Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Final Part of Chapter Twenty-Seven, The Sailor and The Carpenter

Shouts called the members of the expedition once more before Father President Serra well before sunrise. The ceremony was simple, prayers for the success of their venture. The people then went to their assigned position and task.

The long trek started with Father President Serra leading. Timothy, Carla, Jaime, and Butterfly walked behind Padres Gregorio and José. The governor and his party, including twenty Soldados de Cuera, waited and watched as a line of heavily laden mules followed, led by volunteers from Loreto.

Each mule driver was accompanied by his woman. Ten wagons pulled by six mules each trailed that, again a woman seated beside each driver. The wives and children of the soldiers and volunteers came last.

When the governor was satisfied all was in order, he called over his lieutenant, José Carrillo, and gave him orders. Four riders moved out ahead of Father President Serra with orders to ensure the advance party found a good place to camp for the night. The remaining riders were posted alongside the caravan and as a rear guard.

Timothy and the others could not keep their eyes from the surrounding country. Soon after leaving the town, the road followed a pass into a valley that caused them to catch their breaths. Bristly fingers pointed skyward as if a sign of blessing on their venture. It appeared the friars thought something similar as they often crossed themselves. Two of the Indians who lived in Loreto came up to walk alongside the friars to explain what they were seeing were Cardón cacti.

Jaime ached to leave the group to explore the side trails and hills. He sensed Butterfly felt the same. But, he could not leave Timothy, at least not yet. Father President Serra led at his usual mile eating pace. Many wondered how a man his age and with his infected leg had done so for more miles than they cared to think about.

A Mestizo on horseback rode a respectful distance from Governor Portolá, responding when the governor pointed or asked a question.

A rumbling in the distance caught everybody by surprise. It was then the clouds hovering just behind mountains to the west caught their attention. Rain? At the beginning of January? That was most unusual. Father President Serra and Governor Portolá had planned their departure then as the short rainy season was supposed to be past. Streams would still have water and natural depressions would provide much-needed water for the caravan.

But, rain posed a serious threat. Even though it might fall many miles away, the runoff would rush downhill in a flood that would wash away anything - or anyone - in its way.

Timothy's companions knew this and Carla whispered that to him.

It did not take long until they passed ruins of la Visita de San Juan Bautista Londó. Just beyond that, they passed another set of ruins, those of the Mission of San Bruno that had lasted two years.

Padre Martin turned and told Timothy the Jesuits had founded it in 1699. “It was not a mission. It was a church to serve the Indians who lived in the area and a priest came once every two weeks to conduct Mass.” Again, answering before Timothy could ask, he said, “When the Jesuits heard they were being forced to leave, they ignored the church and locals took what they needed for their own use.”

They did not pause for a noontime rest or meal. Those who needed it fell out of line and found a place of privacy to relieve themselves. Each carried two flasks of water in addition to whatever their load was and dried meat and tortillas to quell their hunger. Carla and Butterfly had somehow obtained a fruit new to Timothy and Jaime they called fechas de palma, the fruit of the strange palm trees. They also had dried pears and peaches.

At last, far ahead of them, they saw smoke announcing the site of the night’s camp. They were in the midst of a forest of towering Cardón cacti, many of them growing out of clusters of prickly pear.

If he had not seen it for himself, Timothy would not have thought such a land could possibly exist. And contain life of any sort.

The scouts had done an excellent job and Father President Serra was pleased at the selected site. He stopped and said a prayer of blessing so that evil spirits of harmful things might beset them.

A wide, sandy riverbed wound through a large arroyo with small plants and no cactus beds. The water flowed reasonably and the scouts had dumped rocks into the stream bed to form a pool for the animals downhill from the camp. Another place upstream provided water for the cooking fires and bathing.

At least they do not expect us to drink the water where the livestock have been, Timothy thought. That was something the farmers of his region in England had recently learned and it had reduced some of the ills they had previously encountered.

The soldiers established the governor’s camp. He had a large tent for himself, several medium ones for his retinue and smaller two-man shelters for the soldiers.

Father President Serra and the friars found places in the sand to lay down their packs to serve as pillows. All the others followed their example once draft and pack animals were relieved of their burdens and herded into the temporary rope corral.

