Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, January 14, 2017


1815 – A New Governor – Changes Far Away
Because of their distance from the city of Mexico, news came slowly to the presidio and mission. The biggest news came with the arrival of the packet ship San Carlos from San Blas. It was not the same ship that had brought supplies and men in the early years, but another whose keel was laid in San Blas five years earlier. It was quite different from the first one as it had been built with some of the changes the amazing Americans had invented.
It had barely tied up to the new dock, when a figure in a gaudy uniform strode down the gangplank directly to the presidials standing on the dock. “You will go find your commandant and inform him that the new lieutenant governor of Upper California has arrived.” As they turned to rush off, he called out, “And have some soldiers return immediately to gather my personal goods and take them to my quarters.”
Something in his voice spoke of harsh punishment for failure to obey his orders.
Thus did Lieutenant Colonel of Dragoons Pablo Vicente de Solá introduce himself to Monte Rey y Alta California.
James and his father saw the arrival as they busily unloaded their catch into the barrels on the quay.
Felipe was with them overseeing the soldiers who would carry their allotment into the presidio. “He is a lieutenant colonel in the Dragoons, Señor.”
As hard as he tried, Timothy could not get his son-in-law to use the word Father or even Papa. “I wonder if he even knows the governor is at el Presidio de Santa Bárbara. Would they not have landed there on their way here?”
The alférez shrugged, long ago learning not to question the actions or motives of his superiors.
Lieutenant Estrada hurried downhill from the garrison's gate, pulling up short to salute the newcomer.
You command here?” the lieutenant colonel demanded. When Estrada mumbled that the captain was away inspecting the highway, the lieutenant colonel harrumphed and ordered the junior officer to lead. “You will take me to the governor's quarters and see my personal things are placed there.” He added that the current occupant's goods were to be instantly removed and placed in other quarters.
The governor does not officiate from here, Señor Coronel. He is at the Royal Presidio of Santa Bárbara.”
James, Felipe, and their father did not hear more of the interchange. They had no doubt that poor Lieutenant Estrada was in for a most difficult time.
They met Father President Señán at the Carmel dock. The first thing he said was, “What of the arrival of the supply ship? Did it bring anything of interest?” He listened to the description of the disembarking of the new governor and did not seem surprised. “What sort of man does he appear to be?” He then listened to their further description. Without anther word, he turned and walked back to the mission.
Padre Payeras arrived at the mission two days later.
I do not understand what is going on here with the church, father. Is there not but one father president?”
Timothy rocked for a bit, puffing on his pipe before answering. “Well, son, I really do not understand it myself. When he first came here, Father President Serra was the president guardian of all the missions. When Padre Palóu came from Baja, he became Father President Serra's assistant. Now, when Father President Señán was elected father president, Padre Payeras became his assistant. And then he was elevated to the position of president general for internal mission affairs. None of it makes sense to me, but it apparently does to the fathers and the governor.”
Padre Payeras stayed for two days. Then, during Sunday Mass, Father President Señán announced that he was finished with his term of service and would return to being a common father in the mission. “Father Payeras has been elected as president guardian of the missions. He will perform his duties at Misión la Purísima Concepción.”
They all heard stories about the new governor, Don Pablo. Don Argüello was being sent to Loreto to act as governor of Baja California. He and his wife would travel there overland, leaving their two sons behind. Both sons were Leatherjacket Soldiers, Santiago an alférez at San Diego. The other son, Luis Antonio, supervised the Rancho de las Pulgas.
Governor de Solá spent most of his time going over the logs and journals.
And then, one day, he rode to the mission. Everyone was surprised when, after meeting with Father Señán, the two walked to the small building where Corporal Mateo conducted his classes.
Rubio later described how they stood quietly in the back of the classroom while Rubio helped the children learn to do sums – he had reached the point of explaining the idea of multiplication.
Neither spoke until I finished and sent the children to attend noon prayers,” Rubio told the gathering for the noon meal. “Then, the governor came to me and asked where I had obtained the various books on the classroom shelf. He listened with great interest, asking me several questions. And, as he and Father Señán departed, he congratulated me for the good I was doing for the children.”
