SAINT JUNÍPERO SERRA (1713-1784) July 1st
No one who has stood before the quiet majesty of Mission San Juan Capistrano, or the altogether different but no less lovely Mission Dolores in San Francisco, or any of the missions from San Diego to Sonoma can fail to bless the Franciscan padre who, while not founder of each, was inspiration for them all, Saint Junípero Serra. Abandoning the comfortable academic life to which his doctorate in theology entitled him, Serra journeyed to the New World where his tireless traveling, dramatic preaching, and penitential austerity converted thousands of native peoples. Saving souls and celebrating the sacraments were Padre Serra's primary mission but not his only one. Education in letters and crafts, trades and agriculture transformed the people, while roads and irrigation systems transfigured the landscape. His more than thirty years of ministry were not free from conflict with authorities or without controversy in the retrospectively critical eye of history. But when John Paul II beatified him in 1988, he praised Padre Serra for assisting his converts to use their new faith to advance their true human development.