Timothy and his companions made their camp a little bit away from the main group but were not surprised when their guardians settled in next to them.

Do you think we are safe from that evil man in Loreto?”

Timothy smiled and leaned over to kiss Carla’s cheek, causing her to blush.

Padre Gregorio answered, “It is most likely. Our scouts, while not accustomed to this land, should be able to spy anyone following us.”

Carla then said, “And los Indios would know far sooner.” She and Butterfly rose, saying they were going to the supply wagon for corn flour and jerked beef. They were gone before the men could stop them - although Timothy and Jaime knew that, once their minds were made up, they were unstoppable.

Timothy sighed. “Any idea how far we’ve come?”

About twenty-five miles,” Padre Martin replied. “I sense Father President Serra eased up a bit for those following are not accustomed to walking.”

Timothy gulped. His feet had sores and the muscles of his legs felt like lead. He gazed at Jaime and realized his friend was fresh, not the least bit fatigued by the day’s march. “I would guess the governor and those on the backs of horses are not happy with our slow pace.”

Both friars chuckled. “In this country, they cannot travel without supply wagons and pack animals.”

Jaime joined the humor. “They have no idea how to live off this harsh land and would not last long on their own.”

Carla and Butterfly returned with the supplies and prepared the meal. Much to everyone’s surprise, they heard the tinkling of a small bell. It was the evening Call to Prayers so they all turned in the direction of the summons and crossed themselves, muttering the prayer of thanksgiving Father President Serra intoned from a spot overlooking the camp. Only when that ended did Carla and Butterfly serve the meal.

Ratface is not following us. But we cannot be certain he has not sent someone from the pueblo to skulk in the hills overlooking us.”

The men looked at Butterfly, not surprised she would gain such knowledge.

They could not feel secure, even though Governor Portolá, his aides and soldiers were there.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chapter Twenty-Seven Continued


Butterfly and Carla decided they needed certain items for the long journey ahead. Both possessed a small hoard of copper coins as well as a couple of minor things to trade; Butterfly’s were four small stones of blue with silver and gold lines woven within them, Carla had a couple of handwoven blankets. They knew turquoise was sought after for adornments set in worked silver. The market stood between the presidio and the waterfront. A small crowd wandered through several lines of stalls selling a variety of wares.

These fruits and vegetables are not fresh.” Carla wrinkled her nose, another quirk she had learned from Timothy.

Some of this pottery is well-crafted with bright colors,” Butterfly said. Both knew they were too fragile to take along.

A number of stalls had woven goods, mostly wool as cotton had not adapted well to the local soil. Several stalls selling baskets and other containers made of woven willow or reed caught their attention. Two small coppers earned each a basket to perch atop their heads. They also bought two multi-colored shawls to replace their plain ones.

However, the main purpose of their shopping came into their view in a stall selling leather goods. Boots. For riding and for walking.

Carla examined them. While Timothy’s feet had toughened aboard ship and the walking on land he had since done, he still needed protection for the rocky trails ahead. And from the spines of cactus plants. There had been few cacti around La Paz. “The prickly pear, yucca and cholla will grow thicker as we go north. He is going to need protection.”

Butterfly nodded her agreement.

Carla selected two pairs of boots to be secured around his calves to protect them from cactus needles.

Butterfly bought a heavy pair of leather sandals for Jaime.

They also bought sandals for themselves. Three of Butterfly’s turquoise stones sealed the deal.

They left the market to return to the mission.

Stop where you are. You will come with me.” The brusque order came from the shifty individual who had shadowed them. Four soldiers stood behind him, muskets ready. They were from neither the presidio nor part of the governor’s guard.

Neither woman argued. Nor were they about to go with him. Both had hunting knives hidden beneath their robes. Yet, they knew it would be difficult, if not impossible to get free of their situation.

A commotion caused them to spin. A man on horseback raced up the road towards them. A scarf covered the lower half of his face. Butterfly and Carla leaped out of his way and turned to watch as he tried to run over the functionary.

Ratface just managed to mover a little bit, the horse’s shoulder passing within inches of him.

The soldiers broke ranks, two of them dropping their muskets.