Before that, little was known of the new governor as he stayed secluded in his office. Felipe told them he did little more than eat, attend prayers, sleep, and study the records.
One day as they were unloading fish for the pueblo and presidio, Don Pablo came to them, watching until they were done.
May I speak to you, Señores Beadle?”
Both washed their hands in a barrel of salt water left on the dock for that purpose. As they finished, the new governor turned an empty barrel over and sat upon it, inviting James and his father to do the same.
It is known to me, Señor Timoteo, that you came here with Don Gaspar and Reverend Father President Serra. I would like to hear your thoughts on what has passed here and what more you think should be done.”
James started to rise, thinking the conversation was to be among the two older men.
Please stay, young James. Father Señán tells me you were a most able seaman and aide during your return journey to here from San Diego.”
Just what do you expect to hear from me, governor?”
The governor looked out over the harbor, watching sea otters playing in the thick kelp beds, barks and yelps coming from the seals lying on the rocks. “I have read all the journals and diaries left in the garrison office. The stories are dry and do not always give me the character of the land and the people. I find my first thoughts being of what kind of people were and are the natives of this land.”
Timothy chuckled and turned to James. “What say you, my son. Your best friend is Esselen. What do you think of him?”
James looked the governor directly in the eyes. “My best friend is one of the most honest and faithful men I have known. Everything his mother, father, and family taught him has been taken away by we newcomers. Before us, they had nothing to clad themselves in but paint and skins. They struggled day to day just to find food to keep hunger pangs from their stomachs. They almost never fought one another and did not travel more than one day's journey from this place.”
James sucked in a deep breath before continuing. “David has learned our ways in an amazing fashion. He still cannot decipher our lettering and only knows to count on his fingers and toes. But, his faith in our religious teachings is deep and firm and I believe he would lay down his life for the friars.”
What is this I have read that the natives lie, steal, fornicate without restraint, and cannot be trusted?”
Timothy answered that. “Governor, one must understand that the people of this land lived in a most childish manner. They had no standards but those of the animals around them. Few lived with a single mate. All sought out and took what they needed to survive. The things we were taught from childhood were strange and even difficult for them. But, the friars have dedicated their lives to not only bring them to The Word of God, but the very industries we now have that gives their lives some freedom from hunger and disease.”
The governor perked up. “Aha. Disease. What about that? It appears they die in large numbers from the diseases we bring them.”
Timothy sighed. He then told Don Pablo of Jaime and his history. “Even though it was most likely smallpox that wiped out his entire tribe, my brother knows full well that just as many of his cousins died from diseases already here in this land. Here in the Californias, we were both surprised at how many healthy plants there are that the local healers do not know or use. In many cases, the curanderas y curanderos are Mestizos who brought healing methods from Mexico or learned what to use here.”
And the friars are very good healers. What they did not learn at the apostolic college, they have learned here. They share everything with one another.”
Time had passed and the governor realized they needed to take the remainder of the catch to Carmel. “We will talk another time, Englishman.”
Timothy bristled. “I am a Californian, Don Pablo. As are my sons and daughters and nieces and nephews.”
The governor, taken aback, apologized and rose, thanking them as he turned to walk uphill into the garrison.
What was that all about?” James and his father asked each other before returning to their boats.
During the evening meal, they reported the incident to the family.
He also came upon me when I went to the presidio to tutor the junior officers, sergeants, and corporals. He sat through the class and then took me aside, asking about how I came to be the teacher here and what it would take to initiate similar schools at the other presidios and pueblos.
Úrsula, his wife, perked up, a quizzical look on her Indian face. Nobody needed to ask to understand she wondered about the possible need of moving away.
I do not think he will order me somewhere else, mi esposa. He may just ask me to travel to other garrisons to determine who would be qualified to do as I.” He then added, “And, he just might seek to recruit a teacher from Guadalajara or the City of Mexico.”
