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Serra in Context

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Though a saint of the Catholic Church, Father Junipero Serra remains a figure of contempt in some circles because of his association with Spanish Colonialism in California. Who was the man? And what was his role in the vast narrative of the colonial era? Our guest Robert Senkewicz is co-author, with his wife Rose Marie Beebe, of the acclaimed book Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary.


CK:
Hello, and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Thank you so much for being with us today. We talk about Father Junipero Serra. I’ve been lately calling him the St. Patrick of California, but we’ll find out from our guest today whether that’s an appropriate analogy. Among the many statues that are coming down or being attacked or being relocated or causing anxiety in city councils around California are the statues of St. Junipero Serra these days. In part, this is a period of … you could say re-evaluation, I suppose, if you wanted to be generous, but I think also the word mania might apply to some of what’s going on in the attack on statues. It has to do with wanting to maybe purify the memory and purify our public spaces of some figures who, there has not been adequate critique of.

One wonders whether Serra fits in that category, however, so we invited, and we’re very delighted that he took our invitation, the author of one of the finest books you will ever see about early California and Father Junipero Serra. Our guest today is Dr. Robert Senkewicz. He is a scholar at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution near San Jose. With his wife, Rose Marie Beebe, he is the author of several books, including “Junipero Serra, California, Indians and the Transformation of a Missionary”. I hope I got all that right. Dr. Senkewicz, thank you for being with us.

RS:
You did. Thank you, Cy. It’s very nice to be here.

CK:
Well, primarily as we have discussed before this conversation, it would be great for us if you could just fill us in on who this man is. Maybe that doesn’t matter anymore to people, who the person is, but it should matter. At the very least, it should matter, so we’ll have that discussion. If I could start, before we get into meeting the man, Junipero Serra, what is your sense as you see city councils voting to move statues of Father Serra, people even tearing down statues of Father Serra? Maybe, I guess, just what’s your emotional reaction to that as a scholar of Father Serra?

RS:
My reaction is that the people who are engaged in this activity generally have an incomplete view of who Father Serra was and what he attempted to do. They don’t really understand the context of the California missions, and they don’t understand the context of Spanish and Mexican California, the way that California was before the gold rush. Father Serra was, for a variety of reasons, and I’m sure we can talk about them as we go on, but for a variety of reason, Father Serra became, in the late 19th to early 20th century, he became a symbol in the Anglo understanding of California of everything that happened in California before the gold rush.

CK:
Okay, so he’s the guy that sums it up.

RS:
Yeah. He’s the guy that sums up, and that’s not accurate. What happened, you know, it’s at those points that a lot of the statues of Serra, not the ones that are currently at a lot of the missions, but a lot of the public statues, the one in Golden Gate Park, one in Monterrey, that they were put up and they were put up during the period that was called the Spanish Revival period, late 19th to early 20th century, where California’s Spanishness became an important part of California’s self understanding. In that movement, Serra became the overarching symbol of that age. Now, that was not correct. A lot of the statues that are being foregrounded right now were not put up with a full understanding of who Serra was. Similarly, the people who are taking down the statues don’t have a full understanding, it seems to me, of what Serra actually was and what he actually did, either.

CK:
It almost seems as if the people during that Spanish Revival period, they wanted to promote Serra. They weren’t trying to denigrate the man Serra, but they were promoting him as kind of symbol for the whole thing that happened to California.

RS:
Yeah.

CK:
Go ahead.

RS:
What happened, it’s kind of interesting. What happens is that in the mid 1880s, the railroad reaches Los Angeles directly from the Midwest, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, and there’s a huge influx of people from the Midwest and from parts of the United States into southern California. That’s when the Anglo settlement of southern California really takes off. As more people get in there, what happens when people settle in an area? They want to find out more about it and they want to understand something about it, and they want to promote it in some way or other. The people in southern California who were trying to promote southern California … part of a promotion is always the founding of this area, a founding story or almost a founding mythology.

CK:
Yes.

RS:
In California at the time, San Francisco, which was the major population center at the time, San Francisco had the gold rush all locked up, so that was it. The people of southern California, what were they attracted to? They were attracted to the landscape, and part of the landscape were the missions, which were in a condition of disrepair at the time. What you get is that people glob onto the pre-U.S. part of California as their founding mythology. People like Charles Lummis and Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote the very popular novel, Ramona, they create a romantic view of Spanish California.

