Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, February 25, 2017


End of 1822 – Major Changes Coming

Margarita did not hesitate to agree to go to the Cove of the Sea Lions with her husband – and children. She had to strongly caution Luis and Imelda not to say anything to their friends.

The family spent three days gathering the things they needed to take with them. They did not bother with furnishings, knowing they could make what they needed in the cove. Other than clothing, utensils, and tools, George and Imelda, who was happily following her father in the garden, carefully gathered plants and seeds they wished to have with them. They decided to take a donkey, a milch cow, a pregnant Nanny goat, an even more pregnant sow, and chickens. They knew they could find the rest of what they needed to survive in la Cala de los Lobos Marinos.

Very early one morning, with James and Teresa Marta to help, they took their meager belongings and livestock in a handcart down to the dock. The Queen's crew expected them and gave a hand loading them aboard the sloop.

Even with a light mist, they had no problem finding the cove. The donkey, cow, and goat swam to the beach and it took three trips to ferry the remainder of the goods ashore. Everything was then taken into the small valley. They had not decided a name for it other than Lions of the Sea Cove. James and Teresa Marta wanted to stay to help their children settle in but George and Margarita insisted it was unnecessary.

When Padre Suria asked where George and his family were that evening and why they had not attended Mass, James told him they had taken a trip to break from their daily routine. He did not like lying to the priest, but felt he had no choice.

Fortunately, Mateo brought up a subject of interest to all – secularization of the missions. “I have heard the president guardian has received an order from the guardian of the Apostolic College of San Fernando. What is that about, reverend father?”

Padre Suria winced, clearly uncomfortable.

Timothy spoke up to give the friar a chance to gather his thoughts. “From the very beginning, Mateo, the goal was to prepare the Gentiles to operate the missions by themselves. That is everything Reverend Father Serra planned. It was a goal set by the viceroy and the court in Madrid.”

We have never desired the missions for ourselves,” Padre Suria added. “A number of inquiries have come from Mexico City and Madrid about when we think the disciples will be ready to assume for themselves the operation of the missions.”

And they never will be,” David muttered.

That caught all their attention.

Why do you say that, my son?”

Because it is true, reverend father. Without the leadership of you Padres, my brothers will never have the discipline you do. Just look at how often you need watch over us to make certain we follow your guidance in our own homes and lives.”

And you, my son? You are the same?”

David lowered his head and nodded. He then looked up and said, “I have my brother James to help me do what is needed. And, my family and I have you, reverend father, and the other padres to show us the way. You are our parents. Our spiritual and worldly leaders. What would we do without you?”

Well, it is not a matter to worry about at this time, my children. President Prefect Señán and Governor Sola received word from the bishop that the decree has not been enforced elsewhere and that we California friars may remain at our posts. The governor also did not receive such orders from the viceroy and will do what he is ordered to do when the time comes.”

Who was the Mexican official at the presidio in September?”

His name was Agustin Fernandez de San Vicente,” Felipe explained, “sent by the emperor to learn the feelings of we Californians about independence. He found nothing to alarm him and returned to Mexico to so inform the emperor.”

Excuse me, reverend father, but did I not hear that Padre Señán is no longer president guardian of the missions?”

Padre Suria turned to Mateo and nodded. “He has been appointed Prefecto Apostolico by the archbishop in accordance with instructions from Rome.” He then explained that, as there were not enough followers at the missions of California to be headed by a bishop, it was considered a missionary arm of the church. “It changes none of his duties or responsibilities. It only means that he will be called Prefecto for the remainder of his life. Even if another one of us is elected to fill the position.”

Will that not be awkward, having two prefects at the same time?”

Padre Suria smiled. “We will deal with that when the time comes, my children.”

James and Marta Teresa found it difficult to not see George or Imelda working in the gardens. However, his brother Alberto took over with the help of David's son Demecio.


What is the construction over there?”

David glanced where James pointed. “Oh, that is a building the new Englishmen are erecting to house some sort of business the governor has approved.”

James nodded. Word had spread of the arrival of the two Englishmen, not only at Monte Rey but Carmel. “Macala and Arnel,” he said. David nodded and James turned his attention to bringing The Queen to the quay in front of the presidio. He was surprised to find several off-duty soldiers doing something at the end of the pier. When he asked Private Gutierrez what they were doing, he responded that the Englishmen were paying them to prepare to extend and expand the pier so trading ships could moor at the shore to unload.

Just then, a man wearing unusual clothing with a strangely formed hat, strode onto the quay and came up to where James, David, and the crew were unloading fish for the presidio. “You are the master fishermen from Carmel?” he asked in accented Spanish.

