Attendees at Junipero Serra’s Canonization Receive Essay on Saint by Supreme Knight
Attendees of Father Junipero Serra’s canonization at the papal Mass in Washington on Wednesday each received a bilingual booklet with two essays on the new saint that explain Serra, dispel myths about him and correctly depict portions of California's history that are wrongly placed at his feet of the Spanish missionaries.
The essays were authored by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, and Capuchin Father Vincenzo Criscuolo, general relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican. Both essays were delivered as speeches at the May 2 event held at the Pontifical North American College and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Knights of Columbus also supported the event, which Pope Francis concluded with a Mass and homily.
The 30,000 booklets were printed in English and Spanish by the Knights of Columbus at the request of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and officials at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Supreme Knight Anderson’s essay is titled “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Guide of Fra Junípero Serra.” In it, he notes that “[Serra,] a man devoted to the Blessed Mother, who in her New World image had distinctly Native rather than European features, was not surprisingly devoted to those whom he had left everything to serve — the native peoples.” “He saw them first and foremost as souls to be saved.”
In addition, his essay deals with misguided history regarding Spanish influence in the New World. Anderson writes: “Precisely because friars and the Spanish monarchy subjected their enterprises in New Spain to such a degree of introspection and moral clarity, other colonizing nations, who were much less introspective, and whose legacy regarding native peoples often showed a shocking disregard for them, seized upon these reports to blacken the name of Spain.”
In fact, Supreme Knight Anderson’s essay makes clear that the real, direct extermination of the native peoples of California occurred at the hands of Anglo Californians.
“Gold did lead to the extermination of the native peoples in California, but it was not Spanish lust for it,” writes Supreme Knight Anderson. “Independent of Mexico in 1848, California’s Gold Rush of 1849 helped usher in a new era of rule in California with the result that the native population collapsed. Not simply because of disease, but because of programs of extermination. Spain had banned slavery of the native people very early in its journey to the New World as fundamentally incompatible with its mission of evangelization and conversion. But California, now a state, ‘introduced the indenturing of Indians to whites’ by early 1850. Indians were kidnapped, and Gregory Orfalea goes so far as to call the clearing of Indians from the gold mining areas ‘genocide.’”