quarters, and the storehouse will be built.” He explains how it is safely above the level of water in the event severe rains in the mountains cause it to overflow its banks.

Father Mayorga has learned enough to identify where the gardens will be laid out as the earth appears less sandy, but not of heavy clay. The area has a large growth of grasses and he understands some of it must be cleared away to till the soil. Other grassland must be kept to provide feed for the livestock Father Ugarte will bring from Misión San Javier.

The Ancón, as the Cochimi call it, is a shelf filled with black, lava rock. Some of the stones glisten their ebony shades caused by cooling. Andrade, the guide, grins and shows Father Mayorga his knife made of similar stone. When offered, the priest carefully tests it with his thumb, finding the jagged blade quite sharp. One of the things he learned at the college in Mexico City was the deadly efficiency of native weapons made of obsidian.

The mule train contains everything needed to create the mission. But, there are no hands to do the construction so they can be safely stored. Father Visitador Salvatierra solves that by ordering all members of the group to gather rocks and boulders and carry them to a spot he selects. He draws lines in the hard-packed dirt and trenches are quickly dug.

The moon is full in the starry sky and, after a humble evening meal and prayers, work continues. As soon as the trenches are completed, they are filled with large boulders, rocks packed into the cracks and then sealed with mud from the stream banks. Only when the moon lowers and the night dims do the workers find spots on the sand to nestle into their sleeping blankets.

A storehouse stands before them by midday and goods from the packs are taken inside to be carefully arranged. Stones packed over the wooden frame strengthen the door and a lock is placed into the hasp to ensure the goods will be safe from curious hands.

Speaking of which? Father Julián gazes around all the while he toils to see if any of the Gentiles have come to see what the activity is in their valley. Maybe he is not clear on what to look for, but he sees no signs at all. Had they not begged the father visitador and Father Ugarte for a mission of their own?

The most important steps comes after the goods are safely stored - the outlining of the chapel. It will be aligned so the door faces the rising sun. Once that is accomplished, a cairn of rocks is raised with a plain wood cross on top.

Incense is used to purify the site as the father visitador swings the thurible, chanting prayers while he does so. Holy water is then sprinkled on the spot where the altar will stand and it is announced the site is dedicated to Saint Joseph.

The soldiers and neophytes, with the others supervising and lending a hand, set about leveling the ground and covering it with tightly packed stones and pebbles, also filling in the trenches to start construction of the chapel walls.

Poor Father Mayorga has never dreamed of being a stonemason. Conducting holy rites and teaching people the mystical beliefs of the church are what he envisioned when he first decided to take the vows of the order. Always of ill health, the physical effort of selecting and carrying stones to the site does not bode well for him and, to his shame, he must often pause to rest.

The other fathers and even Captain Rodriguez bend their backs to the task, setting an example for the soldiers, servants, and neophytes.

Much to the pleasure of all, two Cochimi women and their children come to stand apart, watching the newcomers toiling in their area. Father Mayorga cannot control himself and gazes sideways upon the all but naked female bodies, agonizing over the unholy lusts overcoming him. He turns away in shame and mutters prayers begging The Lord God to forgive him.

He does not notice both Father Visitador Salvatierra and Father Ugarte doing the same.

Wood brought for the purpose is used to frame windows about ten feet high on the walls, along with the door leading into the chapel and another smaller one behind the altar area leading into the sacristy. Once filled with stones, the wood is removed so a form of adobe can be laid to hold them in place.

Father Mayorga is surprised at how the other fathers easily form the walls to be thicker at the bottom, tapering to the top with notches to support palm logs cut to span the chapel area and support a roof of palm fronds.

Seven days pass until the altar is erected, the marble slab brought from far away Spain uncrated and set upon the stands. Once again, the incense is used to purify the area along with appropriate prayers and the crucifix is placed in the arched niche on the wall behind it. Intricately carved wooden plaques are affixed on the walls for the Stations of the Cross and a statue of Saint Joseph is placed in a smaller niche on the southern wall while the Virgin of Guadalupe is placed in another on the opposite wall.

A time will come when the interior and exterior walls will be covered with stucco, but there is no time for it at the moment.

The others must depart and Father Mayorga will find himself in that lonely place with but Private Juan Morales, the soldier assigned to be his companion and helper. He is fearful, but sets it aside to strengthen his belief that he and Morales are in God's hands.