Yes, sir, we are,” James replied in his best English. “I am James Beadle and my father, Timothy, is the well-known Englishman who came here with Governor Portolá and Reverend Father Serra.”

I am most pleased to meet you. My name is William Hartnell and I am a representative of the shipping firm, Hartnell, McCulloch, and Company. We have been generously granted a license to trade for tallow and hides here in California.”

James apologized for not returning the man's European style handshake, opening his hands to show them covered with fish scales and oils. “My father told me that he wishes to meet you when he and you can find the time.”

Hartnell hastened to reply that he knew of Jame's father and also wished to speak with him. “My partner and I plan to conduct a great amount of business here and wish to know what to expect and perhaps seek your father's help in doing so.”

I will tell my father when we return to Carmel.” After a pause, he asked, “May I ask what you are building?”

It will be our office and storehouse,” Hartnell replied. “I have hired the two American sailors who left ship here to help me build it. Your Father Martinez generously sold the timber to us from mission stores.”

James withheld a chuckle, knowing that timber had comes from stores provided by his uncle Jaime and the rough mill he had overseen upstream on the Carmel River.

Hartnell made some comments about the seaworthiness of The Queen and also asked if James would sell him some of the catch.

I think it would be better, Señor Hartnell, if you arrange to buy fish from the presidio. They certainly can use the funds.”

Hartnell smiled and watched as the crew finished unloading the fish and returned to the boat. James bowed slightly and leaped into the boat. “I will tell my father of your desires, Señor.”

He did so when he next saw his father. Timothy responded that he would make it a point to go into Monte Rey that very afternoon and suggested James join him.

Nicolas Chavarria and Thomas Doak, both Americans living in Monte Rey, stopped working when Timothy and James rode up to the construction site, doffing their caps to welcome the visitors. One of them called out and a man at the back of the site rose from studying something and came to greet the arrivals.

My name is Hugh McCulloch. You must be the Englishman we have heard so much about. A leading member of the California society.”

James glanced at his father, surprised by the strange accent in the man's English.

Seeing the glance, McCulloch chuckled and explained, “I am not from England, young man, My home was once in the bonnie braes of Scotland. That was some years ago but I have not yet learned to overcome my brogue.” He also explained that is why the non-English speakers called him Macala. “They are unable to pronounce my name. It is also why they call my partner, William, Arnel.”

He invited them to lead their horses around to the tent behind the construction site where he and his partner lived while their new house was being constructed. “I appreciate the substance of the sun-dried brick structures here, but find I prefer the simpler buildings made of wood.”

We have built our compound as a mixture of both,” Timothy replied, taking the canvas chair proffered. James took the chair next to him. Both accepted a tankard of lightly brewed beer McCulloch offered them.

I must apologize for it not being up to English standards. But, it is certainly smoother than the fiery stuff many Californians prefer. I believe they call it tequila.”

Timothy and James laughed. “We also prefer beer at home, along with some light wines provided by the mission.”

Hartnell arrived just them and happily pulled up a seat, also taking a tankard of beer. They spent several turns of the hourglass talking about life in Spanish California and the endless delays they would face in the administrative morass of government rules and regulations. They only ended when bells from the presidio chapel announced that evening prayers were not far off.

I feel they may be an addition to the community,” Timothy told his son. “However, there is something about Hartnell that seems slightly askew.”

His personality seems somewhat shallow. Is that it, father?”

Timothy nodded and they loped across the hills to their home. Both chuckled when one of the Spaniards passed them at full gallop. “They never ride their mounts less than a full gallop, do they?”

Felipe once asked me why I felt they should. When I responded that it was to give the horse a rest, he laughed and said they could rest when he was finished with it. There are so many horses available, it is easy to find a fresh one when the one he is riding tires.”


Once again, The Family was called upon to help out when the governor asked them to sail north to San Francisco. Father Prefect Señán explained, “We have permission to change Visita San Rafael to mission status. The governor and I wish to be there and feel it wise to go by sea. When can you be ready to take us?”

The decision was made to voyage in the sloop San Carlos as it was more spacious than The Queen. Governor Argüello arrived with his escort, but three of them remained behind so as to not overload the boat. As always, Father Prefect Señán came with Pablo following.

Summer fogs had passed so the sloop left the dock with Father Sun brightly shining down upon her. Light breezes filled the sails and Captain Pedro headed well out to sea before turning north and west. Gulls and terns circled overhead, their shrill cries filling the air as they demanded the strange creature below spew forth its usual rain of fish heads.

Governor Argüello and Father Prefect Señán stood together on the quarter deck while Jame shinnied up the rope ladder to perch in the crow's nest. When not required to navigate, it was his favorite spot aboard any ship.