RS:
The Mexican part is usually ignored, but Spanish California, they create a very romantic view of it, where you have as part of this romantic view, you have selfless, heroic missionaries, happy, contented Indians, ranchos that fandangos all the time, that kind of thing. What you get is you get this notion of an idyllic, golden age, which never existed in that way, as part of southern California’s identity. That eventually becomes California’s identity. I grew up in New York, myself, and when I came out to California to go to graduate school, one thing that struck me right away was Safeways looked like missions. Gas stations-

CK:
They look more like the missions than the missions do.

RS:
They have tiled roofs and everything like that. I learned to understand that the Spanishness was an important part of California’s popular identity. In this Spanishness, the only person who had a biography written about him or her who lived in California during that period was Serra. A couple of years after he died, his close friend and colleague, Francisco Palou, published in Mexico City a very heroic biography of Serra. As the only one that had a biography, he becomes the symbol. He becomes the symbol of this romanticized idyllic picture of southern California.

CK:
You miss-

RS:
What happens … Go ahead.

CK:
You miss something that’s really key to the identity of the man when you make him the symbol of idyllic, pastoral, early California, because you miss his struggle against various attacks on the Indian people. You miss the fact that it wasn’t idyllic, but he was on the side of the Indian people.

RS:
One of the things to understand about California before the gold rush is that California was not part of North America like we understand North America now. California was part of Latin America, and to understand what the missions were, you don’t look at what was happening along the east coast of the United States, you look at what was happening in Mexico and in other parts of Latin America. From a very early period relating all the way back to the early 1500s to the writings of Bartolomeu de las Casas, who was a Dominican missionary who was savagely attacked in the way that the Spanish conquistadors were treating the native peoples. Part of the missionary’s self identity, what they understood themselves doing was protecting Indians from oppression, protecting the indigenous people from being savagely oppressed and working in the haciendas or the silver mines by the conquistadors and by the colonial vice regional authorities.

When Serra decides to come over to the new world at the end of the 1730s, when he decides to come over there, the 1740s, it’s very much he regards himself as part of that tradition. The job of the missionary, besides converting the people, is to protect them from the ravages of the colonial authorities. Now, nothing is ever simple in history, but Serra himself was part of that colonial system. In New Spain, in Latin America, the missionaries were paid by the government, so they were part of that system, but the system is not a univocal system. It had people within it who were more favorable to the indigenous people and people who were less favorable to the indigenous people, and in that spectrum, Serra and the missionaries, most of the missionaries, were very much on the side of the indigenous people.

CK:
In the middle of the 1700s, for a Spaniard of the kind of life that Father Serra was living … he’s from Majorca, right?

RS:
Right. Yes. Yeah.

CK:
He’s a very well educated person. He’s kind of a professor, really. He’s a professorial person, right?

RS:
Yeah. He was one of the most eminent people on the island of Majorca. He was a very well-known professor of philosophy and theology at the [Lilian, 00:11:19] University, which was the Franciscan university in Majorca. He was a very, very well-known kind of thing. At some point, Rose Marie and I, when we were doing our biography, we tried to find any writings that Serra might have left behind about why he decided to become a missionary. There really aren’t any, but our sense if that there he is, he’s a very well-situated, well-known successful guy in Majorca. At some point, I think he says, you know, is this why I became a priest? Is this all there is?

CK:
Right.

RS:
In Majorca, one of the most famous members of the Franciscan community was a guy named [inaudible 00:12:13] who had been a member of the third order of St. Francis, who had gone to north Africa to preach to the Muslims in the Franciscan tradition. St. Francis himself had gone to Egypt to deal with the sultan in Egypt. Missionary activity was a very, very important part of the Franciscan tradition, and it makes sense to us as we were studying Father Serra, that if he’s having, not an identity crisis or anything like that, but if he’s wondering what else can I do as a Franciscan, being a missionary is one of the things that in Majorca, which is on a lot of trade routes, it’s a seaport place. Going across the seas is going to be an important part of that renewing himself as a Franciscan. When he decides to do that and become a missionary, he joins this 250 year old tradition of Spanish missionaries, and our job is a number of things, to convert the native peoples, to make them productive citizens of the Spanish empire, and to protect them from the ravages of the colonial authorities.

CK:
He comes, then, to Mexico. This is a change of life for him. This is not a self promoting move. He comes to Mexico, but his intention is to teach here in Mexico as well.

RS:
Well, he landed at Veracruz, and interestingly enough, he decides to walk from Veracruz to Mexico City. During that walk, he gets infected and he has a limp for the rest of his life. He gets to Mexico City on December 31st, 1749. He’s at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, which is a very significant shrine, the indigenous version of the blessed virgin. On January 1st, 1850, he ends up at the Franciscan missionary headquarters in Mexico City. Six months later, he’s in the missions. He’s in the missions in Mexico.