Morales is a Criollo from Guadalajara and has been in California for five years. He is married, but his wife and two children are staying in Loreto until the first crops are ready for harvest.

The first Mass conducted in the chapel of Misión San José de Comondú by Father Mayorga is before the two other Jesuits, Captain Rodríguez, and the rest who have helped start it. Juan Morales acts as his assistant and he is most pleased the soldier knows the Mass so well that he need not be instructed in what to do.

Much to his surprise, the Cochimi women stand in the back of the chapel, their children clutching their legs. They clearly have no idea what is happening, but appear to be impressed by the incantations and ringing of bells.

The others say their farewells at the end of Mass, each father returning to their own missions while Captain Rodríguez goes back to Loreto.

What do we now, my son?”

Morales smiles, pleased the father seeks his advice. “We prepare a place for us to dwell while we take the next steps in making this a productive place.” He then pointed across the stream. “See. The Cochimi women do the same.”

The Indians busily gather limbs cut from acacias, along with twigs to construct their open-air shelters that only provide shade from the blazing sun. Cutting their own limbs is far easier and faster with the sharp steel blade Morales wears on his belt.

They have barely hauled the wood to where they wish to build their shelter when the two women approach. The elder says something and Morales grunts and withdraws. “She says it is her place to do this. Not ours.”

Mayorga nods. Although he has not been in the area very long, he has studied their language with great intensity as it is the only way he will be able to teach them the things needed to bring them to The Lord.

The Cochimi language is very simple and Mayorga is in awe of how the other fathers have been able to translate the catechism and bible stories into it. The natives have words only for those things they can see, hear, feel, and smell. Abstract ideas and emotions mean nothing to them. As an example, a person or persons can be here or there or far away. When a person dies, they are simply no longer here or there. If they do not have words for death, how can they understand the idea of resurrection?

Come, reverend father, there is something we should do.”

Mayorga follows Morales to the storehouse and watches as he selects two colorful wool blankets, some pretty beads, and two highly polished pieces of metal that act as mirrors. They wait until the women finish their new house and follow them to their camp across the stream. The priest notices the children are gone and smiles when he sees them return to the new house carrying armloads of wood for a fire.

Following Morales's suggestions – the soldier would never dare to instruct his superior to do anything - Mayorga lays out the blankets on the ground and holds out the beads to the women. They giggle happily and take them, placing them around their necks. Both are stunned the first time they see themselves in the mirrors, chattering gaily as they compare each other. They have only seen themselves reflected in calm pools of water.

Will they understand if I give them Christian names?”

Morales nods. “You can tell them you are giving them a sign of the all powerful creator and it will have great meaning to them.”

The older woman has a scar behind her left ear and Morales explains her Cochimi name means Marked by Puma. Mayorga remembers Saint Catherine of Alexandria who had been beheaded at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius. “I shall name you Catarina,:” he tells her, translating his Spanish into Cochimi with Morales's help. “She was a woman of great bravery.” He fails to tell her that Saint Catherine was a virgin.

The other woman's elbow is unnaturally bent and Mayorga suspects it was broken and not properly reset. Mayorga ponders at length, trying to remember a saint who represents the infirm. The only one he can think of is Saint Amalburga of Belgium whose patronage is for arm pain. There is no similar name in Spanish and all he can come up with is Amanda. Morales says it make sense to him and Mayorga signs the cross on the woman's forehead as he had done for Catarina, announcing she is now known as Amanda.

The two women are overjoyed to have been given magical names by the all powerful man in the strange black covering. They clearly cannot wait to have their children so blessed with great magic, understanding the great medicine man must first ponder upon it.

They will now stay here forever, reverend father. You have given them your magic and will follow wherever you go.”

But, my son, where are the men? And boys?”

They wait in the hills until they see the power of our ways.”

I was told they begged Father Visitador Salvatierra to have a mission here in their lands.”

Morales chuckles, not meaning to be disrespectful to the priest. “They are but little children, reverend father. They see new things and wish them for themselves. But, it is not their way to toil as do we and will have to find strong reasons to come and work as you and I.”

The first order of business after the storehouse, chapel, and living quarters is the zanja, the vital channel to bring water from the stream to the gardens. Creating that channel is going to be back-breaking work and Mayorga wonders if his health will permit him to help the soldier.

