Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Monday, January 16, 2017


1815 – Visiting the Friar's Hospital

In order to reach Misión San Francisco, they had to return to Misión Santa Clara. The journey from there passed quickly and they once again encountered the tall trees of red wood near the bay shore, a boon for those building things as it reduced the distance they needed to haul the wood.

Towering tules grew everywhere along the shore of the bay, with huge flocks of waterfowl feeding among them. They also saw good numbers of deer and antelope. At least the huge grizzled bears had learned the new, strange four-legged creatures passing among them were to be avoided.

I remember my fears well of those osos pardo that came among us and took what they wished. We had no defense against them. We could not even run faster than they.”

James nodded at his friend's comments. While there were predators in the land, none was more feared than the grizzled bears.

As they neared the mission, Corporal Aceves pointed to the lagoon and said, “That is the lagoon, Governor de Anza named Laguna de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, which is why so many call the mission Misión Dolores instead of Misión San Francisco.”

One of the soldiers chuckled and added, “And that is La Ensenada de los Llorones.”

All stared at him and he shrugged. “I have no idea why it is called the Cove of Crying Babies.”

Nobody had an answer.

Padre Abella and Corporal Alviso greeted them. Bells rang to announce evening prayers so they tethered their animals and followed the friar into the chapel. James gazed around, wondering how each chapel could be so different. The chapel at Misión San Francisco de Asis had the usual high walls with windows cut just below the ceiling. But, the walls were covered in beautiful murals of what the Gentiles imagined the stories told by the friars were. In addition, the entire ceiling was decorated with beautiful patterns. And, in the nave, ornate niches rose near the ceiling in honor of The Blessed Virgin and Saint Francisco. And, of course, the altar's beauty showed great honor to Dear Jesus on The Cross.

The chapel's pews in any other chapel would have been filled with disciples. But those at Misión Dolores were not. There had to be twenty empty benches.

Later, during the meal, James asked Corporal Alviso about it.

We have a serious problem in our disciples leaving here. It is not due to anything cruel the fathers do, just that they do not like have to work here – the men that is. The women and girls work very hard and happily take to things that provide security to themselves and their families.” He paused, then added, “And there was a band of Yokuts living near the Carquines Strait named for the Karkin band who lived there, who constantly came here to the mission to assault those who came to the church and accepted The Lord Jesus. Sixteen of our disciples were killed by these savages.”

The corporal related the story of how he and sixteen presidials had followed then Alférez Moraga around the south end of the bay, then north to the straits. “We were met by over a hundred very angry Gentiles who fired their arrows and threw their spears at us. Some of the men were slightly wounded and three pack mules were felled. But, we managed to chase them off without inflicting more than minor wounds. We captured eighteen of them.”

Why did you not kill them?” David asked. “They sought to kill you.”

James was a bit surprised by the brutality in his friend's voice.

Because we followed the wishes of the friars. They felt if we killed them, it would cause disciples to flee the mission and prevent others from coming to seek The Word of God.

We did inflict severe wounds on many,” he continued. “The eighteen we took were all seriously wounded and, without a friar or doctor, we had no way to tend to them. We finally left them, hoping their own healers would be able to do something.”

One of the disciples spoke up, most unusual as they almost never spoke to the soldiers. “Three of the wounded managed to get to Misión San José where el Padre tended to them. We hear they stayed to listen to el Padre and were baptized.”

Corporal Alviso looked at the disciple, then thanked him for the information. “We are soldiers and, as the honorable Captain Rivera taught us, our responsibility is to protect this land, the fathers, and those who have come to The Word of The Lord. We are to kill when there is no other choice. But, the good captain also taught us that mercy is always rewarded.”

What the corporal has not told you, my children, is that the report that went to the City of Mexico went further to Madrid.” All turned at Padre Abella's voice. “His Catholic Majesty ordered Don José be promoted to lieutenant and the presidials who took part to have their pay increased.”

Which is still most slow in coming,” Corporal Alviso muttered so low only James heard him.

They departed early the next morning to inspect the presidio. The first thing James noted were the four creeks coming down from the hill to enter small inlets on the shore of the bay. “The one over there is called la Manantial del Polin,” Corporal Aceves told them. “The local Miwok believe it has magical properties. If a married woman drinks from the spring, especially on a full moon, she will have twins or a lot of children.” He then slightly turned his head so the friar could not hear him and added, “It is also said that if a man drinks from it on a full moon, he will be able to service many women.”

James was not impressed by the presidio. It was a square made of three adobe walls with the fourth of brush. While all the buildings were adobe, most had tule roofs. The chapel, a large building, and the armory had tile roofs. When Goyo asked why the stucco on the buildings was so white, he was told it was due to being made from crushed seashells.

