Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


1820 – Unrest in Spain – and Mexico

I will no longer be able to spend such enjoyable evenings like this, my

children.”Seeing the questioning looks of his audience, Padre Señán explained that he had been elected by the other friars to become president guardian of the California missions. “It has been two years and Padre Payeras' term has ended.”

I thought you wished to continue to administer to your congregation, reverend father.”

Padre Señán sadly smiled. “That is so, my son,” he responded to James' comment, “but one cannot shun the responsibilities given by one's fellow members of the Order Minor of Friars. I know others are equally gifted – if not more so than I – but I must pick up the mantle passed to me.”

At least that will return control of the missions here where you are close to the governor.”

Father President Señán nodded. “That has already been pointed out to me by Governor de Solá. With the unrest in Mexico, he feels we need to be where we may consult with one another on a regular basis.” He then added that his first order of business had been to transfer Padre Gil from Misión San Rafael to Misión Santa Clara. “We have had some serious illnesses at the mission and I felt his skills as a physician were needed more there. He agreed and says that Padre Amorós is more than able to carry out the duties of tending to the ill Miwok and others living near the mission.”

Even though quite occupied with the work of administering the missions, Father President Señán continued to join the gathering on the veranda whenever possible. He found the information provided by Mateo to not only be of great interest, but vital to the decisions he had to make about mission business. It also confirmed information he received from the City of Mexico.

The people of Carmel continued to work hard, resulting in good crops and an abundance of wares produced at the mission workshops. In the event of another pirate raid and with the governor's concurrence, some heavy log warehouses were erected four miles up the valley to store excess goods. Of course, a lot of goods went to the presidio as well as Pueblos Branciforte and San José. Misión Soledad also needed some as the earth simply did not produce the needed crops. Yet their herds of livestock did quite well.

The Lord has blessed us once again, my children.”

And how is that, reverend father?”

Well, James,” Padre Suria responded, “the disciples have turned their hearts to serving The Lord and He has blessed us with record crops and plentiful livestock.” He briefly paused to inhale from his pipe before saying, “As an example, the president guardian has received word that Misión San Buenaventura is owed over twenty-seven thousand dollars for supplies, six thousand dollars in stipends, and one thousand, five hundred for a cargo of hemp.”

Of which the church will never receive one centavo,” Jaime muttered.

Nobody, including the friar, argued about that.

Although they completed three new granaries, the friars at Misión San Diego can do little more than struggle to keep what they have built in good order.”

Exactly like here and all the missions,” Jaime said in strong, clear voice. “When you Padres are not saying prayers, conducting rites, teaching, gardening, and doing all the others things, you are busy mending and repairing all the mission structures. I know that adobe is a firm and solid building material, but I wonder if it would not be wiser to use the plentiful wood surrounding us to do the same. They would be less damaged by rains and the small earth shaking we have here.”

Padre Suria had often heard Jaime say the same, as had the president guardian and all the other friars. He simply shrugged. “It is what they tell us from the apostolic college and, as you know, we must follow the rules.” He also went on to talk about how the senior friar at each mission had been instructed to keep detailed accounts of what had been procured for each chapel and Asistencia. “As an example, the smith just made a new set of bronze Sanctus bells and I had to ensure they were entered into the mission records.”

James turned to David and they smiled. They knew full well the records they kept for the Carlita were far, far less complete. He also noticed the look on his father's face telling him he felt the same about the lack of detail in family records.

I wish I would have been there.”

Why is that, José Antonio?” James asked. “And where are you talking about?”

At Bahia San Miguel, concuño,” the boat wright replied. “I have learned that an American whaler Discovery has refitted there. I would very much like to see how she is put together. I would learn very much from their methods of building.”

But, have you not examined those that have anchored here for supplies?”

Yes,” José Antonio replied. “But, it is not the same. I have but been able to conduct a very cursory examination of their hulls and keels.”

Then why not wait until the Guadalupe arrives and examine her? I was told that John Chapman is a master ship builder and the sixty ton schooner is most beautiful and sea worthy.”

José Antonio nodded, resigned to wait the arrival of the ship built for the friars at Misión San Gabriel at the behest of Padre José Maria Zalvidea sent there to supervise the mission.

I was told the Gringo Chapman has been sent to Misión Santa Inés,” David added, surprising the others. He seldom spoke of the rumors and stories from other places. “He was clearly taken with Senorita Ortega and is seriously courting her.”

That was really not news as all remembered how the daughter of the mission corporal had stepped forward, begging for the freedom of the American.

He has asked her father for her hand and it is said they soon will be wed.”

All turned at the sound of the sweet voice of Maria Rosa, Jaime's daughter. “It is said also that he is asking to be baptized in the church and will even petition the governor for the grant of Spanish citizenship.”

It certainly appears Mister Chapman does not plan on returning to Boston.”

All nodded at James' comment.

All well and good, but it is time to cease your gossiping and let my husband come to eat dinner before evening prayers.”

James and David grinned, returning to their homes.

When James mentioned Chapman during the evening pipes on the veranda, Padre Suria added, “He has been paroled to the supervision of Padre Uria. Actually, several other missions have sought his services as he is a most talented individual.”

Well, I am much tempted to visit Misión Santa Inés to see the fourteen Ways of The Cross just finished in the chapel. I have heard they are most beautiful.”

