Tag Archives: Apostle of California

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Just and True

Justice means we give others what is due them. Disagreement need not skew a reasonable evaluation of others; justice demands we strive for objectivity so we can honor what is honorable in our fellow humanity.

Justice has stumbled in the streets, as mobs morph from demanding fair treatment of African Americans to destroying honorable signposts of our history.

On this Feast Day of St. Junipero Serra—the Apostle of California—I just witnessed his statue being lassoed, toppled, and smashed by protesters in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Not only have the bullied become the bullies, they now seek to edit American history by destroying any symbol that disturbs them.

We must insist on justice. Irrational and ignorant vandalism have no place in a just culture. Justice demands we give our forefathers their due, whether we agree with their legacy or not.

The mob ruled Franciscan Serra a bigot for bringing Christianity to California in the mid-18th century. He trekked on foot from Mexico City to San Francisco and established missions along the way to serve the native peoples. (Many of the missions are still active churches where I have fasted and prayed for California.) Over 6000 persons were baptized into the Church through his efforts. Did he enslave native Americans of the West Coast, as the mob insists?

Absolutely not. Though no-one today would advocate for the two-pronged advance of evangelization and Spanish political conquest, Serra disdained the latter. Backbreaking travel and labor—supported by an ulcerated leg—were eclipsed by his biggest conflict, the interference by the Spanish military state on his efforts to convert and disciple native peoples.

Various biographies clarify: the sword that pierced Serra’s heart was military cruelty of his sheep. Like a good shepherd, he constantly fought Spanish officials for freedom from arbitrary and cruel acts upon his people. He succeeded at ensuring that the presidios, or military barracks, were stationed as far from the missions as possible.

To be sure, he labored in a flawed system that lanced him more deeply than any cross-cultural challenge. Pierced, he loved his people well, pouring out the heart of Jesus for California. Perhaps many oppose him because they at core oppose the Gospel. But one cannot dispute his heroic sacrifice, and how his self-giving laid the basis for California’s thriving, diverse Christian culture.

To deface him is to act as unjustly as the arbitrary violence imposed on native Californians by the Spanish military in Serra’s day.

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Heading for Rome 1: Passion for a Chaste Bride

‘Always Go Forward, Never Turn Back’ (St. Junipero Serra)

This Wednesday I shall depart for Rome, site of the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family. On Friday Oct. 2nd, I have the privilege to speak (alongside others far more qualified than me) at a conference designed for synod leaders who shall deliberate on family matters, including homosexuality. The synod’s pastoral recommendations will not change church teaching but will influence its pastoral application for years to come.

Please pray for me! I am a seasoned minister but a new Catholic. During confession with my priest last week I admitted tearfully to intimidation (Catholics revere advanced education and in the west are deeply divided on the ‘gay’ issue). While in prayer, I saw an image of a child holding a small cross and joyfully declaring the gift, and virtue, of chastity. My priest then quoted the Gospel reading in which Jesus placed a child in the midst of the disciples and said: ‘Whoever receives one such child as this in My name receives Me’ (Mk 9: 37). Thank You Jesus; I go as I am, simple and on fire with the beauty of chastity.

Friends, may I enkindle that same fire in you? I am convinced that the goal of chastity is the best counsel we can embody and proclaim to all Christians. Though a Catholic term, it has dynamic meaning for all humanity, regardless of their sexual histories (LGBTQRSTUVW…). Simply put, chastity means sexual wholeness: ‘the successful integration of sexuality within the person’ which means human beings growing in the unity between who they are as spiritual beings and as persons with a gendered body and thus a direction for their sexuality (CCC2337).

Such ‘successful integration’ is a lifelong adventure with God and our fellow humanity. Cross-in-hand, let us discover together the beauty of what it means to be beloved sons and daughters of one Father, and good gifts as men and women for each other. Chastity necessitates self-control so that our offering is clean and clear for our fellows; progressively chaste witnesses have power to mirror to one another the awesome gifts we are without clouding the image with robbers like fear, porn, lust, and seduction.

I love chastity! My whole being is aligned with Jesus who made me and who is reclaiming the good gift of my masculine humanity. I cooperate whole-heartedly with His rhythms because I love the fruit of chastity, which is the freedom to love others generously, not confusedly.

As I proceed to Rome, I am cheered on by the saints, and in particular, the first saint canonized on American soil, St. Junipero Serra. (Pope Francis made this ‘Apostle of California’ a saint last Wednesday in Washington DC.) Growing up amid the California missions, I followed St. Junipero’s footsteps up the El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco, and marveled at this 5’ 2” missionary. He left Spain in the middle of the 18th century to Mexico City then travelled hundreds of miles by foot and donkey with an ulcerated leg to what is now California. There he lifted high the Cross in a series of still intact missions; with tender care and much suffering, he introduced Christianity to the first Californians.

His suffered as Spanish soldiers and other opportunists abused his beloved native peoples. I have done mush reading on this subject and am amazed at the herculean efforts St. Junipero exerted to protect the first Christians of California. He helped reclaim their dignity then fought to stave off the cancerous side effects of Spanish colonization.

I love him. I honor him. I am proud to be a California signed by the very Cross he planted on the soil of my birth. May I honor his witness as I go to Rome.

‘Our clear duty is to conform ourselves in all things to doing the will of God, and to prepare to die well. That is what counts; nothing else matters. If this is secured, it matters little if we lose the rest; without this, all else is useless.’

St. Junipero Serra

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