Captain Sal, Lieutenant Moraga, and Alférez Lujan awaited them in the center yard. While they escorted the governor into the commandant's quarters, Sergeant Lugo showed the others to the stables with a rush roof so they could care for their animals, even though their stay would only be brief.

I appears you have sufficient water nearby,” James commented.

The sergeant whose uncle and three brothers also served as presidials agreed. “We have el Riachuelo de los Lobos over there, he said, pointing to the east, “and el Riachuelo de las Libélula over there,” he said pointing to the west. It was not hard to guess from whence the name came as they could easily see clouds of dragonflies flitting around among the reeds in the salt marsh where it emptied into the bay.

I am curious at to why the garrison is not bigger. Or with larger walls.”

It is because we do not have enough soldiers or Gentiles to perform the work. If the soldiers are not on guard, they are acting as couriers or performing farm chores in order to help us grow food.”

Perhaps the governor has the connections to have more leatherjackets assigned here to California.”

We have been hearing those things for so long, we can no longer believe them. Just as we have not received our pay or that the pay we have received is not as promised by His Majesty.”

The subdued anger in the sergeant's voice was clear to all.

It did not take long before the group emerged from the headquarters. Mounts were quickly readied and they rode down to the shore, then east to a point that seemed to be at the narrowest point of the entrance to the bay.

A true fortress-like construction stood there. Made of heavy boulders with four ravelins, there were six large cannon like those carried aboard naval vessels. Each appeared to be well-protected and a series of stone buildings filled the interior.

Instead of soldados de cuera, the officer who came out to meet them wore a different uniform that Sergeant Lugo told them was from the Royal Artillery Corps. The others all wore naval uniforms.

It is el Castillo de San Joaquin,” Sergeant Lugo explained. “It was started in seventeen ninety-four and has received most of the supplies and armaments here. Someone feels it is to be the strongest defensive point in all the Californias.”

Well, it certainly is more impressive than San Diego, Santa Bárbara, y Monte Rey,” James responded. “Who do the sailors report to?”

Sergeant Lugo explained they nominally reported to Captain Sal, but were actually under the governor's direct orders.

The only problem with the gun emplacement that James could see was its distance from fresh water, the nearest stream well over three hundred paces away. He also noticed there were no mounts or gardens. He learned they gathered most of their meat from water fowl down at the water's edge.

They returned to the mission for evening prayers and meal. Once again, when David commented on so few disciples, he was told that many of them now lived across the bay at the Asistencia San Rafael. “We do not understand why they become ill here at the mission when this is the land upon which they have lived beyond memory. Once it was learned they regain their health on the northern shore, the Asistencia was founded.”

They crossed the bay in boats much smaller than the Carlita. James and David, without being told, sat down to take oars in the boat carrying the governor. “We are fishermen, Don Pablo. We have done this all of our lives.” James showed the governor the calloused palms of his hands.

The currents were most difficult, but the coxswain knew how to deal with them. They pulled ashore in a small cove with a good stream flowing into a marsh. Padre Gil awaited them on the shore, surrounded by several hundred disciples.

The party followed the friar up the hill to a small compound made of the wood of the big red trees. The church was small and plain, approximately forty feet wide and ninety feet long. The interior did not have the ornate plaques and statues as the mission and most of the sculpting was on the crude side. But, it had an impressive altar and pews for several hundred worshipers.

Padre Gil escorted them to the most important structures in the compound, four large structures made of large poles holding up very thick thatch roofs.

The sides are open to allow for the clean air to reach my patients,” Padre Gil explained. “I have spent much time with the Miwok healers and have learned of a great many plants and methods to treat my patients.”

When asked about the strange structure outside of the compound and on the other side of the stream, the friar explained it was a “sweating lodge.” “It is a most ancient rite the Gentiles have gone through for generations unknown. They heat stones and place them in a large pit in the center. There, they also boil a mixture of water and various herbs and leaves. When the lodge is filled with hot vapors, they enter unclad and sit there for a very long passage of time.”

The friar smiled. “I have tried it a number of times and am most pleased with how it fills my lungs and clears up my nose. I was also able to relax and say my Rosary with a most wondrous feeling of holiness.”

He also explained how the disciples happily repeated the friar's prayers.

Governor de Solá was most impressed with the efforts of the friar and the devotion of the disciples. “Have you shared these things with your fellow friars, reverend father?” He should have known better as the friars constantly sent letters back and forth, sharing everything they learned to bring more Gentiles into their folds and to provide for those that came to them.

What caught Jame's attention were the numerous windows in the chapel shaped like stars. He also noticed the floor was cleverly made of closely fitted smooth stones. Beside being a healer, it appears the reverend father has many other skills.

