Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Thursday, December 4, 2014

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

Father Jacobo looks at the pile of rubble that was once the chapel and sacristy of Misión San Luis Gonzaga, fighting back tears of frustration.

Visions of towering ceilings with brilliant stained glass windows tug at the back of his mind. Along with altars dedicated to The Lord God and His Most Beloved Son, Jesucristo. Walls far apart with pews and kneelers for hundreds of devoted followers are far more than anything possible in this hard and unforgiving land.

What am I to do​? he asks himself. His health is not the best and he does not trust his frail body to do what will be necessary to build a place of worship befitting the glory of God. I must do it all. I must teach and lead and share the burdens of all. Please, Dear God above, do not fail me. I can do nothing without You.

Private Juan de Leiva works with the few Guaycura converts who remain at the mission to cut bigger windows in the mud and wattle hut built for the padre to sleep and pray in private. Juan's Indian wife, Esmerelda, toils with the girls and women to rebuild the place where communal meals will be prepared.

Father Jacobo turns and gazes upon a pile of adobe bricks. Most have been damaged by the rains and he wonders how many can be restored. He sighs and turns away, walking uphill to the quarry. He runs his fingers across the surface of the stone, noting it is not granite but a less dense arensica. It is the same sandstone used at the other mission and he has been told it is most durable.

He does not miss the pile of pine logs which had agonizingly been brought down from the slopes far away and far above. At their best, they can allow no more than the length of twenty-five feet to span walls and make a solid roof. Again, it is not different than at all the other missions.

Something bothers you, reverend father?”

The soldier's voice brings him from the darkness of his thoughts. He had been introduced to him and his half-Indian wife in Loreto. Both appeared capable of assisting at the mission and some of the other fathers had told him that their soldier/companions made life bearable. Also a half-breed, Juan is fourth generation and was baptized at birth by a Jesuit in Sonora. He can read and write quite well, something of great assistance to him.

And yet, Father Jacobo cannot feel confident the soldier will make his life less onerous.

If you fret about rebuilding the chapel, reverend father, there are many converts here to bend their muscles to the tasks.”

Naked, ignorant savages to raise a structure appropriate to His Glory. How will that pass?” Staring down at the mission site, he does not see the eyes of the soldier opening wide in shock.” Sucking in deeply, he turns his head and says, “They do not understand anything about that which we teach them and are only interested in what food we put in their mouths.”

Juan straightens as if preparing to say something he feels the Jesuit might not appreciate. “Ignorant savages they most assuredly are, reverend father. But, they come because they fear and respect the magic you possess and the promise that they will never die. All they have ever thought for time beyond end is that when they are born, they have nothing more to look forward to except death. The promise that Jesucristo gives them life beyond death is why they do what we ask of them.”

The words surprise the Jesuit. No other father has described the Indians' desire to seek out and stay with the fathers in such a manner. In that light, their attendance at the various missions makes a great deal of sense. “They feel I possess magic, Private Leyva?”

They believe you are far more powerful than their spiritual leaders and senior family members. They understand nothing about anything beyond life and death. And even then, they only consider one as either here or gone away. They have no burial ceremonies such as we. One dies and they are taken to where the predators come to devour the corpse.”

Father Baegert thinks upon that for a moment. “So, the chapels we build are not truly for their benefit?”

They do not appreciate what is beautiful to us. In fact, beauty has no meaning for them.” Before the father can speak, Leyva hastily adds, “We build them as beautifully as we can in our own adoration of the Holy Father, Jesucristo, y el Spiritu Sanctus.”

Father Baegert straightens his back and turns to his escort/companion. “Well then, my son, we will do our best to build an edifice that Our Lord Jesus will look down upon and smile. We will make this mission a place where the natives may come to learn The Word of God and have a place to fill their stomachs. They will learn trades to help them long after you and I are gone.”

The first task the Jesuit priest feels necessary is to protect against future flooding. The main building must be built above the flood level. He also determines it will be vital to build a canal from the spring that flows during all but the most serious drought to water gardens to provide food to all who will gather there.

The gardens will be important, reverend father. But the Guaycura are fortunate in that the cactos nearby provide plentiful fruit. As you may have discovered, the pitahaya has a flavor we do not find pleasing, but it is their main food and they savor it. One type ripens from June to August and the other in November and December.”

“What eat they when the fruit is not present, my son?”

“Anything they can find, reverend father. Do not be surprised to see them squatting outside the storehouse picking at the insects that gather there. They also eat just about anything that lives and they are able to capture of kill. In the wild, they do nothing but seek food or to lay about to conserve their strength.”

Guilt fills the Jesuit as disgust envelopes him. How can human beings live in such a manner? And how can they ever become educated in the ways of Spain?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Father Baegert Meets Captain Rivera

What caught my attention in Father Baegert's book was his almost complete ignoring of the soldiers who served with him. During the 17 years of his service in California, he only referred to one and that was Captain Fernando Rivera.

At the same time, in all the references I have about the life of Captain Rivera, very little is said about the 26 years he served in Baja California. So, it has become a serious task to try to bring those years to life for readers to understand who he was and what he accomplished.

After 80,000 words of the first, rough draft, I finally reached the point where these two figures meet.

Father Baegert is trying to acclimatize himself to the new land and learn what he will face as a missionary to the Guaycura – a Stone Age tribe with a barbaric lifestyle. He is doing this when a young sergeant arrives from the south and is surprised to learn the Jesuits are promoted him over everybody to captain and commandant/governor of California.

Wishing to learn about the missions to the north he has never visited, Captain Rivera and his escort take newly-arrived supplies to each of them. It is upon his return that Rivera learns Father Baegert is going to be sent to Mission San Luis Gonzaga. There is nothing I can find anywhere the names of the soldiers who accompanied him.

So, this turned out to be just the place to have the two meet and travel together. And this is what they found:

Over the next 17 years, in spite of his ill health, this is what he created:

And Captain Rivera travels south, meeting men he once served with as a mere sergeant and facing the lieutenant who had felt the captaincy to be his right. Sould make for an interesting confrontation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Missions Bloom Released

Well, the third in the series is now available for you to purchase.

A very brief synopsis -- After Father Serra's death, Timothy and Jaime show their dedication by assisting the presidents of the missions who follow to carry out the reverend father's dream of placing a mission 10 leagues apart from San Diego to north of San Francisco Bay.

While historical in nature, this is also a love story. The love between Timothy and Carla, the Baja Indian, who dedicated her life to him and gave him three wonderful children. She dies in his arms trying to give birth to another and Timothy's agony is clear to all. Can such a love be replaced?

while the paperback version is available @ http://www.bluewoodpublishing.com/ps/?wpsc-product=the-missions-bloom and Amazon.com @ http://www.amazon.com/dp/1927220823

Enjoy. And, if you like it, as always return to the purchase site and either rate it or give a brief summary of your reaction.

Thanks in advance. I am not just an author but a story teller. Story tellers can only exist if others listen to those tales.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Revised and Reformatted the Blog

So, what do you think?

I encountered a blog site - So, you're a writer - @ http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/ and accepted the offer to have someone review and comment on my blog - Father Serra's Legacy.
Her YouTube video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MyMCUHAox-o was quite informative.
I've been blogging for several years now and she pointed out some things I totally missed and others I never knew existed.
If you're a blogger or are thinking about it, she is certainly worth listening to.
I've already altered both of my blogs - this and Father Serra's Legacy
My deep thanks to Carrie. I hope you will check out her blog and website.

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.