As always James gazed upon a frigate bird following the ship, remembering the times when the bigger Albatross had accompanied them. He also smiled at the swirling circles of gulls, terns, and petrels. Several vees of pelicans skimmed the roiling surface below which teemed schools of fish.

The Farallones appeared well before midday and Captain Pedro expertly entered the narrows, lifting and lowering the red, white, and green flag at the mast. The presidio responded with the same salute, followed by waving of several soldiers, one of them an officer. Through his spyglass, James recognized the officer as Lieutenant Moraga.

Sail away!”

James had been tempted to make the call but gladly permitted the regular lookout to do so. It was clearly the schooner Santana crossing the strait from Misión San Francisco. The two craft grew near one another just abreast of la Isla Alcatraz and continued north to the cove where San Rafael was located.

Instead of Padre Gil, who had been sent to Misión San Gabriel, Padre Juan Amorós awaited them at the small dock. It could not accommodate both sloops so Captain Pedro took The Queen in first and, as soon as the party was ashore, backed off the let the sloop tie up. Captain Sal met them, saluting the governor.

Unlike every other mission James had seen, Misión San Rafael Arcángel had no quadrangle. The escolta was housed in several mud-daubed huts, their wives and children turned out in the best clothes for the ceremony.

James immediately noted a grave marker embellished with the royal crest and was told by the corporal, “That is where Don Jose Ramon Lasso de la Vega is buried. He was an excellent school master and all of our children learned the basics from him.”

Yes, so Mateo told me. He was always impressed with Don de la Vega's drive to teach.” He then stepped back a bit, bringing the corporal with him. “What of Padre Amorós? I have not heard much about him.”

Corporal Lugo hid a grin with his hand. “El Padre is a most forceful man. He is a most zealous and energetic man who daily shows the disciples a more industrious way of life. He often make life most difficult for us by disappearing far into the forest in search of new converts.” The corporal grinned even wider. “And, he always brings back one or two with him.”

The soon-to-be-mission had grown since James had last seen it. The main building made out of rough-hewn redwood and pine was forty by ninety feet in floor area, divided into the chapel with star windows, a hospital, storeroom and cells for the Friar and visitors. In addition to patients still housed in the open-air hospital rooms, a small pueblo held the more than one thousand disciples and their families.

James and the other visitors were awed when Padre Amorós showed them a water clock he had built. “My children still do not understand the concept of marking time, but this makes it easier for me to know when the various prayers are to be said.”

Every other mission and presidio kept time by the ancient sundial.

Gardens and fields provided food for the growing population; corn, wheat, rye and other crops ready for harvest. Milch and beef cattle grazed upon lush grasses alongside horses, donkey, and some mules. A flock of sheep was kept apart from the other livestock due to their tendency to chew grasses down to their roots.

The ceremony of sanctifying the mission was simple. President Prefect Señán walked around the chapel and then the grounds swinging a censor to drive away evil spirits, followed by Padre Amorós and three disciple assistants. Once the act of cleansing was finished, President Prefect Señán read a document declaring that Asistencia San Rafael Arcángel was now a full mission. That was followed by a regular Mass.

As President Prefect Señán wished to stay the night, Governor Argüello boarded the Santana to return to the presidio with Captain Sal. It was, after all, where he had lived and worked before being elected acting governor of Upper California.

After enjoying a good evening meal and attending Mass, James and the crew returned to The Queen to bed down for the night. James struggled to find sleep as he missed the presence of Teresa Marta.


The pulled up against the Santana very early the next morning, a heavy mist covering the hills and glens. Governor Argüello had sent Lieutenant Moraga to invite the president guardian and James to join him on the overland journey back to Monte Rey.”

He said the new mission has been completed at Santa Clara and they are going to bless and dedicate them on the way back.”

James didn't hesitate, asking Alberto, his first mate, to give the message to his wife upon his return to Carmel. Lieutenant Moraga led him up to the presidio where the governor and his escort waited, an extra pair of horses ready.

On the ride to the mission, James noticed more jacals built by Miwok who had gathered close to the mission to partake of the benefits it offered. He also noted more substantial fishing boats off the mouth of the creek.

Governor Argüello awaited them and mounted his steed as soon as they arrived. “I felt you would wish to see the results of the efforts by Padres Catalá and Viader. I have been told their efforts have given us a chapel of great beauty and a compound that is both sturdy and industrial.”

James had no doubt of that as word had spread throughout the missions of Padre Catalá's piety and dedication. Also, Padre Viader was a legend for his size and strength – along with his good nature. It was said he could conduct Mass with laughter in his voice.

They easily reached the mission by early evening and were welcomed by both friars, along with the mayordomo and the lead disciple. The escort led their animals away to be attended to as the party entered the new chapel for Mass.