After spending the night at the Asistencia, they returned to Misión San Francisco the next day, followed by the trip back to Monte Rey and then Carmel.


I am so glad you are home, husband.”

James chuckled as Teresa Marta embraced him, a very un-Gentile thing to do. He watched Goyo's wife do the same, his two children at their feet wanting to be included.

I am most happy to be home, mi querida. I missed you, the children, and sleeping in my own bed.” He knew she would welcome him home most strenuously and smiled at the thought. Could I become a father yet again?

That evening after dinner, all the males sat on the veranda, David joining them. They listened as the three gave their impressions of where that had been and what they had seen.

Padre Juncosa pleased them all when one of the children ran to open the gate into the compound at the sound of the bell. “I meant to come sooner, my children, but was most busy administering to several ill disciples. I assume you are telling of your journey, Jaimenito?'

James grinned and explained that was exactly what they were doing.

The friar listened intently to the descriptions of the missions, especially Padre Gil's efforts at Asistencia San Rafael.

The sun set and they continued to talk beneath the light of candles in sconces on the timbers supporting the roof. Only when the ninth hour of the day was announced by a bell at the mission did Padre Juncosa rose to depart, signaling the others to do the same.

Teresa Marta welcomed her man home with a passion they had not shared for some time.

Afterward, as they lay spent tight against each other, she whispered, “Did many young girls seek to give you their favors, mi marido varonil?”

James chuckled. “Of course they did, mi querida. But none were as beautiful or attractive to me as you.”

She said nothing, holding him closer.


The governor set off a firestorm when he announced an inspection of all mail coming from Mexico. He claimed it was to ensure that rebel propaganda was not spread throughout the province.

Soldiers cared little about it as the vast majority could not read and never received letters of any kind. The officers who could, did not mind as their letters only came from relatives who they knew to be loyal to the king.

The furor arose from the friars. They had fought hard – or at least the Reverend Father President Serra had – for mail free of charge and free of government interference. Upon receiving the news, Father President Payeras departed his beloved Misión la Purísima Concepción for el Presidio Real de Monte Rey. Upon reaching it, he stormed directly into the governor's office, demanding the restriction be removed – upon threat of excommunication.

I am but following the viceroy's instruction, most reverend father,”

Felipe related the governor's response at the family's evening meal. “They discussed it at length and the president guardian finally relented, realizing it was not an order the governor might disobey.”

Felipe then gave the news the viceroy did not want spread to the provinces. “From what I overheard, the viceroy feels the situation is under control and the rebels do not have the forces to overcome the royal cavalry and artillery.”

He continued to relate how the viceroy had offered a general pardon to every rebel who laid down their arms. Most of the fighting continued among small outlying guerrilla bands who raided isolated garrisons and ranchos belonging to peninsulares. Most complained they were nothing but bandidos, seeking loot.

There are two men, Guadalupe Victoria in Puebla and Vicente Guerrero in Oaxaca, both of whom are able to command allegiance and respect from their followers. They appear to be the most serious threat to his majesty's reign. The viceroy is certain by offering the pardons, their men will come back over to our side.”

To lighten things, Rubio had some good news to relate. “Padre Arroyo at Misión San Juan Bautista had compiled an extensive vocabulary and phrase book of the Mustan language of his disciples. It has increased his and Padre Martinez' efforts to bring Gentiles to The Word of God. The father president guardian is most pleased and sent a letter to the archbishop telling him of the friar's accomplishment.”

None at the table were surprised. From their very first arrival in Upper California, the friars toiled diligently to learn the local languages so they could explain their beliefs to those curious to learn. The Reverend Father President Serra had set an example by gaining knowledge of at least thirty of the several hundred different dialects spoken in the province.

I have always wondered why my people do not freely speak with those of other clans or tribes,” David said. “We are not that far apart, but I cannot speak to the En'nesen in the Valley of Oaks just over the pass to the south of here.”

Could it be that before our fathers' arrival here so many years ago, your people never traveled more than a day's journey from where you were born?” Rubio asked. “That appears to be what I have learned by the many different tribes here in California.”

David shrugged. “At least we now have a common language in Spanish.”

Another bit of news of interest was that Reverend Father Martin had built another infirmary at Misión San Diego. “The old one was seriously damaged by the tremors and he was determined to provide a place to treat the hurt and ill, whether disciple or Gentile.”

When I was there, I was told that Padre Martin succored all and often treated the presidials for their ails.”

Timothy smiled, proud that his son had now followed him by seeing the places he and Jaime had visited with the Reverend Father President Serra and Governor Portolá.

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