And, as always, Rubio had news from far away. He often received lengthy letters from friends in the City of Mexico, many other scholars who had learned of his efforts of teaching in such a far-away and isolated place.
It is reported that the Corsican Corporal was defeated by an English duke at a large battle. He was forced to abdicate and sent into exile on some isolated island called Elba. A Bourbon royal was invited to take the French throne and called himself Louis the Eighteenth.”
What did our King Ferdinand do about that?”
Rubio turned to James and replied, “What else could he do. He congratulated his cousin and turned the court to seeking ways to recover from the great deal of money spent at Napoleon's orders.”
But interesting news comes from The Holy See.”
All turned to Padre Juncosa who had joined them for the meal.
We have learned that His Holiness, Pope Pius the Seventh has decreed, Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum that the Society of Jesus all over the world has been reestablished. This means they may return to Rome from Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he had allowed them to exist.”
It is a shame Don Fernando did not survive to learn that,” Timothy said. “He never quite accepted the Society being ousted from the New World. He once told me that everything he was he owed to the Society.”
James understood the elders had well known the once governor and military commandant of Baja California.
The governor is going to travel to San Francisco. He wishes to inspect the presidio there as well as both Villa de Branciforte and San José. The captain is sending me with the escort. I have wondered whether you might like to accompany us, James?”
James beamed at Felipe's invitation. He also laughed when his son, George, begged to go along to.
I can ride and you know I can care for the horses and mules, Poppi.”
Felipe and James both chuckled. Goyo was a young man with a wife and two children. They however, never thought of him as the adventurous type as he spent his time in the gardens and orchards of the family lands. His two sons followed suit and were known for the large and tasty fruits and vegetables they grew. They also had extensive herbal gardens and many of their flowering plants adorned the mission gardens.
When he heard of the pending journey, David indicated his desire to join them.
But, you have never traveled far from here, except in our boat.”
Si, mi amigo, that is true. But, perhaps it is time for me to see more of my land.”
Thus, early two mornings later, James, Goyo, and David rode from Carmel to the presidio in time to watch the governor's escort form up. An even bigger surprise was finding Rubio fully dressed as a Soldado de Cuera, next to Corporal Aceves, the head of the governor's escort.
His Excellency ordered me to accompany him for the purpose of determining what might be necessary to establish schools in the various sites.”
They rode north along the shores, skirting the tallest of the sand dunes, nearing the farming pueblo known as Willow Place. The inhabitants saw the group approach and gathered to welcome the new governor. All knew James from his many stops there to drop off fish.
The governor commented upon three Ohlone families, smiling when he learned they had come to the town on their own to be taught how to farm and raise animals. The people had helped the friars erect a chapel, an Asistencia. The governor was most impressed with their industriousness and asked what he could do to help them.
There is little more we can ask for, Señor Gubanador,” Señor Catano replied. “We sell our surplus to the presidio and receive script so we can purchase what we need from the missions.”
And you do not feel you need protection from the savages?”
Catano smiled. “We know of no savages, as you call them, governor, here in this place. All are our brethren and we trade freely.”
They reached Misión Soledad by late afternoon and the governor commented about what a dry and windy place it was.
Dry it may be, Señor Gubanador,” Padre Sarria responded. “But, we have already been flooded out once and had to move some distance uphill. The original site was there,” he said, pointing about three hundred paces down the slope.
James could not help but notice there was no wall around a compound. The chapel constructed of pine stood amidst other wooden structures that served to house the shops and homes of the soldiers and their families. A large colonnade surrounded the chapel with a large central plaza in which stood a large structure of poles with a thatch roof. From the benches and tables, it was easy to see it served as a central dining facility.
After evening prayers and meal, the governor and Padre Sarria met while the escort quickly set up the governor's tent and their own smaller ones. James, Goyo, and David found a soft, sandy area in which to light their fire and settle in for the night. Even as a chill wind came down from the hills to the east, they snuggled into their thick woolen blankets woven at the mission.
Father, why does the el Camino Real not go directly from mission to mission?”
That not only caught James by surprise, but the rest as well.
