The Life & Legacy of Padre Junipero Serra OFM, STD.
Padre Junipero Serra, the “glory of the island of Majorca” was born in a small town and what guidebooks would call a “non descript place”. In my research in the library at the Serra museum in Petra, I learned that the island of Majorca underwent unbearable stress in the year 1652. Fr. Serra was born November 24,1713. Sixty one years before the birth of Serra, a fierce epidemic killed 272 victims out of the 1900 inhabitants of the town. The pestered were helped by the sons of St. Francis who brought consolation to the grieving and bread and broth to the sick.
Franciscans had been on the island since 1607. The friars continued to do good by bringing cheese for the poor which they obtained from their sheep which grazed on the pasture grounds near the friary. Friars who would follow were models for Michael Joseph Serra born November 24,1713. Despite respiratory conditions, the young boy managed to excel in later life as a professed friar as an eloquent speaker. Certainly his moments as a boy sitting on the cliffs near the islands edge made him wonder what was beyond the “wide blue sea” as sailors would return and occasionally he would here stories of tales and wonders in expeditions to the “new world” and this must have fired his boyhood idealism. Fr. Serra was a very intelligent little boy who could apply what he learned. His later life as an academic was shaped in these young years when he poured over Franciscan chronicles thereby firing his heart for the remainder of his life. The friars taught Michael Joseph there in Petra and when he grew to make a choice to join the brothers, his devotion deepened and expanded. The “convento” where he lived as a friar in Palma, the capital city of the island, was known for its visitations of the Virgin Mary and the saints. Micael Joseph was given the Religious name “Junipero” who was one of the first followers of St. Francis. The “joy” of simple Brother Juniper was a great strength for his seraphic Father Francis. Fr. Serra was ordained in the great Cathedral of Palma which people today still say here viewers will discover still the “soulfulness of Majorca”. From this stock Blessed Junipero Serra came. He came to the altar and was ordained because of the people who believed in him as a boy and watched him grow too in “wisdom and grace.”
On April 8,1749, Blessed Junipero Serra celebrated his final mass. Delighted that his name was chosen to go to the “new world” when someone else had to cancel going and stay on the island, Fr. Serra looked with all eagerness to bring what he daily came to draw upon, the great love of Jesus and His blessed Mother and the communion of saints to other parts of the world. His great devotion to the eucharist which he shared as a professor in the classroom could now be brought to places unknown. God was instilling in him at a mid course in his life to become a “missionary.” Rather than a “second career” his choice grew out of his growing depth awareness of the life of grace in the People of God. It was Easter Tuesday, April 8,1749 and on this day his friends witnessed him celebrate his final farewell mass in his home town.