The two broke into an awkward run due to the baskets balanced atop their heads. They could run faster unburdened but were not going to leave their purchases.

They reached a corner and turned in the direction of the mission, slowed by a crowd of women and children. As Butterfly and Carla neared, the crowd parted to let them through, closing ranks behind them. At the next corner, a woman pointed left down another street, this filled with ropes hung with washing to dry in the sun.

Ratface and soldiers struggled through the crowd, falling behind.

Carla and Butterfly turned toward the mission, moving at as fast a pace as possible. But, they were not yet safe. In addition to the usual mission sentries, four soldiers in the same uniform stood outside the gates. As they watched from a side street, Ratface ran up, panting from the exertion, and said something to the soldiers.

Come! This way.” A woman urged them to follow her into a house where they were given new clothes. They covered their mouths and lower faces with the scarves they had just purchased. “We have all heard how Señor Ocio has vowed to take the White Pirate into his custody. He even vows a trial and a public hanging.”

A group of twenty women walked up the street towards the mission, chatting like a flock of crows. Their benefactor shoved Carla and Butterfly into the crowd, joining in herself. Ratface and the soldiers were at a loss. They were outnumbered. And by an adversary they could not defy. The women strode through the gates into the compound, all sighing as the mission sentries closed and barred it behind them.

The women from the pueblo left by the other gate, allowing Butterfly and Carla to reach their temporary quarters. The two lowered their burdens and turned to face one another. They did something alien to their nature, embracing with tears of relief on their cheeks.

Timothy and Jaime returned from the carpenter shop to find the women going about things as if nothing had happened.

Do either of you know what the big commotion was about?” Neither answered so Timothy walked over to get some water from the big clay pitcher. He noticed the new boots by the bed. “Where did those come from?”

I bought them for you in the market, my man. You will need them for the long journey ahead. The land will be full is many prickly things and sharp stones.”

You went into town to the market?”

Carla nodded and responded, “It was nothing. Butterfly and I decided there were things we needed before departing.”

Jaime and Butterfly entered. Jaime had Butterfly tell Timothy what she had told him of their trip and escape back into the mission compound.

This will stop right now. I will not allow you to be in danger because of me.” Timothy turned and started to walk to the door. “I will give myself up to that flabby-faced son of a pig.”

He did not get far as a strong woman’s arms wrapped around his waist. Carla’s strength surprised him.

A shadow appeared in the door. “You are under my protection and that of the Holy Church of Rome. You and your companions will not be taken by anybody without my word.”

The four stared at Father President Serra. Padres Gregorio and Martin stood behind him, four armed soldiers behind them. “I ask you to stay here in the mission until we depart. If you need something from the market, please let one of the brothers know and they will gather it for you.”

T-thank you, sir. I just cannot let these who mean much to me be in danger on my behalf.”

Serra laid a hand on Timothy's shoulder. “That is first-rate of you, Señor Oceloto Blanco. But, this is no longer a simple matter. It has become a challenge to the right of the church and the authority given me by the archbishop and viceroy.” With that, Serra turned and left, charging the two friars to be more vigilant.

Padre Gregorio in turn dismissed the soldiers. “You will be safe here in the mission.” He then grinned. “You, Mister White Ocelot.”

All grinned at Jaime’s name for Timothy confirmed by Father President Serra.


The next two days passed. While the working day of mission members was six hours with Sunday off for prayer, everybody volunteered more time to prepare for the long trip. Mules and horses were gathered from surrounding ranches and the hills to the west and north. A small herd of cattle was assembled, along with pigs to be brought in a special wagon and woven cages to hold chickens. The caged animals would need food, so that meant another wagon.

Some of Father President Serra’s journals and writing things were packed on the back of a donkey Ernesto was to lead. Once more, it was clear the friar chose to walk instead of ride. His two pack mules went into the train as they carried holy items for future missions.

Timothy learned from Padre Martin that those holy items included some gathered from the closed missions. “Padre Palóu was, as usual, meticulous in gathering and cataloging them. He was even able to write down the origin on them in Mexico and Spain.” Timothy then learned all of the beautifully sewn items had been gifts from ladies of the Spanish court specifically for the missionaries to use in the New World.