Rubio answered the question, the governor paying close attention as he did. “From what I have read and your grandfather and great uncle have said, it was a matter of not being able to find the Bay of Monte Rey as it had been described by early explorers.” He went on to explain how scouts had gone both north and south without finding what they sought. “It did the same with Misión Santa Cruz y Santa Clara. They struggled north along the coast in search of the big bay and only marked the spot for Misión Santa Clara on their way back south.”
I was most impressed with a sergeant named Ortega when I read the expedition diaries,” the governor said. “He led his scouts without hesitation and performed his duties in an exemplary manner.”
It is most sad that he was so often lacking in his ability to keep records and send reports,” Rubio interjected. “It was only when he had been promoted to lieutenant that it was discovered he could neither read nor write nor do sums.”
That is why I am so concerned with establishing schools for our youth,” Don Pablo responded. “And that is why I am having you promoted to sergeant, Corporal Mateo. Your efforts at teaching the children – as well as the soldiers – is one of the most important tasks if California is to truly be a bulwark against the king's enemies.”
The reached Villa de Branciforte and the governor wrinkled his nose – as did the rest of the members of the expedition. In spite of all the efforts of previous governor to have the town built in accordance with los Reglamentos, it was nothing but a haphazard muddle of poorly-built structures with animals running loose through the streets and rotting garbage lying in the open. A man wearing dirty, ragged clothes stepped forward and introduced himself.
I am Alcalde Francisco Castro, at your service, gentlemen.”
What have you to say for yourself? For this miserable collection of hovels? This is certainly not a place of pride and conscience.”
The mayor was taken aback by the tone of derision in the governor's voice.
Before he could stutter a response, the governor turned his horse and spurred it to cross the river. A friar waited for them, a corporal at his side. The number of Gentiles was noticeable must less than at Misión Soledad.
Corporal Aceves saluted while Padre Barranza signed his blessings to the newcomers. “You are Governor de Solá?” the friar asked. After blessing the governor, Padre Barranza turned to James and David. “It is good to see you both. But it is most unusual not to see you in your boat.”
James and David always enjoyed the happy manner of the friar. The fact that so many of his disciples had wilted away into the forest to the north or fell to the lure of alcoholic aguardiente of the pueblo had not dimmed his good humor.
The corporal proudly showed the governor the housing and small armory in the mission compound, his escort doing their best to appear professional in their makeshift uniforms, most patched and re-patched by wives and the mission tailor.
How long has it been since you received any pay, corporal?” The governor shook his head when he learned no pay had been received for at least five years.
But the friars provide us with just about anything we need, Señor Gubanador. Our only shortage is in lead for bullets, powder, and parts for our muskets and pistols. El Comandante at el Presidio de San Francisco tries to provide what we require.”
James and David both struggled to hide their grins when they entered the compound and saw Padre Quintana rise from the flower bed. They knew he refused to leave the compound since a mob of disciples hurled stones at him for beating an eight-year-old. They also knew he had repeatedly pleaded to be allowed to return to the seminary, but had been denied due to a severe lack of friars. They then knelt in the chapel and said rosaries near the spot where Padre Santa Bárbara lay buried beneath the floor.
These are far more impressive than I imagined. We saw them from afar on the voyage to Monte Rey, but they take one's breath away close up.”
James had seen the towering red wood trees all of his life, so the governor's reaction to them during their next leg of the journey over the hills to the Valley of the River Guadalupe caught him by surprise. They are indeed awesome, he thought, craning his neck to see their tops seemingly in the clouds.
Padre Catalá and Corporal Higuera met them outside the temporary compound at Misión Santa Clara. Disciples toiled to clear the rubble from the earlier site even so many months since the massive earthquakes.
We have moved the mission to this site the Gentiles call Gurguensun,” the friar explained. He pointed around at the massive live oaks and explained, “It means the valley of the oaks in their tongue.” He also added that they were also trying to raise the new structures on higher ground as the previous site was also subject to flooding.