Much to his chagrin, the problem is quickly solved. Once Morales gets the idea across to the women, Catarina turns and leaves the camp at a lope. She soon returns with three boys nearing manhood. It is clear they are hers and the priest explains what needs to be done. The youths are unhappy, but not about to disobey their mother. Amanda then runs off, soon returning with her two sons.

With five pairs of less than willing hands to help, the task of clearing the path for the trench begins. It cannot be straight due to large boulders in the way, but Mayorga has an eye for such things and uses a stick to draw a line in the ground for it to follow.

While Morales bends his back to show the five youths what to do, the priest turns to clearing stones and rocks from the plot of land chosen for the first garden. It will be for planting the Three Sisters, the most basic foods of a mission; corn, squash, and beans. The rocks and stones are piled up to outline the plot and earth will fill in the cracks so the water will soak into the earth before running off to the next spot downhill where fruit trees will be planted.

There will be yet one other major project and that will be digging a well to provide drinking water to those who live at the mission. Even though the stream flows well, Mayorga has been warned that days may come when the stream dries up and the only water will come from the well.

Catarina and Amanda surprise the two Europeans by their ability to turn cornmeal into masa from which to make tortillas. That is when Mayorga learns they had lived near Misión San Javier and learned to make food the Spanish way. Amanda tells Father Mayorga that is exactly why she and her cousin had come to that place.

Days pass quickly, both Father Mayorga and Juan seeking their sleeping places sore and tired beyond belief. The soldier shakes his head in amazement as the priest forgoes sleep to spend hours deep in prayer. He is not surprised as all the other Jesuits to the same. They eat the simplest of food, spends hours laboring or conducting rites, then the remaining hours of each day in prayer.

How do they survive in this terrible land?

A runner comes to announce that Father Ugarte will soon be coming with livestock and others to help.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The California Jesuits – How Did They Do It? Part VI

And, as they return to camp, Mayorga sees upon the crest of a hill, the silhouette of a coyote calling to its clan. He wonders is it has caught a rabbit with the long ears of a mule and calls him family to join him.

After punishing himself for his early sins of pride, Father Mayorga kneels in the sand of the river bed still warm from the sun's rays and fervently says the Rosary, seeking to calm his mind from spinning from all he has seen and learned. His brow sweats and his stomach churns from the difficult foods and he earnestly prays to have sufficient strength and health to carry out his mission.

Please, oh Lord, give me strength to carry out Your will. Thy will be done...

The sounds of others moving rouses Father Mayorga. He struggled to open his eyes and rise, frustrated by the weakness of his body. He manages to make it to the stream, kneeling in the soft sand to lave his face, hands and arms – also splashing some on his intimate parts to remove the sweat gathered there.

De Castro has the fire going and Pedro, el arriero, brings an armload of firewood to add to it. A small iron pot is already in place and he knows it had pozole in it from the kitchen at the mission.

His only addition to the morning ritual is the recitation of Our Father, Ave Maria, and the Credo. The others softly speak the words as they continue preparing their break fast.

Father Mayorga's hands slightly tremble as he ladles the gruel in between his parched lips, trying not to savor the feeling of sating the weakness of his body. And, he struggles to mount the mule Pedro has saddled and bridled for him. Seeing his efforts, the Cochimi muleteer steps forward, then drops to his knees so the holy father can mount.

The priests signs the cross to Pedro who lowers his eyes as a sign of respect.

De Castro indicates they are but an hour's ride from Loreto and Mayorga thanks The Lord that the trek is almost over.

Blackness engulfs him.

He awakens, lying on the pebbles of the riverbed. De Castro and Pedro hover over him, fear in their eyes.

Reverend father. Are you well?”

The priest tries to respond but his mouth is dry, his throat parched. Pedro puts a calabaza de agua to his mouth and he shivers at the coolness of the liquid coursing down his throat.

You have not been drinking, reverent father.”

de Castro's words were as much an accusation as a question. Seeing the priest was not about to answer, he tells Pedro to refill the water gourd and have it ready when the priest needed. Both of them helped Mayorga mount the mule and Pedro moved up next to him, there to prevent another fall.