CK:
This walking, first of all, the walking from Veracruz, he doesn’t have to walk. Is this a Catholic penance type of thing that he’s doing?

RS:
Yeah. What he’s trying to do … actually Palou, who was with him, they were on that boat, a couple of dozen of missionaries, Franciscans and Dominicans, and all except Serra and one other person get on wagons and they ride to Mexico City, which is a normal thing to do. What he wanted to do was he really wanted to prepare himself for the hardships that he was going to be experiencing as a missionary, to toughen himself, and to do penance for his own sinfulness, which he was always very conscious of, so he decided to walk. This was a penance, but it was an unusual walk, it was an unusual penance.

CK:
It cost him. For the rest of his life, he has this leg infection.

RS:
He had this limp. Right. Yeah. It periodically flares up.

CK:
When you say six months later, then, he’s in the missions, but not in what we think of as California. Where does he go?

RS:
No. No. Interestingly enough, Serra comes to Mexico in 1750, and he dies in 1784, so that’s 34 years. He spent a majority of the time that he’s in America not in California. He spends it in Mexico and Baja, California. He has a whole career. He spends eight years in an area about 200 miles north of Mexico City, slightly north of the city of [Queratero, 00:16:03] in an area called the Sierra Gorda, which is an already existing Franciscan mission. He’s ministering to the Pame people there. He spends eight years there. For three of those years, he’s the mission superior there. He lives in a village called Jalpan, and the church that he was stationed in is still there.

In fact, when he was canonized by Pope Francis a few years ago, there was a huge celebration in the Sierra Gorda celebrating his canonization. Then it’s kind of interesting because then what happens is that he’s suddenly recalled to Mexico City, and he’s told by his superiors that he and Palou, who is his former student and his close friend, were going to go to Texas because the Comanche Indians had destroyed a mission in Texas at San Saba about 200 miles north of San Antonio. As soon as the Spanish army would regain control, he and Palou were going to go replace the missionaries who had been killed there.

CK:
Wow.

RS:
The Spanish never regained control, so he was not sent to Texas. He spent the next eight years, it was eight years in the Sierra Gorda. Then he spent the next eight years basically at San Fernando in Mexico City, the Franciscan missionary headquarters, but also going around a number of villages in Mexico. He’s a member of what we would call nowadays the mission band. There was a group of Franciscans. I remember when I grew up in New York in my parish at Saint Columba on West 25th street in Manhattan. Every couple of years, we would have a mission. We’d have these priests come in and they would preach and there would be benedictions and processions and confessions and all of these kind of thing. They were trying to re-vivify the fervor of the parish.

Well, that’s what he was doing. He was a member of a group of Franciscans who would go around and basically they would do processions, they would preach, they would ask members of parishes to repent, become more fervent Christians. He did that in big cities and in little villages. He preached in [Wahaka, 00:18:17], which is now a big city, but then he preached in a number of fairly small places along the Gulf of Mexico and in that area. In that, it’s very interesting, he gets a really good sense of popular Mexican religion among the indigenous people in Mexico, and popular Mexican piety is, as we know, it’s a mix of traditional pre-Christian piety and Christian piety. It’s all kind of mixed up, and our Lady of Guadeloupe’s a great example of that. She is an indigenous virgin.

He gets it. He does that for eight years, and then what happens is that the Spanish monarch, Charles III, expels the Jesuits from Spain and the Spanish empire for a variety of reasons. The Franciscans are going to pick up the Jesuit missions in Baja, California. Serra is sent to Baja, California and he’s there for two years. He’s the head of the Franciscan missions there. Then when Spain decides to move up from Baja, California to upper California, he is asked if he wants to go, and he jumps at the opportunity. So in 1769 he comes up.

CK:
Then comes right here to where we are in San Diego.

RS:
In San Diego, exactly. San Diego had been discovered a century and a half earlier. The Spanish wanted to come up here because they were afraid that the Russians, who were moving across Alaska, were going to come down. What they wanted to do was they wanted to get here before the Russians could get here. Based upon the experience of early explorers, the expedition, which was headed by Gaspar de Portola, was told to occupy two places, occupy San Diego and Monterey because those were two bays that had been discovered by earlier explorers. They get to San Diego in 1769 and to Monterey in 1770, and Serra founds missions at both places, the first one being in San Diego, and the second one being at Monterey.

