The Famous Missions of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 58 pages of information about The Famous Missions of California.
It was not until 1782, however, that the long-delayed purpose was at length accomplished.  The site chosen was at the southeastern extremity of the channel, and close to an Indian village, or ranchería to which Portalà’s expedition in 1769 had given the name of Ascencion de Nuestra Señora, or, briefly, Assumpta.  A little later on, in pursuance of the same plan, the then governor, Filipe de Neve, took formal possession of a spot some ten leagues distant, and there began the construction of the presidio of Santa Barbara.  It was Junipero’s earnest desire to proceed at once with the adjoining mission.  But the governor, for reasons of his own, threw obstacles in the way, and in the end this fresh undertaking was left to other hands.

For we have now come to the close of Father Junipero’s long and strenuous career; and as we look back over the record of it, our wonder is, not that he should have died when he did, but rather that he had not killed himself many years before.  His is surely one of those cases in which supreme spiritual power and sheer force of will triumph over an accumulation of bodily ills.  Far from robust of constitution, he had never given himself consideration or repose, forcing himself to exertions which it would have appeared utterly impossible that his frame could bear, and adding to the constant strain of his labours and travels the hardships of self-inflicted tortures of a severe ascetic régime.  He had always been much troubled by the old ulcer on his leg, though this, no matter how painful, he never regarded save when it actually incapacitated him for work; and for many years he had suffered from a serious affection of the heart, which had been greatly aggravated, even if it was not in the first instance caused, by his habit of beating himself violently on his chest with a huge stone, at the conclusion of his sermons — to the natural horror of his hearers, who, it is said, were often alarmed lest he should drop dead before their eyes.  The fatal issue of such practices could only be a question of time.  At length, mental anxiety and sorrow added their weight to his burden — particularly disappointment at the slow progress of his enterprise, and grief over the death of his fellow-countryman and close friend, Father Crespì, who passed to his well-earned rest on New Year’s Day, 1782.  After this loss, it is recorded, he was never the same man again, though he held so tenaciously to his duties, that only a year before the call came to him, being then over seventy, he limped from San Diego to Monterey, visiting his missions, and weeping over the outlying Indian rancherìas, because he was powerless to help the unconverted dwellers in them.  He died at San Carlos, tenderly nursed to the end by the faithful Palou, on the 28th August, 1784; and his passing was so peaceful that those watching thought him asleep.  On hearing the mission bells toll for his death, the whole population, knowing well what had occurred, burst into tears; and when, clothed in the simple habit of his order, his body was laid out in his cell, the native neophytes crowded in with flowers, while the Spanish soldiers and sailors pressed round in the hope of being blessed by momentary contact with his corpse.  He was laid beneath the mission altar beside his beloved friend Crespì; but when, in after years, a new church was built, the remains of both were removed and placed within it.

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The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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