They soon reach the mission and de Castro leads the way directly to the infirmary. He and Pedro help Father Mayorga dismount. Father Brave arrives and, upon hearing what happened, orders the priest to a cot, motioning over a convert nurse to watch over him.

Staring up at the thatch roof, Mayorga watches the little creatures darting here and there. He wonders what they are finding to feed upon, shivering at the though of what it might be. He continue to recite his Rosary, still noticing the creatures seemed to come in several varieties, each with its own markings and colors.

Do not blame yourself, father. Even after all these years here, I find the food and climate difficult to cope with.”

Mayorga turns his eyes to the Father Procurator and whispers, “Does He forgive us for our weakness?”

Father Bravo smiles. “He must for He continues to give me the strength to do His will.”

The next months are difficult for him and Mayorga often wonders if the Father Visitador will ask that he be assigned to a mainland mission. Not that a personal weakness inwardly speaks to him that such a move would be good. But, he has set his mind in spreading The Word of God in California and does not wish to displease his Heavenly Father.


We have been blessed by an honored benefactor of having sufficient supplies to found another mission.”

Mayorga listens to Father Visitador Salvatierra announce this to the gathered group. Present are Fathers Ugarte and Bravo, Hermano Mugazábal, Captain Esteban Rodrguez, Sergeant Valdez, and Corporal de Castro.

Don José de la Puente Peña Castejón y Salcines, Marqués de Villapuente, has generally bestowed the funds for the venture.” Father Visitador Salvatierra turns to Father Ugarte and the captain. “It is the valley the Cochimi call Comondú. As you remember, there appears to be sufficient soil and water to support such an enterprise.” He also adds that the nearby Cochimi rancherias appear eager to have a mission among them.

Mayorga intently listens, learning the site is on the other side of the mountains about ten leagues north and slightly west of Loreto. He hears it was not far from where Father Kino had founded Mission San Bruno, which had been abandoned due to poor soil, lack of Cochimi, and undependable water.

Father Visitador Salvatierra then turns to him. “Father, I have been given a sign that you are to be the one to start and maintain this new mission which will be dedicated to Saint Joseph.”

Mayorga's heart sinks and he feels sweat in his armpits. Why me? I am neither strong nor experienced in the ways of this harsh land. Gathering himself, he lowers his eyes and responds, “It will be my honor to serve Him in whatever manner is set before me, reverend father.”

Preparations for the undertaking are complicated. Father Mayorga is involved in every minor detail, from the various holy articles necessary to conduct rights, the special slab of stone so carefully crafted to serve as the altar, the tools for constructing and preparing gardens and fields, and the various materials for the expected converts. The list is endless and he finds himself often bewildered and confused. Fortunately, Brother Mugazábal is a patient and understanding man.

Fortunately, Mayorga has always been a good student. He has studied Cochimi since his arrival, laboriously copied Father Salvatierra's dictionary, to include every Mass and prayer in the Missal. He had even struggled to say his Rosary and other personal prayers in the language of the natives. So, communicating with those who will come to the mission is not going to be a problem for him.

Father Mayorga has become accustomed to the wildlife of California, especially the lizards that skitter everywhere one looks. Vees of Pelicans skim the surface of the sea and gulls twist and turn overhead. But it is the spiders that cause him to shudder. He watches the converts pick them up and caress their backs. He is even told that when food is scarce, they eat them – along with every other living creature. But, the time one crawled upon him while he fitfully slept terrorized him and he could not settle into his cot for a fortnight afterwards.

Having been in California a little over one year and never feeling to be in good health, Padre Julián de Mayorga prepares to set forth on the most difficult journey of his lifetime. The party is large, led by Father Visitador Salvatierra, accompanied by he and Father Ugarte, a seasoned explorer. Capitán Esteban Rodríguez, his sergeant, several soldiers, some arrieros, and neophytes had loaded the pack mules with food and supplies. In addition, a steer and five heifers, a ram and three sheep, a male and three female goats, swine in baskets loaded on mules, along with similar baskets of chickens are prepared to follow along.

Nothing can be done to alter the well-established routine of the mission day so they first attend prayers, then eat pozole, before mounting.