CK:
When he comes to a place like San Diego or Monterey, what does he come as part of? First of all, I want to ask you, how did he get here? Did he continue this penance of walking everywhere?

RS:
No, he didn’t. There is a legend that after he got to Mexico, he never rode a mule again. No, we can see from his diary that he did that. He would walk occasionally, but he’s with an expedition. Portola has got 30 or 40 soldiers, a bunch of Baja, California Indians. If Serra figured he was going to walk, Portola wouldn’t have let him because he would have just slowed everything up. He rode up. He rode.

CK:
In his group, there’s these 30 or so Spanish soldiers, there’s native people from Baja, California that came up?

RS:
Right.

CK:
Why are they coming, to found a town?

RS:
No. Basically what their job is, is to escort the Spanish expedition through this territory of Baja, California. There are different indigenous groups farther north. Some of them do stay in Alta, California. A good number of them return to Baja, California, and some of them die on the road as well. Most of the soldiers were actually soldiers from Baja, California. In all of California, even though the popular picture is that in Spanish California, most of the people were Mexicans, and they were Mestizos and the typical what you would get for Mexican soldiers. There were soldiers and there were missionaries. By this time, the person who was in charge of the whole expedition, who was a Spanish official who had been sent over, Jose de Galvez, he decided that you needed both soldiers and missionaries to get this thing done as fast as possible.

CK:
That’s the idea, is that there is a question of expediency because they want to establish a kind of Spanish society because there’s the Russians coming down from the north.

RS:
Yeah. The Russians are coming.

CK:
Okay. What does he do? I don’t know what a missionary does when he gets here.

RS:
Yeah. It’s very interesting because with Serra, and you can see this especially when he gets to … when they get to San Diego, Portola’s object is I found San Diego, and the next thing I do is find Monterey, and then I want to get out of here. I want to get back to civilization. Portola only stayed here a small amount of time. He wanted to get back to Mexico City. Serra and basically just a few soldiers and a couple of missionaries are in San Diego when Portola is off trying to find Monterey. He founds, at the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross on June 14th, he founds Mission San Diego, and everything, the mission and the presidio are very close to each other. There’s actually an attack in the middle of August. Local Kumeyaay people attack the mission. A couple of people are killed.

When Portola returns, having unsuccessfully looked for Monterey, he accidentally discovered this huge body of water that nobody had ever heard of before called San Francisco Bay. They managed to stay there. Serra doesn’t perform any baptisms there. He gets to Monterey, and they found the presidio. You know Monterey, the presidio is where the customs house is and church building and things like that. They found the presidio in June of 1770, but Serra immediately says to himself, and he writes back to Mexico City, to his superior, hey, this is not the place for a mission.

The reason was very simple. There were no native communities around. The indigenous people were not living in the top of Monterey Bay, they were living where anybody with any sense would live. They were living among the Carmel River in the Carmel Valley. So Serra wanted to move the mission closer to where the native people were because his notion was that we want to establish a presence there, and their curiosity will be such that they will come and see and gradually we can attract some of them into this community. It was a slow process, and he wanted it to be slow. He did not want to force people into the mission system. He wanted them to come and see and to experience a Christian community. In doing that, he thought that eventually some of them would be attracted to the mission system.

CK:
I think that’s important.

RS:
He wanted the mission to be close to the people, close to the indigenous people.

CK:
It’s very important what you’re saying, because this sense of people came and forced people to be Christians is really not true. It’s generally not true, as a matter of fact, across the entirety of wherever Spain went in the Americas. Baptism is a voluntary choice. There has to be an invitation, and there wasn’t a sense of conversion by the sword anywhere, really.

RS:
There were a few instances later on when there were expeditions that were kind of sent out, but that was always more the exception than the rule. Most people who come in to the mission system are not forcibly brought in. The overwhelming majority come in because, well, for a variety of reasons and we don’t really know why they all came in. It’s pretty clear that with the Spanish coming in, the soldiers, and they bring sheep and goats and everything like that. What happens is that the indigenous way of living, which is basically these people get their fruits and berries and some game, things like that. What happens is that the Spanish presence, the sheeps and the goats and the cattle, are kind of trampling on the fruits and the berries. They’re chasing away the game, and the Spanish, the soldiers, when they set up the presidio, they’re changing the landscape, so often enough what happens is that people, they tend to be more attracted to the missions because their traditional sustenance is gone. Their traditional landscape, which had sustained them for centuries, is all of a sudden no longer there, and whatever else the mission has, it has food.