They cannot be as beautiful as those you have crafted, Tio Jaime,” David said.

And, word is that Chapman is already designing a gristmill for grinding corn and wheat,” Timothy added. “The friars have already constructed reservoirs.”

And the president guardian sent Padre Estévan Munrás to Misión San Miguel,” Padre Suria said, “to supervise the interior decorations for the chapel.”

He is a gifted artist and they will be a glowing testament to the Lord,” Jaime said.


With plentiful rainfall and sunshine, 1820 proved to be a good year for crops and livestock for all of the missions. Disciples happily worked alongside the friars and many baptisms, confirmations, weddings and, sadly, last rites were performed. Padre Gil at Misión Santa Cruz spent a great deal of time healing the ill at Villa Branciforte and the Miwok at Misión San Rafael returned to good health.

However, a pall hung over all of California due to news from the heart of Mexico. As usual, Mateo kept them apprised of the latest.

As you all know, His Majesty King Ferdinand fled to Brazil during Napoleon's wars in Europe. When Napoleon was exiled, he returned to Madrid.”

And he has ruled as a strict absolutionist,” Padre Suria added. Seeing the questions in his audience's eyes, he explained. “That is one who believes all power remains within the throne. It ignores the wishes of a parliament or congress.”

And, he immediately began to persecute the liberals who had sided with Napoleon, taking their properties and renouncing their titles,” Mateo added. “Finally, Colonel Rafael Reigo led a mutiny of army troops early this year and forced the king to agree to a liberal constitution.”

The king did decree that an effort would be undertaken to regain all colonies lost to rebellion,” Padre Suria said.

Hildalgo and Morelo had both died and after ten years of civil war, the independence movement was stalemated and close to collapse. The viceroy's forces had grown stronger and many of the influential Criollos had become apathetic. The violent excesses and populist zeal of the irregular armies had reinforced many Criollos fears of race and class warfare. Most had grudgingly acquiesced to conservative Spanish rule.

They are but biding their time until a less bloody path to independence can be found.” Mateo added, “They become more interested as a strong figure appears, coinciding with the rebellion in Spain.”

Uh, may I ask a question?”

All turned their attention to Jorge who usually remained silent during the evening discussions.

Of course, my son. How else can you learn?”

All of this talk of who and where hurts my head. What I would like to know is, what is all this about? What is going on in Mexico seems to be similar to what is going on in many different places. Why? What is happening to cause this?”

Everybody appeared caught by surprise. Padre Suria, Felipe, and Mateo searched for answers.

None of it is easy to explain, hijo. There are many things that are causing such changes in the world.”

Everyone turned their attention to Timothy.

Much of what is happening has never affected us here in California so we do not easily understand it. One of the reasons is weather.” Seeing questioning faces, he went on. “The northern part of America, along with most of Europe, has undergone severe weather. Very long, cold winters and short summers. That has led to a shortage of food, especially in Europe where they do not have lots of wild game. People are hungry, many starving. They see the wealthy and powerful living well, and they are filled with anger.”

Padre Suria and Mateo both nodded their agreement.

Another reason is disease,” Timothy continued. “While we have minor outbreaks here among the Gentiles, severe diseases have killed untold numbers of people in Europe. The Black Death. Typhoid. And others leave empty households in the crowded, unhealthy towns and cities.” He paused to puff on his pipe before adding, “And again, the people suffer while the rich and powerful live well.”

And this causes many to question the way things are,” Mateo interjected. “They no longer accept The Divine Right of Kings and feel they have the right to rule themselves.”

That brings questions about the Holy Church which supports monarchs of many types.”

Padre Suria's comment caught George by surprise. “The church, reverend father?”

Yes, my son. Part of it appeared through the Protestant Movement and many people who clung to those heretical beliefs were persecuted.”

Where they fled to North America to be free,” Timothy said. “They were those who most fought to be free of monarchs. That was one of many causes for the American Revolution, as it is being called.”

Is that what happened to His Catholic Majesty?”

That was one of the reasons, hijo. The French overthrew their king to form a republic similar to the United States. But, its excesses and the suffering it caused many, led to a leader rising to become yet another form of dictator.”

Napoleon Bonaparte” George responded.

Timothy nodded. “When King Ferdinand resumed the throne, he undertook extreme measures to rid his kingdom of those who held to a representative form of government, even to the part of forming an army to recover those Spanish colonies that broke away.”

And all of this affected Mexico, grandfather?”

Yes, hijo, but not similar to what occurred in Europe. It was also a case of class envy there, the difficulties between Peninsulares and Criollos.”

Where those of pure Spanish blood born in Mexico cannot have the same power or wealth as those from Spain?”

Exactly. The same problem that has caused troubles for over more than two hundred years.”

So, that is what has brought us to this point, George. Does it make more sense to you now?”

Yes, reverend father. Now perhaps you and Mateo can continue to explain what is currently going on in Mexico.”

The elders grinned. But, as the sun was lowering into the Pacific, it was decided to break up the evening session and prepare for sleep.

For a young man who spends all his time working in the soil, young George appears to have a most inquisitive mind.”

You have brought a most intelligent son into this world, my dear.”

Teresa Marta snuggled deeper into her husband's arms. “He takes after his father. And his grandfather.”

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