In these late days of a civilization so different in all its essential elements from that which the Franciscans laboured so strenuously to establish on the Pacific Coast, we may think of the fathers as we will, and pass what judgment we see fit upon their work. But be that what it may, our hearts cannot fail to be touched and stirred by the pitiful story of those true servants of God who, in the hour of ultimate disaster, firmly refused to be separated from their flocks.
Among the ruins of San Luis Obispo, in 1842, De Mofras found the oldest Spanish priest then left in California, who, after sixty years of unremitting toil, was then reduced to such abject poverty that he was forced to sleep on a hide, drink from a horn, and feed upon strips of meat dried in the sun. Yet this faithful creature still continued to share the little he possessed with the children of the few Indians who lingered in the huts about the deserted church; and when efforts were made to induce him to seek some other spot where he might find refuge and rest, his answer was that he meant to die at his post. The same writer has recorded an even more tragic case from the annals of La Soledad. Long after the settlement there had been abandoned, and when the buildings were falling to pieces, an old priest, Father Sarría, still remained to minister to the bodily and physical wants of a handful of wretched natives who yet haunted the neighborhood, and whom he absolutely refused to forsake. One Sunday morning in August, 1833, after his habit, he gathered his neophytes together in what was once the church, and began, according to his custom, the celebration of the mass. But age, suffering, and privation had by this time told fatally upon him. Hardly had he commenced the service, when his strength gave way. He stumbled upon the crumbling altar, and died, literally of starvation, in the arms of those to whom for thirty years he had given freely whatever he had to give. Surely these simple records of Christ-like devotion will live in the tender remembrance of all who revere the faith that, linked with whatever creed, manifests itself in good works, the love that spends itself in service, the quiet heroism that endures to the end.