RS:
Also the Spanish, they’re bringing, as happened wherever Europeans came to any part of the new world, they’re bringing diseases that people did not have an immunity to. When the traditional medical people in the Indian village were unable to do something when my kid was sick, well, I’ll try the priest. The combination of the changes in the landscape and the spread of diseases for which people did not have immunity meant that people were, in a number of cases, more willing to give the missions a shot, because at least that’s something that is there.

CK:
But Serra’s plan is basically set up house, and then as people come by, then-

RS:
Yeah. That was very much his original plan. That was the plan that he used to found his missions after San Diego. He was never really at San Diego anymore after he left there. They founded San Antonio, which was off of the road near now what’s King City off of Highway 101, and they founded San Gabriel, they founded San Luis Obispo. He wasn’t present for all of these, but the earliest group of missionaries, as much as they could, they followed this particular way of trying to do things, setting up the missions by attracting people into them.

CK:
Over time, as you said, for a whole complex variety of reasons, that does prove successful. He is successful as a missionary.

RS:
There are probably a few thousand people who were baptized during Father Serra’s tenure. He founds about six or seven missions. It changes for him in 1775 when there’s a big revolt against, and the mission San Diego was destroyed in 1775. One of his very, very close friends, Father Luis Jayme, another Majorcan, was killed in that attack. Interestingly enough, Serra, after he finds out about Father Jayme’s death, writes a letter to the viceroy and says, you know, I’ve never really told you this, but if Indians kill me, if I’m killed by any native people, I don’t want them punished, I want them forgiven because to punish them is not why we came here. I think that’s one of the most personal letters that Rose Marie found when we were looking at his correspondence, this kind of plea that if I’m killed, and I could be killed like Father Jayme was killed. If I’m killed, I don’t want the people who killed me to be punished. I want them to be forgiven, because the reason we came here was to show them God’s love, not God’s wrath.

CK:
That gives you a sense that the fact that he’s now … he was made or elevated to the status of saint by Pope Francis. It gives you a sense, perhaps, and I want to get this from you, that he really was actually a saintly person, that this is not just propaganda or anything on the part of the church, that when you get to the man himself, he’s tremendously patient, self-giving, forgiving and saintly.

RS:
Yeah. He wasn’t perfect. He had a temper, and when some of his fellow missionaries did things that he didn’t like, they found out about it. When Serra was canonized, I got a lot of questions from people in the news media. I kept saying over and over again, when the church canonizes somebody, that doesn’t mean they’re saying he was perfect, this person was perfect, else St. Peter would never have been canonized.

CK:
Right. Right.

RS:
They’re saying that his virtues were, at this time, virtues that the church wants to put in front of the faithful. There’s a great picture that I use when Rose Marie and I give talks about Father Serra. It’s a mass in Rome at the North American College when the Pope came over and celebrated the mass when they were having a seminar on Serra. It’s a picture of the Pope and Archbishop Gomez from Los Angeles giving the Pope a relic of Serra, which the Pope is venerating. I tell my students, I say, look at this, a picture. The most important thing about this picture is that the two men in this picture were both born in Latin America. The Pope is from Argentina, and Archbishop Gomez was born in Mexico. You have to understand that in Latin America, the way of treating the indigenous people is very different than you’re used to, than you learned when you were going to grammar school and high school and you were studying the British empire. The British empire, and then, unfortunately the United States picked it up. What’s their policy towards the native peoples? Push them away.

CK:
Move them and kill them.

RS:
Yeah, exactly right.

CK:
Yeah.

RS:
The Spanish empire, for all of its faults, had tried to create a place for the indigenous people in their society. It was an inferior place, to be sure, but it was a place. I always say you will never find any Californian missionary saying anything even remotely close to the only good Indian is a dead Indian, like you find said constantly in the United States’ westward movement.

CK:
Right, but this is another thing that Father Serra gets caught up in, is the idea that white Europeans treated the native American people in a certain way. Well, much of that is true, but the way that the English treated native people is very different from the way the Spanish did.

RS:
Right. Yeah. That’s exactly right, and it’s not to say that there wasn’t coercion and there wasn’t violence. All you have to do is read las Casas and read Serra. He actually went down to Mexico City in 1773, took a trip down to Mexico City to try to get, and successfully got an audience with the viceroy. He got the military commander of California removed because he said he was treating the Indians too poorly, oppressively. He got him removed. He did that. On the other hand, it’s true that the missions were part of a colonial system. There was coercion, there was force. That kind of thing tended to happen after Serra’s death. This is where, when we talked about in the beginning, he kind of becomes the symbol of everything that happened.