The building and its interior was most impressive. While not the most ornate, it had high ceilings with many windows allowing light to enter, although hundreds of candles provided plenty of light. Four alcoves provided places to plea for the favor of saints most important to the disciples, to include one for the Virgin of Guadalupe. The pews lining both sides of the center aisle were built in the clear influence of Uncle Jaime and James smiled at the kneelers so the worshipers did not have to kneel on the hard tiled floor. And these floors can become quite cold, he told himself.

The president guardian had been asked to conduct Mass but demurred, kneeling in the alcove of Saint Joseph, whipping his back in self-punishment, drawing blood that always made James feel queasy upon seeing it. He had grown up watching the friars doing that to themselves and knew, without a doubt, that his beliefs were not strong enough to endure such torture.

Meals were always served after Mass so the visitors enjoyed the evening meal with the congregation in the new public area inside the compound. Governor Argüello ate at the table with the off-duty members of the escolta, the corporal beaming.

James turned down the invitation to spend the night in the mayordomo's house as he did not wish to displace any of that man's family. Instead, he settled his blanket on a thick pile of fresh straw just inside the door of the stables so he could fall asleep gazing up at the star-studded sky.

All rose well before dawn to attend prayers and the initiation of the cleansing of the compound of evil spirits. Father President Prefect Señán led the ceremonies, going in an out of every nook and cranny of the compound to let the smoke of incense waft everywhere. The Mass that followed was a bit lengthier than usual due to all the special prayers offered to the patron saints of the animals and the various trades that made the mission produce the benefits from God Almighty, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

James fingered a small wooden icon of San Nicolas in his jacket pocket, the patron saint of sailors, and closed his eyes, thanking the saint for his intercession that brought about the bounties enjoyed by he and The Family. He then cringed, realizing it had been too long since his last confession. Hopefully, Reverend Father Suria will forgive me, he thought.

Later, as the governor and president prefect met with Padre Catalá, James went to the plaza and found a seat under one of the giant oak trees. Padre Viader surprised him when he came and sat his ample body down next to him.

So you are the son of the famed White Ocelot, my son?”

The friar's question caught James by surprise. “How did you hear that name, reverend father? I know you have not been in California for many years.”

The friar's belly laugh did not surprise the nearby disciples or the musicians and singers. “Your father and uncle are quite famous amidst us, my son. They played an important part in the history of this territory.”

And you, reverend father, are the bear who brings fear to all who would threaten your flock.”

Once again, the friar's laugh turned the heads of many with broad grins. It was clear they loved the man and enjoyed hearing his good humor.

Instead of bedding down in the stable, James wandered a bit away from the plaza to bed down beneath another ancient live oak. One of the mission's dogs had taken to him and curled up a few feet away, its tail thumping when James softly spoke to it as he had with all the various dogs that had been his companions throughout his life. Being away from home allowed him to reflect on the three animals there, descendants from the very first puppy that had adopted him so long before.

They departed early the next morning and reached Misión Soledad by early afternoon. Another day's travel to reach Misión Santa Cruz where the Carlita awaited. “Why are you still here?” he asked Seagull. “Did you not take the day's catch back?”

Seagull lowered his head. “La Señora felt you would be here today and sent us to await your arrival.” He chuckled and added, “She appeared most displeased at your being away for so long.”

Even though Padre Barranza invited him to stay in one of the cells set aside for visitors and Corporal Aceves asked him to stay with he and his family, James politely thanked them and bunked down on the deck of the ship he had grown up on.

Nobody was surprised to see a familiar figure standing on the dock, elbows akimbo, waiting for their arrival mid-morning the next day. After a kiss and warm embrace, Maria Teresa bent her back to help unload the catch as if the Carlita had just sailed that morning.

Everybody wanted to hear Jame's description of the blessing of Misión San Rafael and what the new construction was like at Misión Santa Clara. Padre Suria especially enjoyed Jame's description of Padre Viader. “I am told the disciples adore him,” he said.

After Padre Suria left for prayers and Mateo went home, the subject turned to George and Margarita.

Does anyone know how they are doing?”

Quite well,” Jame's father said. “We sailed down there yesterday in The Queen with some more tools, supplies, and animals. They have completed a comfortable home with large windows to enjoy the breezes and are in the midst of starting on the irrigation channels. Margarita has prepared enclosures for the animals for when they finish the day's foraging. So far, their only concern has been a family of foxes they must keep away from the chickens. She was most pleased when we brought both of their dogs.”

James smiled, reaching down to rub the ears of the pooch curled up at his feet. He reminded him very much of Alan, his very first. “Has anyone been asking about them?” He sighed with relief when it appeared everyone, including the friars, believed their story.

The year ended on a dark note with more news from Mexico.