Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

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.”

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