Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


(Once again, I was certain I posted this, but apparently not)


1826 – The First Steps Toward Secularization

Word came in a week that the commandant at el Presidio del San Francisco decided not to send soldiers to Misión San Francisco Solano. “The captain accepted the recommendation of the corporal of the escolta and actually called them back to the presidio.”

What of the mission?”

Felipe explained that the elected alcalde would remain in charge and the mission would temporarily be reduced to the status of visita. A friar from Misión San Rafael would conduct rites when requested and able.

Father Prefect Durán never felt the mission should be there. I do not think he will select a friar to serve there. He may recommend that the neophytes relocate to San Rafael.”

Padre Suria's words came as no surprise.

Was the friar's treatment of the neophytes unknown?”

Padre Suria lowered his head. “Yes, it had been reported. However, as you know, it is up to each of us serving here to attend to such matters without interference. Unless it leads to the death of one of our disciples.”

And, while the corporal reported it to the commandant of el Presidio del San Francisco, he decided to do nothing as it was outside of his area of authority,” Felipe added.

Padre Suria nodded at Felipe's words and added, “There has never been a formal set of rules as to how we are to discipline those who come to us and are baptized. We receive guidelines at the apostolic college and those simply tell us that we must treat our disciples as our children with the same love Jesus gives us all.”

I have watched you fathers all of my life and I have always felt the love you have for each and every one of us whether we be Indio, Criollo, or Mestizo,” James said. “You have treated us with the same stern caring of my own father and mother.”

The other youths nodded their agreement.

Not all news was foreboding. Padre Suria reported that Jaime's efforts at making two parts for the hand-cranked barrel organ at Misión San Juan Bautista had been successful.

I remember when the British captain Vancouver gave it to President Guardian Lausén,” he said. “It seemed strange as the tunes have nothing to do with church rites.”

Timothy laughed. “I remember the good captain playing it for us. As my brother points out, the tunes had little to do with church rites. If I remember correctly, they included, Go to the Devil, Spanish Waltz, College Hornpipe, y Lady Campbell's Reel.

They also learned that Misión San Luis Rey de Francia was thriving, its material prosperity far ahead of any other. There were 2,869 neophytes on the roles and its location in a sheltered valley made it ideal for all areas of mission pursuits. And, the friars treated them in such a manner that Gentiles from the hills to the east came to trade and learn. Even the otherwise jealous elders and tribal leaders did not order them away.

Padre Peyri's instructions in the musical arts are legendary,” Padre Suria reminded them. “Many of us have begged him for copies of his sheets to use to teach those of ours.”

James nodded as, since childhood, he had always loved music. The echoing chants during Mass always eased his heart and made him feel closer to God.

All wondered when and if the new Mexican governor would come to Monte Rey.

Is it not the capitol of the California territory?” Joaquin, one of Guadalupe's children asked.

They were enjoying a beautiful fall afternoon by gathering the entire family to relax, eat, and enjoy one another.

Felipe responded. “Yes, but the governor finds the climate of San Diego much more to his liking. The town is becoming somewhat substantial what with the efforts of Señor Arnel and the frequent arrival of foreign ships trading for tallow and hides.”

William is becoming a very influential man. Especially with his connection to the Guerra family. And as he has sired sons for Don Pablo.”

All smiled at Timothy's comment. “I hear he has also gained the ear of the governor and may some day hold an important government position.”

The past winter had been marked by unprecedented rainfall. The storms raged across the entire territory, from the northern part of Baja, all the way north of Sonoma, some reports indicating they were especially strong in the new Russian trading post they named Fort Ross. The adobe buildings at Sonoma were destroyed and the presidio at San Francisco suffered as well. The roofs of the various missions had shed the rain well, few of the buildings suffering. However, rivers rose and it was only by the Grace of God that so little damage resulted.

One of the best result of the rains was the rivers in the south were so overflowing that the members of the Diputacíon Teritoríal were unable to travel to Monte Rey to ratify the federal constitution as directed by the national congress in Mexico City.

Spring planting went well and the heavy fogs kept enough moisture across the Valley of Carmel to the most useful point. As it burned off by mid-morning, enough sunshine lay across the fields and gardens to bring green sprouts of life.

Reports from Sea Lion Cove were most promising. Besides foals, calves, piglets, ducklings, goslings, and others, a lusty baby boy and a sweet little girl came into the world, much to the delight of their parents – and grandparents. Several substantial shelters had been completed and a dozen hectares had been plowed and seeded. Even fruit trees had started to sprout. The Queen was so well-hidden that it was impossible to see her from the ocean.

This presented a strange but urgent situation for The Family. How and when could the babies be baptized?

Reverend Father Prefect? If I asked one of the friars to keep a secret, would it be their duty to pass that secret on to you?”