As they sat in the mission plaza in the evening cool, an unusual figure came through the gate and walked toward them.

May I have a few moments of your time, Timothy?”

Timothy rose and took Harris’ proffered hand.

Harris noted his puzzled look and smiled. “I just have a few words of caution I wish to impart to you.”

Carla pushed Timothy to go with Harris to a table not too far away. Once they were seated, she hurried up with two steaming cups of chocolate.

Harris thanked her.

So, what wise words do you have for me?” Even though Harris was several years his elder, Timothy had come to think of himself as a man - and the equal of anybody in this new world.

My good friend, Don Fernando, is a complicated man. As you will be dealing with him at some length, I thought it advisable to tell you a little about him.” When Timothy nodded, Harris went on to explain, “He held a position of great authority for many years here in California under the Jesuits and the previous viceroy. While he does not outwardly show it, being passed over by Don Gaspar to be lieutenant governor upset him greatly.” Harris further explained, “But, he somewhat expected it. He is, after all, a Criollo and, as such does not have the same high ranking as other members of the Spanish ruling faction.”

Timothy nodded. “In many ways, the Spanish do not seem that different from my English countrymen. It is not so much a matter of one’s merit but birthright.” He then added, “So that will be a factor in Don Fernando’s actions?”

Not at all, young friend! He is dedicated to expanding the role of Spain here in the Californias. He will do everything in his power to assist Don Gaspar and Father President Serra.”

They paused when Carla returned to refill their cups.

Muchas gracias, Señora,” Harris said before continuing. “I also wish to explain his attitudes and values. You have taken an Indian woman to be your companion and have made close friends with the carpenter and his woman.” When Timothy nodded, he went on. “That is something Don Fernando would never do.” He stressed the word “never.”

Why is that?”

Because to him and the other Spanish-born, they are but children and do not have the capacity to be their equals.”

In spite of the skills they show? Such as my friend’s exceptional ability at carving life-like figures?”

They are manual and not intellectual skills, Timothy. As you may have seen, they recite the Apostle’s Creed, The Ten Commandments and various prayers. But, do they understand them? The intricate concepts behind them that make up Cannon Law and Catholic beliefs?”

So, what are you telling me, Don Antonio?”

I am trying to tell you that people like my friend Fernando and Don Gaspar will often be at odds with the friars when it comes to the treatment of the Gentiles, as they call unbaptized Indians. And there are great differences even among the Spanish as to their standings within the Spanish community.”

Timothy sighed. “I am not unaccustomed to such differences, Don José. Our own people see such distinctions between peoples of our own lands.”

Harris nodded. “My father told me of such differences between the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish. It seems to run through European society.”

The two men spoke for a little longer, breaking up when the bell rang to tell all in the mission it was time to seek their beds.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

More of The Sailor and The Carpenter

In the previous posts, I introduced readers to Jaime the Carpenter, the young Mexican Indian rescues by the friars. I bypassed the first chapter where I introduced Timothy Beadle, an English youth indentured by his father to the captain of an English merchant brig. In the story, Timothy is washed overboard in a fierce cyclone and washes ashore on the beach at a small fishing village in Baja California. Jaime finds him, takes him to a medicine woman, and helps as he regains his health. As time passes, the two become as blood brothers. Timothy is selected by an Indian girl of the mission to be her man and Jaime meets and marries a girl from a local tribe living in the nearby mountains.

They meet and follow Father Serra north as he sets out to find the bay of San Miguel and the famed Indian city called Monte Rey,. This is the first part of the chapter.


One of Ocio’s minions tries to capture Butterfly and Carla

1768 turns to 1769 - North from Loreto

The Morning Office celebrating Jesus’ Birth came and passed.

You do not have a festive celebration for His birth?” Timothy asked Padre Gregorio.

No, my son. It is a most solemn event, as you witnessed, with Father President Serra celebrating the High Mass.” He paused and added, “We do not take part in many of the customs I have heard you do in your islands.”

Timothy shrugged. His mother had always ensured yew, holly and other evergreen decorated the kitchen and dining area and baked mince pies to go with the big ham everybody dined on.

