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 is not altogether easy to measure such a man as Junipero Serra by our ordinary modern standards of character and conduct.  He was essentially a religious enthusiast, and as a religious enthusiast he must be judged.  To us who read his story from a distance, who breathe an atmosphere totally different from his, and whose lives are governed by quite other passions and ideals, he may often appear one-sided, extravagant, deficient in tact and forethought, and, in the excess of his zeal, too ready to sacrifice everything to the purposes he never for an instant allowed to drop out of his sight.  We may even, with some of his critics, protest that he was not a man of powerful intellect; that his views of people and things were distressingly narrow; that, after his kind, he was extremely superstitious; that he was despotic in his dealings with his converts, and stiffnecked in his relations with the civil and military authorities.  For all this is doubtless true.  But all this must not prevent us from seeing him as he actually was — charitable, large-hearted, energetic, indomitable; in all respects a remarkable, in many ways, a really wise and great man.  At whatever points he may fall short of our criteria, this much must be said of him, that he was fired throughout with the high spirit of his vocation, that he was punctual in the performance of duty as he understood it, that he was obedient to the most rigorous dictates of that Gospel which he had set himself to preach.  In absolute, single-hearted, unflinching, and tireless devotion to the task of his life — the salvation of heathen souls — he spent himself freely and cheerfully, a true follower of that noblest and most engaging of the mediaeval saints, whose law he had laid upon himself, and whom he looked up to as his guide and examplar.  Let us place him where he belongs — among the transcendent apostolic figures of his own church; for thus alone shall we do justice to his personality, his objects, his career.  The memory of such a man will survive all changes in creeds and ideals; and the great state, of which he was the first pioneer, will do honour to herself in honouring him.


After Junipero’s death the supervision of the missions devolved for a time upon Palou, under whose management, owing to difficulties with the civil powers, no new foundations were undertaken, though satisfactory progress was made in those already existing.  In 1786, Palou was appointed head of the College of San Fernando, and his place as mission president was filled by Father Firmin Francisco de Lasuen, by whom the mission of Santa Barbara was dedicated, on the festival day of that virgin-martyr, before the close of the year[6].  Just twelve months later, the third channel settlement was started, with the performance of the usual rites, on the spot fixed for the Mission of La Purisima Concepcion, at the western extremity of the bay; though some months passed before real work there was begun.  Thus the proposed scheme, elaborated before Junipero’s death, for the occupation of that portion of the coast, was at length successfully carried out.

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