They travel north along the coastline to the site of Mision San Bruno, now nothing but scattered piles of rocks and stones. Father Salvatierra sadly explains how it had been the very first attempt at establishing a foothold in California and had simply not been suitable. “What we learned here was most important in selecting the site of Mision Nuestra Seora de Loreto. This is a lesson you must learn, Father Julián. The Lord Almighty sets barriers in our way to test our faith. By overcoming them, we strengthen ourselves and the faith of those who come to us in Jesus, Our Lord.”

Mayorga hears the words, but continues to fear that he may not be up to the task ahead of him.

They turn inland into the daunting mountains known as Las Sierras Gigante. Rugged peaks and winding canyons with rocky floors and spiny plants. Father Ugarte leads the way as he had explored this area before, in fact locating the site where they would build the new mission.

Crossing a pass, Mayorga gasps at the panorama of twisting, turning canyons with steeps sides. How can there possibly be a place in this wilderness to plant gardens and orchards and graze the livestock that will come there.

That is where we will establish the mission dedicated to Saint Joseph.”

Mayorga hears the Father Visitador's words and wonders if what he says is possible. If it is the will of God, he prays.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The California Jesuits – How Did They Do It? Part V

In spite of his recitation of el Rosario, Father Mayorga cannot wipe out the sounds of the desert night from his ears. He finds it difficult to believe that a land so barren and hostile can hold such life.

A coyote calls out in the light of the three quarters moon and is quickly answered by two or three others. Insects chirr and make sharp noises, suddenly silent when the soft call of an owl signals its hunt. One of the mules stamps its foot and nickers, another responding. Night birds call to one another as they seek the creatures that come out once the light of day has faded.

While fingering the beads in the decades of the prayer, the priest looks up at the sky filled with twinkling gems, wondering if He is listening to his prayers. He then cringes and almost cries out at having doubted The Lord's love for His faithful. Without hesitation, he stops his prayer and turns to the small cloth bag he carries with him. Beside his bible and missal, it contains a single spare cassock and his látigo. After withdrawing it, he bares his back and whips himself with the leather strings with sharp pieces of metal embedded in them. Such a sin deserves nothing but the most severe atonement.

The night air caresses the blood flowing down his skin and sinfully provides slight relief from the pain.

After thirty lashes, the priest replaces the whip in his sack and covers his back before returning to saying his Rosary.

Padre Ugarte is a stern man but clearly shows his love for those Cochimi who have come to him to accept The Word. When not conducted religious rites, he teaches them more, not only of matters of doctrine, but those things needed to provide themselves with food in a land of great difficulty.

As you learned in Loreto, one of the most difficult part about raising crops is keeping arable land from washing away when we irrigate it.” He led to where several converts were scooping up dirt to place in canvas containers to take back to the garden plots. He bent to the task of helping, Father Mayorga pitching in.

Meanwhile, Castro is busy with the local Cochimi governor, explaining which plants in the gardens are unwanted and need to be removed. The convert smiles and quickly orders sever of the converts to do as directed. He then moves to the area set aside for the livestock to care for his horses, along with the mule Father Mayorga had ridden.

As it had been done at la Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the day is carefully structured to enable to converts to participate in religious rites and training, perform the tasks needed to make the mission successful, and generally keep them from mischief. Father Mayorga enjoys passing out food to the converts, especially watching them chatter among themselves as they eat.

He also surprises himself by quickly learning some of the Cochimi words. Listening to Father Ugarte reciting prayers in Cochimi is a big help, although when he learns the various meanings of the words, he sees how difficult it was to translate them to Latin. His respect only increases for those who came before him who taught the concepts of the church to people who had no belief in a supreme being.

That The Son of God had died, only to rise again, was a concept that awed them. Their lives had always been centered upon knowing that death was always nearby and often took their loved ones in unexpected ways. The knowledge that death was no longer a thing to be feared helped them cope with a discipline never before experienced.

One thing that puzzles the good father is the care taken in gathering material for the cooking fires. A land so dry should provide plenty. Yet, Father Ugarte and Castro urges the converts to carefully select the wood.

When one removes too many of the plants from a hillside, it easily washes away when we get the rains. That clogs up the stream and reduces the amount of good water we have to drink and irrigate.”

Mayorga is impressed with the extensive knowledge of the man he knows to be a soldier in the service of the society. He is also aware that he has much to learn if he is to be successful in his calling.