I do not wish to belittle your customs, Timothy, but many of them come from pagan times when the Saxons ruled your lands. We celebrate early in the morning to express our joy at the coming of The Lord Jesus to give all of us a new start in life - as the sun gives new life to each day.”

Everybody prepared for the upcoming expedition. Captain Rivera had many years experience traveling through Lower California, often being called upon by both Portolá and Father President Serra for guidance. The first day of the New Year came with a Mass celebrating The Feast of the Circumcision.

Soon after, Captain Rivera prepared to depart for the long trek north. Although he had covered the ground before, he would enter new territory. Of more import, his party had the duty of carving out a road suitable for carts and wagons.

The entire town and people from many nearby villages came to see him off. In his capacity as commander of garrison soldiers all over California, he had also acted as governor and judge. Some said his decisions had not only been just but showed unusual compassion for the peoples of California. His party formed up in the central plaza where Governor Portolá, Father President Serra and all the Franciscans and members of the congregation gathered to wish him farewell.

Twenty-five Soldados de Cuera proudly sat upon their horses, lances held high, muskets slung over their backs with their round leather shields covering their right knees. Each also carried a common saber. One additional sergeant in the same uniform sat on a horse to one side. They had all participated in the Holy Eucharist and were filled with joy, eager to undertake the difficult journey.

The sergeant is Don Fernando’s personal aid and the two mission Indians are his servants,” Padre Martin explained.

A herd of cows, horses and mules pawed the ground nearby surrounded by a dozen Indian and Mestizo volunteers. There was also a mule train with supplies as not much in the way of provisions lay ahead of them. Behind them were the wives and children of the soldiers and volunteers.

And, amidst all that stood one lone individual in a gray robe.

That is Friar Juan Crespí,” Padre Martin said. “He came with us to The New World and has been at Father President Serra’s side most of the way. He is going with the captain as he is the expedition’s diarist. He will keep a record of it all.”

The volunteers were to help Rivera lay out a new road north. The footpath used by Jesuits was no longer enough. A true King’s Highway had to be pioneered for more than five hundred miles.

Captain Rivera has been to every mission in California,” Padre Martin told Timothy and his companions. “He is going to prepare a new, more passable highway for the governor and Father President Serra to the Cochimí village of Velicatá. The Camino Real Misionero will no longer serve and a new, road for the passage of wagons must be laid out. He will continue north to San Miguel Bay in Upper California when the governor and The Father President decide it is time.”

Father President Serra and the rest of us will soon follow,” Padre Gregorio added.

Rivera came up grasping the silver-handled bastón of his previous position as el Comandante. He hugged his good friend Harris, knelt to accept Father President Serra’s blessing and saluted Governor Portolá before mounting his horse. He lifted his bastón and motioned, kneeing his steed to lead off.

The trek is long and difficult but he knows it well. He has stops scheduled at Missions Santa Gertrudis, San Borja and Santa Maria. In fact, it is said they have a better chance of surviving than some of the others did.”

As Padre Martin turned to walk off, Timothy stood and watched the men and animals move into the dusty distance.

With the advance party gone, preparation got underway for the departure of the second part of the expedition. There was only a brief respite with the coming of Easter Sunday, la Pasqua. A most solemn day to prayer and vigilance. Once again, Timothy watched and shook his head as every priest present lashed their backs in penance with iron chains. Glancing around, he saw tears in the eyes of members of the congregation, showing their love for the men in gray.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Continuation of Chapter Two

(Again, this is an excerpt from The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One of Father Serra's Legacy)

A man rushed from the church and hurried up to them. After kissing their hands, he proclaimed,“I am Juan Falcon, el Mayordomo, Reverendos Padres. We have heard that you would be coming. I am most pleased that you arrived safely.” Not expecting the friars to answer, he called out, “Corporal. You may stable your horses and quarter your men over there.” He pointed to a gathering of buildings that were clearly the garrison. He also pointed out to Julio and Hernan where to take the pack mules.

One question was what to do with the Indian children. One of the wives brought them to the forefront, indicating they were the friar’s responsibility. Seeing that, an older woman came over from the gate leading into the mission compound. “The children, Reverendos Padres? May I take them inside?”

