The Washington Post reports:
Thousands of Catholics poured onto the grass of Catholic University [today] to watch Pope Francis make a Spanish missionary a saint when he celebrates Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception … in Washington, the first canonization on U.S. soil.
During the Mass, Francis will canonize 18th century Franciscan theologian Junipero Serra, who is credited with spreading Christianity in California but is controversial among some for the treatment of Native Americans under his leadership.
So what sort of man was Junipero Serra?
Extracts from Wikipedia:
Junípero Serra Ferrer (1713 – 1784) was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, which at the time were in Alta California in the Province of Las Californias in New Spain. He began in San Diego on July 16, 1769, and established his headquarters near the Presidio of Monterey, but soon moved a few miles south to establish Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in today’s Carmel, California.
The missions were primarily designed to bring the Catholic Christian faith to the native peoples.
Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988, and Pope Francis expects to canonize him on September 23, 2015 during his first visit to the United States. This has been controversial with some Native Americans who criticize Serra’s treatment of their ancestors and associate him with the suppression of their culture.
During his 1752 visit to Mexico City, Serra sent a request from the college of San Fernando to the local headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. He asked that an inquisitor be appointed to preside over the Sierra Gorda. The next day, Inquisition officials appointed Serra himself as inquisitor for the whole region.
Serra made a habit of punishing himself physically, to purify his spirit. He wore a sackcloth spiked with bristles, or a coat interwoven with broken pieces of wire, under his gray friar’s outer garment. In his austere cell, Serra kept a chain of sharp pointed iron links hanging on the wall beside his bed, to whip himself at night when sinful thoughts ran through his mind. His nightly self-flagellations at the college of San Fernando caught the ears of some of his fellow friars. In his letters to his Franciscan companions, Serra often referred to himself as a “sinner” and a “most unworthy priest”.
A man who could do that to himself – what could he do to “heretics”? Wikipedia does not tell us how he dealt with them. But we do know how the Inquisition generally dealt with them. And we are given an example of how he inspired masochism – to the point of death – in others:
In one of his sermons in Mexico City, while exhorting his listeners to repent their sins, Serra took out his chain, bared his shoulders and started whipping himself. Many parishioners, roused by the spectacle, began sobbing. Finally, a man climbed to the pulpit, took the chain from Serra’s hand and began whipping himself, declaring: “I am the sinner who is ungrateful to God who ought to do penance for my many sins, and not the padre [Serra], who is a saint.” The man kept whipping himself until he collapsed. After receiving the last sacraments, he later died from the ordeal.
During other sermons on the theme of repentance, Serra would hoist a large stone in one hand and, while clutching a crucifix in the other, smash the stone against his chest. Many of his listeners feared that he would strike himself dead. Later, Serra suffered chest pains and shortness of breath … While preaching of hell and damnation, Serra would sear his flesh with a four-pronged candle flame …
A model for all mankind.