Father prefect Sarria softly smiled. “Only if such a secret was against canon law or the conscience of the friar, my son.” He then laid a hand on Jame's shoulder and added, “He would certainly not be required to tell me or others of the secret location where members of your family have gone to live.” Seeing Jame Sick in his breath, his eyes open wide in shock, the father prefect said, “I have lived in these lands too long not to notice certain things, my son. We all know and understand the instability surrounding us and I would be disappointed if The Family did not take steps to seek what is best for it.”

As a result, Timothy and Jaime confided in Father Suria the establishment of Sea Lion Cove, adding the need for someone to perform the rite of baptism.

And you think I would not agree to go anywhere for you to perform such a rite?”

The hurt in his voice shamed them all.

Padre Suria entered the boat carrying a larger bundle than usual. They discovered its contents when they landed and the friar removed a thurible and began to swing it back and forth, blessing the beach, then moving inland to do the same to the various structures. All gathered as he performed the baptismal rites for Jaime Mateo and Anna Maria, their god parents standing by with big grins on their faces. Padre Suria also anointed the large cross in front of the barn and blessed it, asking The Lord to watch over the inhabitants of the vale.


Then, a strange edict arrived from Governor Echeandía.

The governor has proclaimed that all neophytes who desire to leave the mission may do so.”

That caught everyone's attention.

Felipe continued. “They must have been Christians from childhood or a period of fifteen years. They must be married or at least more than twelve years of age. And, they must have some means of gaining a livelihood.”

David snorted. Seeing he had their attention, he said, “What other manner of living in this land is there that does not involve my brothers and sisters from far away? If we do not work at or for the mission, where may we go?”

They may seek work at the ranchos, may they not?”

David turned to Mateo. “You know better than that, my friend. The rancheros treat them like slaves. And, if they run away, they are chased down and forcefully brought back, beaten and put in chains harsher than any shackled on by the soldiers.”

Felipe had more. “They must apply to the comandante of the nearest presidio and have a report by el Padre presiding attached. The comandante will then issue a written permit entitling the neophyte and his family to go wherever they choose. Their names will then be erased from the mission register.”

Padre Suria grimaced. “This is a very unwise declaration. I do not wish to belittle you, David, but you and I know there are very few – if any – neophytes who can make a living on their own. What land would they have? Where and how will they obtain those things necessary to the lives they now have?”

And, reverend father, there is no way they can return to the lives before your coming. Our lands are gone and the animals we lived off of have been replaced. If we try to take any from the herds, we would be chased down and treated as criminals.”

It quickly became apparent that the only neophytes wishing to take advantage of the proclamation were those already considered to be troublemakers, those who always did as little as possible and constantly complained about their lives.

And the governor appointed and called together those he feels most loyal to the new Mexico to form a territorial council, diputación teritorio.” None were surprised by the names of Mariano Bonilla, Pablo V. Sola, Alejo Garcia Conde, Carlos M. Bustamante, Diego Garcia Conde, Tomas Suria, and Crecenio Suarez as secretary and sergeant at arms.


The people of Carmel welcomed the heat of August as it hurried the time left until harvest. Corn towered in the fields, stalks entwined with vines heavy with beans while squash became larger by the day. The biggest drawback was the proliferation of unwanted weeds, bringing about the back-straining effort to hoe them away. At least the weeds went into compost piles to refresh the earth when it came time to prepare the land for the winter.

Even with one less boat, the fishing fleet went forth daily to fill net after net with fish. Red Snappers. Pacific cod. Tuna or Albacore. Too many to name and many fish being tossed back into the sea to grow larger.

A number of smoke houses had been constructed throughout the valley. Corporal Manuel Boronda, who was granted permission to live outside the walls of the presidio, had several to smoke and cure the fish and other meats.

The town continues to grow.”

Yes, David, that it does. And many of the newcomers are Europeans – or even Americans.”

That seems not to bother the old Californianos.”

Yes, some of the families like the Castros or Gonzalez'. And Hartnell is bringing lots of trade here. That certainly pleases the ladies.”

Both men smiled.

From some simple adobe huts in front of the chapel, the pueblo had grown to include several warehouses, an extended boat yard manned by two American ship-jumpers, and several larger structures erected by families of retired soldado de cueras who had not yet taken up residence in some of the land grants handed out by the last Spanish governors.

And Mateo seems quite content that Señor Arnel now has a small school located at his establishment.”

It was sorely needed, mi amigo. The sons and daughters of the presidio need to gain an education – although most quickly drop out. Mateo says they cannot see how reading and writing helps with raising livestock.”

David nodded, not quite indicating how he felt the same.

Upon entering Carmel, they both viewed the village, noting that, while Monte Rey was growing and expanding, the pueblo Carmelo was not. Why should it? The disciples lived near the mission, dependent upon it for almost everything. Those few who had built near the water, relied on fishing and the very rare visit of trading vessels.