Si, Doña. They are probably hungry. And, you might find someone to examine them.”

The woman nodded to Friar Pedro as she turned to lead the children inside.

The friars followed the mayordomo into the church, comparing it to others they had visited and lived in. Built of thick adobe bricks laid out east to west, the church was cool, almost chilly. The swept clay floor had rough, wooden prayer benches lining both sides of the center aisle. A roughly carved figure of Jesus upon the cross dominated the wall behind the stone altar draped with a white cloth. Candles at each end completed the scene and Friar Pedro knew the sacramental instruments were kept in a separate room. The Fourteen Stations of the Cross were crudely carved figures with a small alcove containing another figure representing The Virgin Mary. Lit candles in great numbers provided light.

Friar José knelt in the alcove of The Virgin Mary, saying prayers of thanks. Friar Pedro joined him. The mayordomo waited for them to finish before leading them into the sacristy.

Two Jesuits in their black robes sat at a candle-lit table and did little to acknowledge the Franciscans. At last, the older spoke. “We will gather our things and leave on the morrow. I have told the mayordomo you Franciscans are now in charge of this place.” With that, he rose and went to a prayer stand in front of another small altar with the Jesuit icon OHO above a Crucifix made of marble.

Knowing they had been dismissed, the Franciscans went through another door into a small hallway. Two cells showed the occupancy of the Jesuits. Beyond were two more empty cells, a larger room with several stark cots and a small altar with a simple cross provided for visitors. Beyond that lay an open area with a fountain and lots of flowers and other plants, including profuse grape vines. Yet another door opened into the central courtyard of the compound. Covered colonnades provided shade from the hot sun and vines entwined several. Some vines held colorful gourds, others ever-present chilies and yet more bore grapes, nearing ripeness.

It must be difficult for the Fathers of The Order of Jesus to give up what they have striven shard to accomplish,” Friar Pedro said as they settled on a bench in the private garden.

Friar José nodded. “But, it is not as if we brothers of The Order Minor have not toiled here in Nueva España,” he responded. “It is truly sad that court intrigue has brought upon our Jesuit brothers such castigation.”

Neither knew the details of political intrigue causing the king of France to seek the dissolution of the Order of Jesus. They were just obeying the orders of Father Junipero Serra who, in turn, obeyed the orders of Viceroy Bucareli and Archbishop Diaz-Salerno.

The mayordomo entered the garden, large, wide-brimmed hat in hand. “Señores, may I be of service?”

I am Padre José, the liturgical member. And this is Padre Pedro. He is well-skilled in the vocational areas.”

Of course, Reverendo Padres. May I show you around?”

We will attend to that in the morning after breakfast,” Friar Pedro told him.

The children we brought?” Friar José noted they had finished eating.

Señor Falcon led them to a dormitory for young children and girls. The girl from the village sat in one corner, her little brother still clinging to her skirt.

She will adjust, Señores. I am Maria and the children are in my care.”

Friar José made the sign of the cross and Friar Pedro thanked the woman. “And the boy,

The woman beamed at the honorific and led them to rooms on the other side of the compound.

The boy sat cross-legged on a cot and stared at the people standing in the doorway.

Friar José walked over and sat on the edge of the cot. “You are safe here, boy. Do not be afraid. You will have food, clothing and a place to sleep. Do you know of anything about life in a mission?”

The boy looked at the friar. “I Fallen Eagle. Cahita. I no father. No mother. No brother. Red death come. Take them.”

Friar José laid a hand upon the boy’s shoulder. “You have a new family, boy.”

The overseer had the friar’s packs taken from the mule and placed in an empty cell. He followed as they went there to sort through the contents. Most were spare habits, personal journals, missals and breviaries. Both friars removed their personal crucifixes and hung them on the nails above their cots. They also had a few tools to help the mission’s industries. Falcon took them to be handed over to those whose work they would help.

The evening bells rang and the disciples all gathered in the chapel. Nothing had been specified so the Jesuits conducted Mass with the Franciscans standing along the wall. At the time of the homily, the elder Jesuit announced, “We have been called to another place. These new Padres in the gray habits are taking our place.” He paused, eyes brimming. “We will pray as long as The Good Lord allows that you are safe and happy. We know He will look over you with the same love we feel for you.” With that, he turned and joined his companion in preparing the Eucharist.