A rider comes to the mission on the third day. The tall lance is noticeable from a distance so Father Mayorga rightfully guesses it to be Father Ugarte's escort. Juan Carrillo is a man in his late thirties, his visage dark and creased from the strong sun of the land. He has hazel eyes, dark hair, and a gleaming smile. He clearly appreciates the presence of de Castro and this new priest. More importantly, he is eager to see he supplies they have brought.

He goes directly to Father Ugarte and, after dismounting, apologizes. “I am afraid, reverend father, they killed one of the cows before I could get there. They had already cut it into pieces and were cooking it over a big fire.”

He explaines how the Cochimi who had stolen the livestock had come to a fiesta several months before and, seeing how easy it is to eat a cow instead of scrubbing for insects and small animals, had decided to take the three cows.

Just then, two converts riding mules drive the remaining two cows up the river bed. One of them also leads an Indian tied by a rope. Piece of the carcass are draped over the back of the spare mule.

He is the leader of the family who decided to take them, reverend father.”

Father Mayorga is more than curious to see exactly what is going to be done with the culprit. He has no idea what kind of punishment will be called for by the local rules.

He is further surprised when, far down the river bed, a small group of Indians appears. Like other wild ones he has seen, the males wear nothing but tattoos and paint while the females only have leather strips around their waist with a flap covering their genitals. One male is about twelve or thirteen while the other could be no less than four or five. The woman is clearly their mother with three little girls who are her daughters.

Father Ugarte walks to the man and carefully unlooses his ropes, signaling for the herder converts to take the cattle to their place with the others. The then turns to the man and speaks to him at length in Cochimi.

He is telling him what a bad thing he has done and how it has hurt many other people.”

Father Mayorga listenes to Carrillo while paying attention to Father Ugarte.

He tells him that he and his family must stay here at the mission and work to earn the meat they have eaten. He also explains that, in the eyes of The Big Father and His Son, he must suffer for his actions.”

And the Indian understands this?”

Yes, reverend father. He and his family have been here several times before but have not yet accepted The Word to where they can be baptized.” He smiles and adds, “They will work and attend classes beside the converts until they are ready to accept The Rain of Jesus, as they call baptism.”'

Mayorga also learns the father will be punished. But it will not be given until after the evening's prayer and before the meals.

When the time comes, Carrillo and Jorge, the converts' governor, bring the man to the center of the plaza where everyone is assembled. The Cochimi is pushed to the hard-packed earth to kneel. Father Ugarte, holding a slim willow stick, addresses the crowd and explains in their language just what the man did and why it is against the customs of the church, of all gente de razn, and the community of the mission. He asks and, when the man nods his understanding, carefully rests the stick against the man's bare back.

Reciting the Our Father to provide the tempo, the priest lays strokes upon the man. Not too hard so as to break the skin and cause blood to flow or to cause bruising but enough to shame him in front of the others.

The worst punishment for any Cochimi is to be made to appear smaller than another in front of other Cochimi. It will be something he can never forget.”

Mayorga nods his thanks to de Castro and turns his attention to the converts. He notices the man's woman and children looking down at the ground, unable to watch what is happening.

When twenty lashes are complete, Father Ugarte says Amen, to which the congregates loudly responds. Carrillo and Jorge then ties the man's hand around the pole by the door to the chapel and Father Ugarte tells all it is time to partake of the evening meal.

He will stay here in the plaza until tomorrow at evening prayers. He will then be cut down and put to work under close supervision.”

Father Mayorga is impressed with Father Ugarte's action and carefully notes the reactions of the converts and the man's family.

He and de Castro prepare to depart early the next morning for the return to Loreto. Instead of allowing the soldier to prepare his mount for him, the priest does it himself, finding it slightly more difficult than it appears. But, he manages to do so, proud of his accomplishment. He instantly chastises himself inwardly, determined to atone for the sin that evening during his prayers.

During the ride back down the river bed, Mayorga continually asks questions about the land and what de Castro has learned from the Cochimi to survive in it. He knows it is but the first of many he will need but is determined to carry out the task set before him.

That night, after prayers and their meal, Mayorga convinces de Castro to show him the land at night. The soldier prepares two torches and, in their light, they walk through the area nearby the camp. Many creatures are barely glimpsed as they skitter off into the dark, but some are visible long enough to be identified.