David gasped and James caught his breath when a giant of a man wearing the gray robes of a friar moved their way. In spite of his height and girth, Padre Viader had a gentle visage with a bright smile and twinkling eyes.
The disciples fear the gentle father,” Corporal Higuera whispered to them. “He was once attacked by drunken bullies from the town. He tried to warn them to cease but, when they did not, he beat them badly.” He then shook his head and added, “He then called for a disciple to bring his medicines and did what he could to ease their aches and pains. The word has spread far and wide that the Padre is not one to be trifled with.”
The governor spent some time huddled with the friars as they showed him their plans for a newer, bigger, and more ornate chapel. Piles of adobe bricks and roofing tiles showed where efforts were underway to provide building materials. They were joined by piles of lumber laboriously hewed from the giant trees in the hills to the west.
The governor made the trip to the nearby pueblo de San José, a bit more pleased with that than the previous. A man came forward to introduce himself as Señor Francisco Amézquita. “I am a ayuntamiento and one of the original pobladores, Señor Gubanador. I came here from Sonora with Governor de Anza.”
As it was a farming community, de Solá was less displeased than with Branciforte.
The next morning, they crossed the river and traveled northeast. James knew that Misión Dolores was to the north and a bit west and puzzled at their direction. It did not take long to determine why as they entered a lush valley to see the bright white stucco walls of a mission compound.
It is Misión San José, Corporal Aceves explained. “It too is a mission some distance afar from a direct line on the King's Highway.”
Padres Amador and Barcenilla came forth to greet them, surrounded by a large gathering of disciples.
It is good to greet you once again,” James told Corporal Lugo. “It has been some time since you served with the escolta at Misión San Carlos.”
Lugo grinned. “It indeed has, Jaime. And my wife has given me fine sons and daughters since we last met.”
James grinned at the corporal's use of his Spanish name like his uncle.
Once again, the friars escorted the governor into the compound while Corporal Lugo led the others to the stables and showed them where they would spend the night. Surprisingly, a large room with cots served as a place for visitors to rest, even though Lugo admitted they had almost no visitors.
As the bells rang for evening prayers, another gray-robed figure walked toward the mission from the hills to the east. Corporal Aceves scowled as friars were not supposed to leave the missions unless escorted by at least two soldiers.
Oh, that is Padre Durán. He was ministering to a Yokut family north of here. No matter how hard we try,” Corporal Lugo explained, “he does everything possible to stop any of us traveling with him. He says it shows the Gentiles a lack of faith in The Lord and his trust in them.”
James and David both had heard stories of the friar who had spent endless days without food or sleep in eighteen hundred and six ministering to disciples felled by sarampión, the disease they had no defense against. Unfortunately, far too many natives fell to the scourge of measles in many missions.
The deference the disciples showed the friar indicated their deep and abiding love for him.
After introductions, the friar led them into the chapel and showed them to pews near the niche of the Virgin of Guadalupe, while he went into the vestry to prepare himself for the rite.
James could not take his eyes from the altar. Its features included a painting of Christ suffering on the cross, a statue of Saint Joseph, and two carved figures: a dove representing the Holy Spirit, and, at the top, God the Father surrounded with detailed golden rays. He could not miss the various statues carved of wood, all bearing traces of things taught the carvers by Uncle Jaime.
The evening meal was well-prepared and quite tasty. The visitor's especially enjoyed the goat's milk and butter.
James, David, and Goyo took a long walk, gazing upon the orchards, fields, and gardens.
In spite of storms, the earthquakes, and illnesses, I have yet to see a mission that is not productive,” James commented. “Some more than others. But, the fathers always work strenuously, not only to educate the natives in the manners of the church, but those things necessary to make each a self-sufficient place. What would it be like without the fathers?”
My people would know not what to do and the missions would fall to ruin.”
Goyo turned to his father's best friend with a quizzical look. “Why say you that, uncle? Have not your brethren learned all the skills they need?”
Because, Goyo, they will never have the dedication and self-control to do things as the fathers show us. They will try to go back to the way things once were before you Spanish arrived. Sadly, they can never go back.”

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