Notes from the CMT

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. This 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

 

Days 20-21

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission San Buenaventura (est. 1782) to Mission Santa Barbara (est. 1786).

“I was in Ventura to speak to the leadership of Serra International so I thought I’d get a segment in,” Clifford shared. One particular thing seemed to dominate this walk along the Pacific shoreline for Clifford. “While walking along the Santa Barbara Channel, I couldn’t help getting the image of Saint Junípero Serra being carried over mud by Chumash Indians in December 1776 out of my mind. The local Chumash must have first recognized from a distance Serra’s importance due to his garb. Or maybe it was sympathy because of his old age. No matter the reason, Saint Junípero Serra noticed God in the Chumash by their act of charity.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intention – For the Serrans and the great work they do to foster vocations. Special prayers for the students in American Catholicism & the New Evangelization class at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA.

Thank you – Greg Schweitz for the invitation to speak at the Serra Rally 2019 and Iris and John Paul for your support on this segment.

30 miles / 9 hrs. walking / 2 missions visited

TOTALS
323 miles / 122 hrs. walking / 12 missions out of 21 visited

 

Day 22

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission San Luis Rey (est. 1798) to San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in San Clemente via Camp Pendleton.

“I was in San Diego to attend the California Missions Foundation Conference so I thought I´d hit the trail,” Clifford shared. Gratitude was on his mind most of the walk. “I come from a long line of veterans. My dad and I were in the Navy. Three of my brothers were in the Marine Corps. One nephew was a Marine and another a soldier. Another nephew is currently serving in the Navy. So when I walked through Camp Pendleton with one of my students whom I taught in 2010-2011 and is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, I got to share old sea stories with him and he shared yarns of his time as an EOD. I am very grateful to those serving our nation in the Armed Forces. I feel we are in good hands with people like my nephew, Justin, and old student, Tommy Casey, defending the United States.¨

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intention – For our men and women in the Armed Services.

Thanks to Shawn Raymundo at the Capistrano Dispatch for the coverage. Special thanks to Sgt. Tommy Casey for getting me on Camp Pendleton and making sure I didn´t step on any mines.

22 miles / 7.5 hrs. walking

 

Day 23

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from the corner of Reservation Road and Highway 68 in Salinas to The Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel (est. 1794).

“I am on Easter break so I thought I’d get a little walk in, but it was not quite as little as I thought” Clifford reflected, noting that he anticipated a flat walk but ended up hiking to 900 feet in the Fort Ord National Monument. “The challenge of this part of my pilgrimage was apropos, it being Holy Week. However, I had a great motivation! Waiting for me at the end was a visit to the Diocese of Monterey Archives where I’d be seeing artifacts pertaining to Saint Junípero Serra.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intention – For the Catholic Church in France, particularly parishoners at Notre-Dame de Paris.

Thanks to Fr. Carl at the Diocese of Monterey Archives for sharing priceless works dealing with California history (Baptism Registry including Saint Junípero Serra’s first baptism in Nueva California in 1770; Death Registry including Saint Junípero Serra’s last entry and own, recorded by his friend Fra Francisco Palóu; an original of Fra Francisco Palóu’s Relacion historica de la vida y apostolicas tareas del venerable padre Fray Junipero Serradocuments dealing with President Lincoln’s returning mission property to the Franciscans).

16 miles / 5.5 hrs. walking

TOTALS
361 miles / 135 hrs. walking / 12 missions out of 21 visited

 

Days 24-27

Christian Clifford walked the California Missions Trail from Mission San Juan Capistrano (est. 1776) onto Mission San Gabriel Arcángel (est. 1771) and ended at Mission San Fernando Rey de España (est. 1797).

“I recently learned that people during Jesus’ day who walked beyond their village averaged about 20 miles a day. I really connected with that due to the distances covered this pilgrimage”, Clifford shared. He described the part of the CMT through the LA basin as mainly urban, with lots of concrete, asphalt, and strip malls, but diverse as well. “Orange County didn’t have oranges. Irvine was manicured. Santa Ana had some tough areas, but some beautiful neighborhoods as well. The Whittier Greenway Trail was an oasis from the noise. The San Rafael Hills were a nice break from the urban blight, but before I knew it I was back in the urban jungle of Glendale, Burbank, and San Fernando.” However, those were not the only impressions made. “On this walk I encountered so much human diversity. I ate at a McDonald’s in Irvine with many Koreans. I smelled incense from the homes of Chinese in Rosemead. I noticed many groups of Armenians in storefronts in Glendale. While walking by Francis Polytechnic High in San Fernando there were banners showing off their best and brightest graduates. The majority had Hispanic surnames.” When Clifford was asked what his greatest takeaway was, he noted it was what he saw at the end of his walk. “When I entered Mission San Fernando on Holy Trinity Sunday, I was privileged to have witnessed the baptism of five babies and one child.  The missions are much more than curiosities. Nineteen of the twenty-one are still faith communities, functioning as they were intended to by the Franciscan priests over two centuries ago, places of living water.”

Specifics of pilgrimage:

Intentions – For the class of ’19 at Serra High School, San Mateo, CA. Siempre Adelante!
For the repose of the soul of Karen Chan, Clifford’s colleague at SPSU & Joan Hanson, Clifford’s aunt. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thank you — One of the criteria of a pilgrim is to depend on the generosity of others. I am eternally grateful for the kindness and hospitality shown by Jerry and Janet and Joe and Lydia. Joe and Jerry–thanks for sharing your stories of walking the entire California Camino. Thanks also to Sue for help getting me from San Fernando to Burbank to catch the bus. Buen Camino!

85 miles / 33 hrs. walking

TOTALS 446 miles / 168 hrs. walking / 15 missions out of 21 visited