Celebrating 5 Years of a Lay Apostolate

Soon after Pope Francis announced in January 2015 that Junípero Serra would be canonized, I began a journey of discovery. Readers of my first book know the impetus. On the fifth anniversary of the start of my journey, I’d like to reflect on what a colleague and friend of mine called an apostolate.

First, a special thanks goes to my wife and son. It is not easy juggling home, work, and one’s passion. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Next, I am very grateful to all others who have supported me along the way. I began this enterprise to help people understand that California mission history can help inform the mind and soul. Since May 2018, I have also learned that it can impact the physical, or body (more on that below). I hope that I have been able to inform you in some way. 

Last, though I have had some obstacles along the way (haters), since the journey started I have had some amazing experiences.

  • one book about California mission history has led to three books in a three year span (countries where physical have sold — U.S.A., Philippines, Japan, Canada, Italy, U.K. — and in 30 states + D.C. )
  • have gone beyond the goal of having my books in the nine missions founded by St.  Junípero Serra gifts shops
  • was interviewed on a national radio show and a podcast
  • started social media platforms (FB Followers Top 5
    1. U.S.A. 2. Philippines 3. Mexico 4. Spain 5. Canada & Twitter Followers Top 5
    1. U.S.A. 2. Mexico 3. Spain 4. U.K. 5. Italy)

    • Top FB post — 1/28/2018 about my son’s Mission Project reached 9,000+
    • Top Tweet impressions — 7/2019 — 11.1K
    • Most views for www.Missions1769.com — 7/2/2019; top clicks on image of missions at right (see below)
  • started a website for educators
  • was interviewed for a national Catholic newspaper and many California newspapers (Catholic and secular)
  • spoke to many groups throughout California and in Nevada and Ohio (one led to a job teaching a course at a seminary)
  • wrote articles for ten publications
  • started a pilgrimage of the 800+ mile California Missions Trail (possible subject for a fourth book?)
  • started a petition to nominate Pablo Tac for the cause of canonization
  • met many wonderful, open-minded people who have given me so much hope in moving forward

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz año nuevo! สวัสดีปีใหม่! Maligayang bagong taon! Bon any nou! Felice anno nuovo! Bonne année!

Saint Junípero Serra and Pablo Tac, pray for us!

¡Siempre adelante y nunca para atrás!
Christian Clifford
www.Missions1769.com
Author/ Educator/ Freelance Writer / Speaker

 

Junipero Serra: Created to Amaze

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Mission bells, San Juan Bautista, California.

By CHRISTIAN CLIFFORD

(originally published Oct 4, 2013  in Catholic San Francisco)

I recently went to the circus for the first time since I was a child. The show lived up to its name, “Built to Amaze.” I saw awe in my 5-year-old’s face. After immersing myself in Blessed Junipero Serra’s story, I can say with confidence that he was created to amaze.

For me, the gist is this: Serra left the comforts of Mallorca, Spain, to bring a new vision of love to total strangers. He personally baptized 98 percent of adult converts at Mission Carmel. He walked an estimated 4,000 miles in what is now California, with a seriously injured leg. When at his headquarters in Carmel, he slept on a wood board with four legs. He often pleaded with the crown and its agents, always suggesting to never forget the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Nothing could get in Serra’s way of pruning the vineyard he found himself. According to records at The Early California Population Project, Serra’s legacy was 101,000 baptisms, 28,000 marriages and 71,000 burials at all 21 missions and from the Los Angeles Plaza Church and the Santa Barbara Presidio. He alone confirmed 4,076. He embodied what St. Augustine shared, “Do not turn away from the one who made you, even to turn toward yourself.”

By visiting The Huntington Library exhibit commemorating Serra’s 300th birthday in San Marino, I wanted to learn more how to be a man of faith through Serra’s experiences. My prayer to Serra was that by visiting the exhibit and its 250 artifacts from 60 lenders, more light would be shed on his life so that I can better inspire the young men that I teach.

The Huntington is such a massive place that I actually got lost. When I saw two Norbertine priests and their students from St. Michael Preparatory School in Silverado,
I knew I was on the right track. Many of the objects at the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries, Erburu Wing resonated with my own faith journey. There was Serra’s notebook used as a student from 1731-1735 in Palma, Mallorca, reminding me of the intellect’s place in discipleship. I reflected on my vocation as teacher while peering at Serra’s personal
Bible (Venice, 1508), used while a professor in Palma. The letter from Abraham Lincoln dated March 18, 1865, returning the mission property to the Order Friars Minor, made me hope for better days ahead in church-state relations in America. While driving back to the Bay Area and hearing my 5-year-old son say “Are we home yet?” for the upteenth time, I recalled the 18th-century Franciscan tunic (habit) on display, worn until it fell off the body, a physical reminder of the order’s vow of Christian poverty. Serra must have
been smiling down on us. What I was most amazed by was an artifact that told so many stories. The baptism record from Petra, dated Nov. 24, 1713, for “Miguel Joseph Serre, son
of Antoni and Margarita Ferrer, a married couple,” made me think of my own baptism being noted at St. Andrew’s in Daly City. I am part of a
2,000-year heritage!

Let us pray that Serra’s life devoted to the service of others becomes better understood and that we more sincerely live the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” He will amaze.

Christian Clifford is the author of three books about Catholic Church history in Spanish-Mexican California. For more information, visit www.Missions1769.com.