There is el alacrán, the creature carrying its poison-filled tail high above its head. An serpiente de cascabel coils and shakes its tail in the clear warning that it feels threatened. Una troglodito del cactus pops in and out of the hole it has drilled high atop a towering cactus as it and its mate enter and depart to bring insects to its brood.

When the wren family moves away, other creatures will use the nest for their own uses,” de Castro explains.

And, as they return to camp, Mayorga sees upon the crest of a hill, the silhouette of a coyote calling to its clan. He wonders is it has caught a rabbit with the long ears of a mule and calls him family to join him.

After punishing himself for his early sins of pride, Father Mayorga kneels in the sand of the river bed still warm from the sun's rays and fervently says the Rosary, seeking to calm his mind from spinning from all he has seen and learned. His brow sweats and his stomach churns from the difficult foods and he earnestly prays to have sufficient strength and health to carry out his mission.

Please, oh Lord, give me strength to carry out Your will. Thy will be done...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jesuit Missionaries – How Did They Do It? Part IV

Let’s bring things up to date - at has been almost a month.

Julián de Mayorga, having left a privileged family in Toledo, Spain, finds himself far away in Loreto, the center of Antigua California, as it will someday be known. He is now a missionary of the Society of Jesus in that furthermost frontier of New Spain. Never of strong health, he has suffered months on a creaking, leaky ship sailing back and forth as it struggled north from Acapulco to Loreto with much-needed supplies.

Canyon to San Javier

He meets the priests who will lead him in his new calling and, in spite of his illness, is set to work assisting Brother Coadjutor Bravo in inventorying and sorting the much-needed supplies brought on the ship. And then, he receives the shocking news that Father Visitador [Inspector] Salvatierra, the head of the missions, is sending him with supplies to Misión San Francisco de Viggé.

The time ashore, a few meals he is able to keep down, and working in the storehouse restores some of Father Mayorga's strength. Although shaken to the core by seeing naked native females, he is resigned to seek guidance from The Lord in helping him carry out his calling.

One of the converts, un ganadero, or drover, prepares six mules to carry packs of supplies through the wilderness. A young soldier, Francisco María José de Castro, is assigned by Captain Rodriguez to escort he and the mule train to the mission.

How old are you, my son?”

The youth braces himself and replies, “I am seventeen years of age, reverend father. I was born in Villa de Sinaloa and my father is a soldier. He taught me what he knows and supported my desire to come here and serve The Lord in this land.”

Mayorga sighs, crosses himself, and begins to finger his prayer beads in a Rosary after mounting a mule. The soldier rides a horse, a second one tied to the last mule in the train. He is well-armed with a tall lance, a sword, a musket, and two pistols. Mayorga instantly wonders why such a show of arms is necessary. Did not Brother Brave tell him the natives were not hostile? And certainly did not possess weapons to be feared by he or the soldier?

There is no road. Not even a trail he can recognize. They ride in the middle of a dry riverbed until rocks make them move up the hillside into plants with thorns and stickers everywhere.

Having suffered greatly from the heat in his heavy wool cassock, he appreciates its thickness as it protects him from plants reaching out to draw blood. He also notes the heavy leather protector of the horse's neck and forelegs ridden by Francisco Castro. He also notes the long leather leg coverings he heard called chaparreras.

They ride. And ride. Up and down hillsides. In and out of the riverbed that appears as if never a drop of water ever flowed in it.

He is surprised when he comments on that, how quickly the young soldier responds. “Reverend father, in this land, one must always look ahead at the sky. It may happen many leagues from here, but a heavy downpour will cause the riverbeds to fill beyond the height of a horse.” He then points to markings along the wall of the riverbed, explaining that is how high the water flows – faster than a horse can run.

If one does not climb to a safe height, death is certain in the flood.”

What other terrible dangers does this land hold? Mayorga crosses himself and continues his Rosary with an intensity he has not felt for some time.

They leave the riverbed as the sun lowers in the west and the soldier indicates where they are to make a dry camp. Mayorga notes that the Indian drover has led the mules to some low trees and bushes, surprised when they happily munch on leaves and strange balls of plants.