What happened, in the early decades of the 19th century, when the Mexican independence movement breaks out and there’s guerrilla warfare with Hidalgo and Morelos and people like that, what happens is the viceroy and the colonial authorities have a lot more important things to worry about than sending supply ships up to California. What happens is the supply ships basically stop and all of a sudden, the only institutions in California that are successfully growing food and provisions are the missions, so they become much more powerful and popular. Then some of the missionaries at that time, to keep their production going and everything like that, some of the recruitment efforts become much more harsh. That’s when some of the native peoples are brought forcibly into the missions, and that’s where they tend to go out farther and farther looking for people in the central valley and things like that. That’s well after Serra left, and that’s a method that he definitely would not have approved of.

CK:
Let me just remind the listener, we’re speaking with Dr. Robert Senkewicz, a scholar here in California, of a great deal of California history. He and his wife, Rose Marie Beebe, have a really majestic book, comprehensive really, look at Father Junipero Serra. It’s called “Junipero Serra, California, Indians and the Transformation of a Missionary”. Maybe before we go, if I may, Dr. Senkewicz, if you could give me a sense of what that means, transformation of a missionary. What are you getting at?

RS:
What I’m getting at is that Serra was, as we talked about at the beginning, when he came over to Mexico, he was an academic. He was an expert in the theology and philosophy of John Duns Scotus, who was a very, very important Franciscan missionary who laid the groundwork for the Vatican’s eventual declaration that the Immaculate Conception was a doctrine, hundreds of years later. He’s an academic.

CK:
He’s a theologian and a philosopher, Duns Scotus.

RS:
Yeah. Exactly, exactly. So was Serra. When he comes over, especially when he’s in the Sierra Gorda, like we talked about, when he’s in Mexico, the 16 years that he spent in Mexico, he really understands that there is more to Christianity than philosophy and theology. Not to denigrate that, but what worked in Majorca is not going to work here. He tries, as much as he can, and he does this imperfectly, but he tries to become a missionary. When you are a missionary, what do you have to do? You have to try to understand the beliefs and the cultures and the folkways of the people you’re trying to evangelize. You don’t come in and say, hey, I want to talk to you about the Immaculate Conception. They have no idea what you’re talking about. You try to understand their culture, their religion, their spirituality, and you try to use that as a bridge into evangelization. That’s how he was transformed. He became not a European academic, but he became a new world missionary, trying to understand. We have letters of him talking to the indigenous people, trying to understand their spirituality and how they looked at the world.

CK:
This idea of evangelizing, though, has lost its allure in many ways as we’ve become kind of multicultural and post modern and all of that. It’s hard for us, I think, to accept the truth about the man, that he really wanted every person to have contact with Jesus Christ, and that by sharing Jesus Christ, then he ennobles every life that comes in contact with Christ is a life that’s ennobled and made whole. I think even that, now, people would look on it and say, well, they just wanted to impose their religion on other people. It’s not an imposition, as far as he understands it. He doesn’t want to take away what people have, he just wants them to know that God came in the person of Jesus.

RS:
Right. At its best, California missionaries tried to create a kind of Christianity that the indigenous people of California could really understand. There’s a wonderful picture of the archangel Raphael at Mission Santa Ynez, and the archangel is a Chumash Indian. There’s great pictures of the stations of the cross at Mission San Fernando which were painted there. It’s very clear that the Roman soldiers who are crucifying Jesus are Spanish soldiers, and the women who are comforting Jesus are indigenous people. They’re really trying to create a kind of Christianity that is specific to this particular type of culture. That’s the transformation.

CK:
Once again, the book is called “Junipero Serra, California, Indians and the Transformation of a Missionary”. One of the authors is our guest, Dr. Robert Senkewicz. The other is his wife, Rose Marie Beebe. Thank you very much, Dr. Senkewicz. I really enjoyed the conversation.

RS:
So did I, Cy. Thank you very much, and keep up your wonderful work.

CK:
Thank you. Thank you so much.

RS:
Okay.

CK:
I thank everybody who joins us here on Catholic Answers Focus. We love it when you do, and if you would be so kind wherever you get your podcasts, if you would give us a review and maybe hit that little five star button. That helps to grow the podcast, and we want to grow it. We want more and more people to find it. If you are able and would like to support this podcast financially, you can just go to our website, givecatholic.com, and make your support there. Once again, I am Cy Kellett, your host. We’re very glad that you joined us. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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