Walking the CMT Notes

Christian Clifford, author of books about Spanish-Mexican history in California, has been on a quest to visit all twenty-one California missions, on foot! When asked why he is doing it, he shared, “I am part of a group called the California Mission Walkers. We enjoy following in the footsteps of the padres. I’ve visited all 21 missions by car so now I thought it would be nice to walk the entire chain, God willing. Being a Catholic school teacher for over twenty years, my hope is to get as close to the lives of the amazing people who were the first Catholics in California—Indigenous, Spanish, mestizo—with the hope of being a better Catholic and teacher.” Clifford teaches at Serra High School in San Mateo. Next year marks its 75th anniversary. #Serra75

Days 1 & 2

Christian Clifford started walking the California Missions Trail on May 4, 2018, starting at Mission San Francisco Solano (est. 1823) in Sonoma. On day 1 he reached Petaluma. On day 2 he walked to the San Antonio Rd. exit on Highway 101.

Another reason that he is walking is to bring attention to a mission that is close to the hearts of many California mission aficionados, Mission San Antonio de Padua. Founded in 1771 by Junípero Serra, the third of the twenty-one California missions is the remotest and for many a favorite because of its authenticity. “When at Mission San Antonio de Padua the sounds one hears early in the morning are probably the same sounds the friars and Catholic Indians heard nearly 250 years ago. When walking many parts of the California Missions Trail today, it may be hard to connect to the past because of the noise of vehicles whooshing by. At San Antonio, one feels like they are stepping back in time.” Clifford continues that the Mission is in dire need of help. “The government is demanding the Mission to do retrofit repair and a campaign is underway to preserve the structural integrity. This gem must not be forgotten. Future generations must know of the roots of modern California and the Spanish missions are those roots.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

22.7 miles / 10 hrs. walking / 1 mission visited

TOTALS
22.7 miles / 10 hrs. walking / 1 mission out of 21 visited

Days 3 & 4

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from north of Novato to Mission San Rafael Arcángel (est. 1817) on day 3 and from Mission San Rafael Arcángel to Mission San Francisco de Asís (est. 1776) on day 4.

In addition to bringing attention to Mission San Antonio de Padua, Clifford hopes for people to get to know the founder of the California missions better. “For those who do not know Junípero Serra or would like to get to know him better, I hope they do so by reading the friar’s own writings. The Writings of Junípero Serra are free online through the HathiTrust Digital Library.”

Pope Francis shared on September 23, 2015 in the homily for the Canonization Mass for Junípero Serra, “He [Serra] kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!” Clifford believes that with every step he takes, he walks with his Catholic ancestors who came before him—in a special way, the Indigenous, Spanish, and mestizo who peopled the California missions.

Specifics of pilgrimage:

41.13 miles / 16.5 hrs. walking / 2 missions visited

TOTALS
63.83 miles / 26.5 hrs. walking / 3 missions out of 21 visited

Days 5-8

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission San Francisco de Asís (est. 1776) to Colma on day 5, Colma to San Mateo on day 6, San Mateo to East Palo Alto on day 7, and East Palo Alto to Mission San José (est. 1797) in Fremont on day 8.

Walking the CMT as a pilgrim in his backyard was special too. Highlights of this segment for Clifford were visiting the cemetery where most of his deceased family members are buried. He shared, “My wife and I were married at St. Matthew Catholic Church [San Mateo]. They have a beautiful grotto with a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. I’ve briefly prayed there before, but this time I took the time to pray the rosary, something I do every day I walk the CMT. Close by the grotto on El Camino Real is a wooden sculpture of Saint Junípero Serra by Kenyon Kaiser.” Commissioned in 1969 by the San Mateo Serra Club and donated to the city of San Mateo, Clifford continues, “Whenever I pass it I pray, ‘Saint Junípero Serra, patron of California, pray for us!’ Today that took on a deeper meaning.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

49.3 miles / 21.1 hrs. walking / 1 mission visited

TOTALS
113.13 miles / 47.6 hrs. walking / 4 missions out of 21 visited

Day 9

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from to University Avenue, Palo Alto to Mission Santa Clara de Asís (est. 1777).

It disheartens Clifford that a few students at Stanford University want to eradicate any reference to Serra on campus. He even wrote a commentary in the student paper in 2016 explaining why making such a demand is egregious. So it warmed his heart when he entered the Palo Alto Caltrain Station and saw a beautiful mural depicting Indigenous, Spanish, and mestizo from colonial times marching northward. “Even though I have a long way to go to finish the California Missions Trail, one thing that has struck me is how it seems people are just trying to live their lives the best way they know how. I see a lot of people working, waiting for the bus, meeting friends for coffee or a meal, socializing at the park, or homeless and sleeping in the shade. Today I nearly stepped over a woman sprawled out on the sidewalk, oblivious to the world. In my opinion, the few students at Stanford who want to revise history are living in glass houses. As Pope Francis reminded people, Serra’s life can inspire. ‘He [Serra] kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!’ Amen.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

17.3 miles / 5.4 hrs. walking / 1 mission visited

TOTALS
130.43 miles / 53 hrs. walking / 5 missions out of 21 visited

Days 10-12

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission Santa Clara de Asís (est. 1777) to Mission Santa Cruz (est. 1791).

¨Walking through the Santa Cruz Mountains, among the redwood trees, was humbling. I often felt small and weak¨, Clifford reflected on God´s grandeur. ¨One thing that came to me time and again during this most arduous trek was how the padres who walked by the redwoods probably felt the same way. However, they were not afraid of cars around the bend, but inhospitable natives. The padres came to live permanently in this foreign land and were often surrounded by those who wanted to do them harm. But they kept going to bring the gospel to the stranger they encountered.¨

Specifics of pilgrimage:

42.85 miles / 14.16 hrs. walking / 1 mission visited

TOTALS
173.28 miles / 68.15 hrs. walking / 6 missions out of 21 visited