The Franciscans could not help but sense the sternness of the Jesuits, in how they celebrated the holy rite. But, they could not miss the sadness in their hearts for what their future held. The newcomers knew of many times when Jesuits had gone before the Viceroy to complain of how soldiers and civilian authorities mistreated the Indians.

The evening meal followed. The Jesuits ate in their cells while Friar José and Pedro ate with the neophytes. The meal was not unusual; atole, a cornmeal gruel flavored with unrefined cane sugar called piloncillo, cinnamon and fruit. There were also pieces of meat served on a big platter in the center of the table. Señor Falcon explained several steers had recently been slaughtered to provide meat for the garrison and the nearby pueblo. “We kept a side of beef for ourselves. At the Fathers’ consent, of course.”

A cup of steaming, hot, bitter chocolate was served, a standard drink for all. The friars smiled, remembering how it was Father President Serra’s favorite beverage.

At least we are done with the fare of the road,” Friar Pedro said to himself. He then crossed himself, asking forgiveness for his sin of gluttony.

After ensuring all the neophytes were secure, the friars returned to their cell where both prepared to pass the night. Without hesitation, Friar Pedro removed the top of his habit and reached forth metal object known as a discipline. While he fingered his prayer beads and recited his rosary, he whipped his back with its iron chains and barbs, drawing tiny beads of blood.

Friar José followed suit.

After a fifth of an hour, Friar Pedro finished his pleas for forgiveness of his sins and spoke. “Well, Padre. Here we are. Our new assignment, the Church of San Miguel of Culiacán.


A night of sound sleep on rough cots eased many of the aches and pains Friar Pedro experienced. His eyes opened to find his companion already awake, kneeling by his cot saying his morning prayers. Friar Pedro did the same.

A basin of water awaited them just outside the door to their cell and they performed absolution. They also saw a small structure set aside for other bodily functions. As hungry as they were, they waited until the mission bells, rung by one of the neophytes, sounded the call to morning prayers. They hurried to the sacristy, finding the sacred objects needed to conduct the various rites in their appointed places.

I am selected to help you, Reverendos Padres.” The young, dark-skinned boy with cropped black hair and shining black eyes smiled at them. He wore a circlet of white beads around his head to show the world he belonged to the mission and was a baptized Christian. “My name is Cesar, Reverendos Padres.” He explained the Jesuits left before the sun rose above the eastern mountains and took those things belonging to their order.

The friars smiled at the youth. They knew he was named for a saint but not which. That information they would find in the detailed records kept for births, deaths, baptisms, marriages another important events taking place in the church.

The one item missing from the sacristy was the crucifix over the small kneeler. Friar Pedro withdrew one made in the form of a Franciscan Tau cross and hung it on the hook. They took the missal and Holy Bible with them into the chapel. Cesar followed. He did not need to assist them to prepare for Mass, only to be ready if needed.

The two friars were pleased to find the chapel full. Many of the neophytes still had tears in their eyes from saying farewell to the Jesuits.

As soon as prayers were over and with stomachs grumbling, they followed rich aromas to the kitchen and dining areas.

Welcome, Reverendos Padres, the food is filling. The Señora will bring it right away.”

They thanked Eduardo, one of the neophytes, and took their place at the head of the table. An older woman brought wooden plates filled with scrambled eggs, shredded chicken, onions and some green-diced vegetables. She smiled and explained, “They are nopal, Padres, and are good for you.”

Neither friar wished to disappoint her by telling her they already knew the plant.

The neophytes stood to one side and Friar José guessed they waited for an announcement.

Come! Come and sit and eat. We welcome your presence here with us.”

All sat, waiting. Friar José stood and asked The Lord’s blessing on the food and all those who partook of it. That he said it in Spanish and not Latin as the Jesuits did, surprised and pleased all there.

Neither friar commented upon the richness of the food. The meal they were used to at the college had been simple atole.

After the morning meal, the members of the parish gathered in the plaza fronting the church.

