This weekend I will be going with the seminarians to see the Franciscan Missions of Blessed Junípero Serra. They are located in small towns in the mountain range called the “Sierra Gorda”, which is located in the northern part of the State of Querétaro.
This mountain range is a very rugged terrain, involving winding roads, hairpin curves, sheer drop-offs (with, apparently, a few vehicles a year going over…), different climates (desert to rain forest and many things inbetween), as well as beautiful views like the one above. I photographed this from our bus window as we were zooming around those curves then; as the one in charge now, I might ask the driver to stop every now and then so we can take some photos and enjoy the fresh air.
It is incredible to think about the type of men missionaries such as Bl. Junípero Serra were – how they pressed on (often on foot), crossing impossible terrains, not knowing what lay ahead, risking their lives… and all for the sake of spreading the Gospel. And to think that Serra did all this after having suffered a snakebite earlier in his life that left him permanently in a more precarious state of health!
After serving for a time in Mexico, Serra came to the United States where he established several of the California Missions. There is a statue of him in the Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol in Washington. Although he is still only a “blessed” (beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988), he is considered the patron saint of vocations. I recall fondly the generous prayer support that the Serra Club of Birmingham always provided me as a seminarian, not to mention their kind care packages and the seminarian dinner that they hosted every year.
Later in the week I will take up a collection of your prayer intentions to be remembered in the five mission churches that we will visit. These churches are a reminder of a golden age of missionary work, a time when many people were brought to believe in the true Faith, a time of great conversions. They tell stories of sacrifice: that of the missionaries (who left comfortable places like Spain to come to Mexico and evangelize in these wilderness areas), and that of those who converted, leaving behind their ancestral traditions and embracing a new way. They remind us of the greatness to which we are called, and inspire us to imitate the good work of our forebears.
Please join me also in praying for the five seminarians (three from my diocese, two from others) and one deacon candidate who will be going with me on this trip. As I said, Bl. Junípero Serra is the patron of vocations, so this is a particularly meaningful trip for them, as they are still in a process of vocational discernment.