The few foreign vessels that came to Carmel often did so in the night. A flash of light from the ship alerted someone ashore who quickly lit a very ingenious object – two lamps set on poles in a way that by aligning them, they ship would know the safe way to come close to land. Small boats rowed ashore in the dark loaded bales of rawhides and skin-fulls of tallow in return for much-desired trade goods, especially those things most wished for by the ladies of the town.

Government officials were not blind to this smuggling as it was common up and down the coast. Upon reaching an authorized port, the wise ship's captain would present gifts to the appropriate officials, thus avoiding the much higher taxes and tariffs. Fathers Tápis and Ordaz at La Purisima were renowned as the most successful of all the coastal missions. All knew that the fathers at Misiónes Santa Cruz and San Luis Rey would have also been most successful if not for prying eyes that would immediately alert the authorities to their activities.

What is the status of Padre Prefecto Sarria's arrest?”

Father Suria looked at Timothy, holding back a smile. “He does not leave the mission and sends no correspondence to the other padres in which he urges them to renounce His Most Catholic Majesty.” Before the second question could be completed, he added, “And Padre Prefecto Durán wrote a missive to the governor explaining that, while he could not swear allegiance to the new government, he swore not to act in any way against it. In fact, he asked the governor for a passport so he could return to Spain. As I understand, the passport has yet to be issued.”

That surprised all.

I heard nothing of his seeking permission to depart,” said Jaime. As he spent so many hours at the mission, he always heard the rumor rampant among the disciples.

Some things are left unsaid, even in front of the disciples.”

I notice more horses running loose every day father. Any word on why that is.”

Felipe answered Jame's question. “The rancheros do not believe in corrals or trying to fence off so many hectares or leagues of grazing land. And vaqueros spend more time tending to cattle. They place a reata on the animal's neck and can easily bring them up simply be reaching down and picking up the end of the rope.”

Nobody ever forgot that, while Felipe was an alférez in the soldados de cuera, he was first and foremost a cavalry officer. As such, he was an expert horseman. And, all of the Leatherjacket soldiers rode their mounts at full gallop wherever they went. When asked why, he simply responded, “When the animal tires, I simply obtain another.” In fact, he often chided the others for riding at a more sedate gate and indicated his disgust at having to travel slower when escorting one of the friars riding donkeys.

That reminds me, reverend father, will it not soon be time to brand the mission livestock?”

Father Suria nodded. “Father Prefect Sarria is planning on doing so starting Monday. Do you wish to separate yours and brand them at the same time?”

The young men clapped with glee. Unlike their parents and grandparents, they were expert horsemen and loved nothing more than taming mounts and rounding up the cattle. While the mission had a stylized MR as a brand, Timothy and Jaime had added a stylized JT for theirs. There was no question as to how to separate their animals from those of the mission as they young would still be close to their mothers. The effort was going to be riding through the area to round up the animals, gathering them in the upper reaches of the valley. The Rodriguez family would help and already knew and recognized every animal for many leagues around.

James watched in awe as the vaqueros of Carmel went through the hills and stands of trees, finding and driving cattle, horses, and donkeys into the valley floor, gathering all in a large meadow roped off for the purpose. The padres first blessed each rider, then helped light the fires in which the branding irons would be heated. As each beast was brought to be branded, a padre indicated which iron to use, counting the number of new animals for each.

One of Señor Herrera's clerks was at hand to write up the tally for the official records.

All knew the same activity was underway in the hills and gulleys around Monte Rey. And, when the roundup and branding were complete, everyone looked forward to the grand fiesta that would be provided by Don José, a leading member of the Argüello family and of pueblo politics. Nobody doubted that he would some day be a high official in the Mexican government of los Californias.

As it was customary in Monte Rey, so it was customary in Carmel for The Family to provide a fiesta for all those who took part in the rodeo. Two fat calves turned on spits over a huge fire next to the mission plaza, along with a shoat and a dozen or so chickens. Vast pots of frijoles and squash sent savory aromas into the evening air and unshucked ears of corn roasted on the coals. Big jars contained wine and beer, a few flasks of tequila being passed among certain participants. The padres blessed the gathering and found a place to sit beneath a massive tree to enjoy their usual atole and listen to the music. Timothy relished the melodious strains of the various tunes, still after so many years, comparing them to the more staid music of his homeland. Never having heard anything else, James enjoyed the music, dancing with Maria Teresa and several of his daughters and grand-daughters.

Timothy, Apolonia, Jaime, and Butterfly sat with the other elders, not even trying to join in the fancy footwork of the various dances.

When the bells rang for evening prayers, the festivities stopped while Padre Prefecto led the prayers. He and the other friars then returned to the mission and their quarters where they would spend hours upon hours on their knees praying. And often scourging themselves for what they believed were their sins and failings.

The festivities resumed and only ended in the wee hours of the morning. In spite of no sleep, James and the others changed their clothing and made their way to the waterfront to sail for their daily fishing.

None were surprised to hear music wafting from the Argüello hacienda.

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