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:

Intention – For the repose of the soul of Bertillo Llavanes, father-in-law. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

Thank you – Erik Halterman for the ride back to my car in Sonoma.

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:

Intention – For the repose of the soul of Frank Ross, friend and classmate at USF. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

Thank you – To my wife Iris and son John Paul for the pick up and drop off.

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:

Intention – For the repose of the soul of Mark Hurley, friend and classmate at Serra High School. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thank you — Christian Pedersen and my brother Paul for the pick ups and drop offs.

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:

Intention – For those who work tirelessly to keep the missions living places of the Faith.

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:

Intention – That people drive safely.

Thank you – To my wife Iris and son John Paul for the pick up and drop off. Thanks too Tom Burke at Catholic San Francisco for the coverage of my quest to walk the CMT.

42.85 miles / 14.16 hrs. walking / 1 mission visited

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

Days 13-16

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission Santa Cruz (est. 1791) to Mission San Juan Bautista (est. 1797) and onto Mission Carmel (est. 1771).

“On this segment, I had the honor of following in the footsteps of the Portola Expedition (1769-1770), the padres, and the Anza Expedition (1775-1776)– a trifecta for a colonial history buff like me. I could not help but think when I go lost of the frustrations of the Portola Expedition when they believed they did not find Monterey Bay. When I saw berries on the side of the road, I recalled the men who had succumbed to scurvy. When I saw horses, I was near nauseous at the thought that they had to eat some of their pack mules. As I climbed the Anza Trail from Mission San Juan Bautista toward the Salinas Valley, I thought I heard the footsteps and wagon wheels of the 240 men, women, and children of the Anza Expedition. When I reached the 1,140′ summit and took in the beautiful views, I wondered if they had the luxury to do so. When descending into the Valley, in total isolation, I could finally hear myself think. I prayed and with every step felt the blisters and sore muscles. So many friars who walked between missions must have felt the same, and then some. Immersing myself in the past has helped me be more empathic. And to think, all those soldiers, colonists, and priests who came here did so voluntarily. What amazing men, women, and children!”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intention – For the well-being of those who labor in the fields and for my students — past and present. Special prayers for the students I will teach this year.  Saint Junípero Serra, pray for us!

Thank you — To Dan Keefe and Ami and Jack Ortiz for the hospitality. Thanks also to Marc Hinch for the visit and pointers of what not to do when walking along the highways. Many thanks too for hospitality Bob and Teresa Brunson.

78.67 miles / 29.5 hrs. walking / 2 missions visited

TOTALS
251.95 miles / 97.45 hrs. walking / 8 missions out of 21 visited

Days 17-19

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission San Diego (est. 1769) to Mission San Luis Rey (est. 1798), finishing on the 3rd anniversary of the canonization of St. Junípero Serra and the 184th anniversary of Pablo Tac’s enrollment at the Urban College, Rome, where he learned how to be a missionary priest, hoping to someday return home to California to shepherd his Luiseño brothers and sisters in Christ as an ordained priest.

“I was in San Diego to speak to a California History class at Point Loma Nazarene University so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by walking a segment,” Clifford shared. When asked what his big takeaway was, he reflected, “The roughly 40-mile walk included many valleys and mesas. I couldn’t help but think how they are a metaphor for life. We all have ups-and-downs. We have bad days we wish could be forgotten and good days we want to remember. Around halfway through the walk, though, I set my eyes on the Pacific and thought about the joy and beauty of life. For the next roughly 15 miles I walked along Coast Highway 101 and it was pretty flat. This made me recall the ordinary–the days that just are. In a sense, my walk reminded me of the Catholic liturgical calendar, particularly the seasons of Ordinary Time, Lent, and Easter.” When asked what the highlights of the trip were, he spoke about how before going to Point Loma Nazarene for his presentation, he walked from Old Town to Presidio Hill and enjoyed the history there. Also, Dr. Kennedy was a great host and his students really inspired Clifford with their questions. Very special, though, was seeing the living Church–in the students, the communities celebrating Mass at Mission San Luis Rey and at Mission San Antonio de Pala. He continued, “Of course Mission San Diego was awesome, it being the first founded. But I’d been there before with a pilgrimage group as the resident scholar. I am so grateful to Dr. Karl Kottman (who was instrumental in Clifford’s research for his book on Pablo Tac) and his wife Mary for bringing me to Mission San Antonio de Pala. Founded in 1816 as a station, or asistencia, of Mission San Luis Rey, it is the only church connected to the California missions that has served continuously the Indians–Palas and Cupeño–it was built for.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intention – For the repose of the souls of Blake Bottarini, a student of Clifford’s last year, who died in a tragic car accident in August and his sister-in-law Beth’s nephew Michael Nohr and dad Harlon Berg. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thank you – Dr. Rick Kennedy and his California History class, Dr. and Mrs. Karl Kottman, and Steve Marcotte at OsideNews for coverage.

41.6 miles / 15.15 hrs. walking / 2 missions visited

TOTALS
293.55 miles / 113 hrs. walking / 10 missions out of 21 visited