Friar José explained their orders from the Archbishop of la Nueva España and Father Serra, el Presidente de las Misiónes. He reassured the people their lives would note changed or made harder.

We have come to carry the word of Our Lord Jesus and to glorify His name by keeping this place a productive garden for all those who believe in Him.” He also told them, “The Brothers of The Society of Jesus did not abandon you. They were ordered by His Holiness to serve elsewhere.” While alight lie, Friar José did not wish any darkness to come over the change.

The compound’s overseer stepped forward to welcome the newcomers and assure them he and the neophytes would do everything possible to help them accomplish their goals. Juan Falcon had grown up on the compound and knew everything about its operation and the people, not just there but also in the adjacent pueblos.

Friar José raised a staff topped with a crucifix and the gathered neophytes knelt to receive the blessing. When he finished, they all rose and left to attend to their duties.

Juan Falcon conducted an extensive tour of the compound, an almost self-sustaining entity. In addition to a large vegetable garden, there were several orange, lime and grapefruit trees. Falcon mentioned the groves of apples, pears and apricots scattered in the area. A small vineyard produced purple grapes and next to that were rows of corn, squash and beans early in their growth-cycle. “There are many bags of granos de maize in the storeroom. And much elote also.” He referred to the stacked ears of corn and bags of kernels. He then showed them a cellar dug out of the earth where other things were stored. “Our climate is mild year round, Padres, so we plant and reap whenever the crops are ripe.”

As they walked, Friar José asked, “Señor Falcon, do you know where the other friars went?”

Si, Padre, they went north to Los Mochis. They will take ship from there, but I do not know where.”

The two Franciscans exchanged glances. They guessed they, along with other Jesuits, would sail to Loreto to join those Jesuits departing from Baja California. From there, they would sail to San Sandblast eventually return to Spain. Neither had to state that any priest in the New World returning to his homelands was unheard of. Once they arrived there, they died there.

As well as the kitchen with round clay ovens for baking, the compound had a smithy, a pottery with two kilns and another area where adobe bricks were formed and dried. The chandlery stood next to a stone vat for rendering fat to make candles and another for tanning hides. Many hides dried in the sun. A corral for two strong plough horses, four oxen and the mules the friars had brought with them was nearby.

One mousey individual hung in the background and stepped forward when Friar Pedro asked who was in charge of the pueblo. “I am Alcalde Enrique Salvador, Reverendos Padres, at your service.”

Something about the mayor’s demeanor seemed false to Friar Pedro but he kept his thoughts to himself.

Salvador led them to a building fronting the plaza. It had the typical stucco covering but the various niches and projections were worn by weather and lack of care. The mayor struggled to appear important and showed the newcomers the structure contained his offices, a small courtroom and a jail cell. “I also act as the chief of security and have three assistants to ensure our people’s safety.”

Nobody paid attention to Corporal Olvero’s snicker. Having replaced the soldiers who departed with the Jesuits, he did not need to be told his responsibility, under the direction of the friars and not the mayor, was to see to the safety of the people of the church as well as the pueblo.

Friar José removed another scroll from the folds of his robe and handed it to the mayor. He waited as the man struggled to read it, only then realizing the mayor was illiterate. “These are our credentials from el Presidente de las Misiónes,” Friar José stated for all to hear. “We are instructed to do whatever is in our power to make this a productive part of the newly-formed district of Sonora y Sinaloa. You will report to me and, in my absence, to Friar Pedro. The same holds true for Corporal Olvero and his soldiers.”

With the official requirements finished, the friars returned to the church and the sanctity of their small prayer garden.

I am pleased nobody asked us to explain why the Jesuits had to leave.”

Friar José looked at his companion and sighed. “I too. For my part, I do not understand the reason even though it was explained to us before we departed.”

Why would the King of France seek to have the order disbanded? They have always been devout in their efforts.” Friar Pedro hesitated. “Do you think it was their participation in The Inquisition?”

Friar José could not answer that. They had both heard the rumors, some of them about trade disputes. Others had whispered of great riches gathered by the Society of Jesus and not shared with the king. “In any case, the reason is not important. We have our duties and we must reassure the neophytes that our Brothers in The Lord taught them with faith and belief in The Word.”