It is called ball moss for its shape, reverend father. And the trees are acacia, something they also enjoy eating.” He then turns to gather dry wood, forming a pit by surround it with rocks that the priests helps him gather. With flint and steel, Castro quickly starts the fire. As the only water they have is carried on their animals, there is no thought of brewing anything. As it turns out, the fire is simply to heat tortillas brought from Loreto to eat with dried beef strips.

This charki de carne de vaca is something you will become very tired of, reverend father. These strips of dried beef are our staple in the field – and at the missions.”

It grows late and Mayorga has no idea where he is going to bed down for the night. The ground is nothing but rocks, pebbles, and thorny plants. So, it is with great interest that he watches Castro carry his bed roll, saddle blanket, and saddle down to the river bed.

Taking it as a cue, Mayorga follows and copies the soldier as he digs a shallow hole in the sand still hot from the sun. The saddle blanket goes over the hole and he places the saddle at one end of it. The bed roll is to cover him during the night. “It becomes unusually cold at night, reverend father, and one must cover up.”

They return to the fire and Mayorga sees the driver sitting with his back to one of the towering saguaros, his wide-brimmed sombrero over his eyes, his serape wrapped around him.

This can be a cruel land, reverend father. There is little water and we have not yet learned the tricks the Cochimi use to quench their thirst. Few plants are edible and a wide variety of creatures roam the land that bite and sting.”

It is what The Lord calls us to do, my son. There is a path He has set before us and we must gird ourselves to follow it.”

Castro crosses himself and, after adding several more sticks to the fire, continues his Rosary.

It is only when the sun kisses the hills to the west that Castro carefully covers the fire with rocks and walks down to the river bed. Mayorga follows and discovers the reason for the shallow hole. It is to accommodate his shoulder. He tries not to sleep, spending every hour in prayer and contemplation. But, the day has been most difficult and his eyes close against his will.

They crest a pass and Father Mayorga looks down to see an unusual sight. A church of sun-dried bricks with white stucco on the walls and thick thatch upon the roof sits near what appears to be a small creek. He also spies a ditch carrying water to a garden and some trees next to the chapel.

Drawing nearer, the priest realizes the buildings are not of sun-dried bricks but stone held together by adobe mud. That makes sense as the entire countryside is covered in rocks and stones and boulders.

A man in a black robe is bending over in the garden with two others in white plants and blouses. When someone spies the supply train and calls out, the priest stands erect and slaps his hands together to remove the dirt. He shades his eyes and then waves.

Welcome, brother. I am Juan de Ugarte. You are new to this land.”

It was clearly not a question. Mayorga quickly introduces himself and tells how he was assigned to accompany the supplies.

You and young Castro are most welcome here. We badly need these supplies.”

The mules are led to a stone building next to the chapel. One is clearly where Father Ugarte lives and Mayorga wonders where his escort is. When he asks, Ugarte explains his soldier is in the hills seeking cattle run off by a band of unconverted Cochimi. “I do not expect him to return for several days.”

The mules are unloaded and Mayorga discovers that one half of the building is a storehouse with a big lock on a door to which Ugarte has the key tight to the belt around his middle. The sun stands high in the sky when they finish unloading and setting the supplies inside. Castro speaks of returning to Loreto right away but Father Ugarte denies it. “You will spend the night here and start off in the morning. That way you will not have to make a dry camp on your return.”

Mayorga clearly notes the absolute subservience the soldier shows the padre.

Mayorga spends the afternoon assisting Ugarte sort the supplies, not failing to note a surprising number of bolts of white cotton. All the while, he pays careful attention to the man responsible for the California Pious Fund and who had come to Loreto in 1701. When he tells about driving off the Cochimi who had forced Father Piccolo to flee, Mayorga easily believes it as his impressive size strikes fear into the heart of any foe.

During a meal of beef roasted on a fire with the usual frijoles y tortillas, he is surprised when Father Ugarte spoons some small green cubes onto his plate. “It is nopal, brother. The leaves of a cactus we call a prickly pear for the fruit it produces. It keeps the escorbuto away.”

Mayorga assists at the evening prayers and then spends several turns of the hour glass kneeling before la Virgen María, seeking forgiveness for his sins and weaknesses. When he prepares to bed down for the night, he finds his saddle, blanket, and bedroll on a cot. Castro already asleep while Father Ugarte busily makes notes at a small table with a candle lighting the page of his mission journal.

His eyes close once again against his will.