Carmel Mission: Crowd listens to Pope’s homily after he canonized Saint Junipero Serra
Pope Francis delivers homily during saint’s canonization
Back in time…
On September 14, 1786, La Pérouse, the First Frenchman to visit California, was greeted at Mission Carmel by Padre Fermín Lasuén (1736-1803), a Basque Franciscan missionary appointed the second Presidente of the missions in California in 1785, following the death of Padre Junípero Serra. E.J.
French stele at the entrance of San Carlos de Borromeo church in Carmel. On the plaque is written (in both English and French): “In memory of the arrival at Monterey on September 14, 1786, of the explorer Comte de La Perouse, commanding the frigates Boussole and Astrolabe. This constitutes the first official visit of a European power to the Spanish establishments on a then mysterious coast. In this chapel of the Carmel mission, Father Lasuen in honor of the event celebrated a te deum mass on September 16, 1786. This plaque was presented by the government of the French Republic.” (1948).
La Pérouse had his own opinion about the Spanish Missions…
“Sins which are left in Europe to Divine justice are here punished by irons and stocks.”
“It is with the happiest satisfaction that I can make known the pious and wise behaviour of these priests who are carrying out so perfectly the aims of their order: I will not conceal what I considered reprehensible in their internal practices… A friend to the rights of man rather than theology, I would have wished that there had been joined to the principles of Christianity a way of governing that might gradually have made citizens of men whose conditions at present scarcely differs from that of negroes of our colonies…
Would it not be possible for ardent zeal and extreme patience to demonstrate to a few families the advantages of a society, founded on the right of the people; to establish among them the possession of property, so attractive to men, and by this new order of things to engage every one to cultivate his fields to the best of his ability or to direct his efforts to some other employment?
But I will say that, being individually good and humane, they temper the austerity of the rules drawn up by their superiors with their gentleness and their charity… The monks, in answering our questions, kept nothing from us about this kind of religious community; for one can give no other name to the legislation they have set up: they are its superiors in the temporal as well as in the spiritual sense; the products of the land are entrusted to their administration. There are seven hours of work each day, two hours of prayer and four or five on Sundays and feast days which are entirely devoted to rest and worship.”
From the Journal of Jean-François Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse (1741-1788), the very first European dignitary to visit the Spanish Mission in Carmel and the Port of Monterey, California, in September 1786.
Carmel mission vandalized after Junipero Serra’s canonization
Updated 6:43 pm, Sunday, September 27, 2015
Image 2 of 5 Photo: Carmel Mission Basilica
Four days after Pope Francis proclaimed Junipero Serra a saint, vandals defaced the grounds of Mission San Carlos in Carmel where the newly canonized Franciscan friar, and founding father of modern California, is buried.
At some point overnight Saturday, one or more vandals scaled the wall surrounding the cemetery next to the mission and defaced the headstones and statues of Serra and other European settlers buried on the grounds, said Sgt. Luke Powell with the Carmel-by-the-Sea Police Department. Vandals also sloshed paint on the church’s outside doors.
Officials with the mission posted eight photos of the vandalism on Facebook early Sunday, which show white, green and red paint splattered on the site’s memorials.
A statue of Serra was toppled over with green and white paint poured across the face and chest. A chunk of stone had the words “saint of genocide” scrawled on it.
“The Mission needs volunteers and skilled professionals to volunteer with the cleanup today,” officials wrote in the post. “If you can help please come down and offer your assistance. The way to healing is peace and service.”
Police were investigating the incident as a hate crime.
“There appears to be a correlation between the canonization and this criminal act,” Powell said. “Only the gravestones of European settlers were defaced versus the Native American ones.”
Investigators were reviewing security video captured by private cameras at the mission and were canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone may have witnessed the crime. No suspects have been identified and no arrests were made.
Clergy and managers were not immediately available to answer phone calls Sunday.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis canonized Serra during a service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., as part of his historic visit to the United States.
Hundreds gathered to watch a live stream of the event at the Carmel mission, which was played on a big- screen television.
Several American Indian groups have opposed the canonization, and many gathered to express their frustration with the honor at the mission’s cemetery while the service was held.
During the middle part of the 18th century, Serra founded nine of California’s Catholic missions — including San Francisco’s Mission Dolores — cementing his stature among the fathers of modern California.
But Serra’s time in California was also marked by controversy. Rather than a founding father of California, many American Indians and other groups see Serra as a Western European imperialist who killed thousands of indigenous people.
With few immunities to European diseases, native people died by the thousands in California’s missions.
What’s more, Serra forced those American Indians who joined the mission to work in the fields, and if they disobeyed, they were oftentimes beaten. The “gentiles,” as he called the unbaptized people, could not leave the mission once they joined — something critics equate to slavery.
Serra died in 1784 at age 70 after 15 years’ work in California.
Junípero Serra statue defaced days after canonization by Pope Francis
On Wednesday, in one of his first acts in Washington, Pope Francis stood beneath the great dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and made Junípero Serra a saint.
With thousands in attendance, Francis tried to set aside controversy over Serra’s treatment of Native Americans to instead focus on the 18th-century Franciscan friar’s role in spreading the Gospel in the Americas.
“Siempre adelante,” the pope said, quoting Serra’s motto in Spanish. “Keep moving forward.”
This weekend, as Francis was still greeting crowds on the East Coast, however, vandals in California made a statement of their own by defacing the newly christened saint’s grave.
“Saint of Genocide” they wrote on a headstone at the Carmel Mission in Carmel, Calif., where Serra is buried. They also poured green paint on a statue of Serra and splashed headstones with blood-red paint.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime because the vandals targeted “specifically the headstones of people of European descent, and not Native American descent,” Carmel police Sgt. Luke Powell told the Los Angeles Times.
The act of vandalism came roughly four days after Francis made Serra a saint.
The canonization was the first on American soil, but it was also highly controversial. Some Native Americans and scholars argue that Serra was complicit in the brutal and dehumanizing conquest of tribes in California, where the Spanish priest founded the state’s first Catholic missions.
“This pope doesn’t really care what we think,” Ron Andrade, the director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission and an Indian from the La Jolla Indian Reservation, told The Washington Post ahead of Francis’s visit to the United States. “I don’t know what he is hoping to accomplish with canonizing Serra. There were better people.”
In an interview with the Guardian, also before the vandalism, Andrade compared Serra to Hitler and the Spanish conquistadors who subjugated South America.
“Everywhere they put a mission the majority of Indians are gone,” Andrade said, “and Serra knew what they were doing: They were taking the land, taking the crops, he knew the soldiers were raping women, and he turned his head.”
“Why doesn’t the pope canonize Pizarro or Cortez?” he also said sarcastically. “It’s dumb.”
Francis, whose five-day trip to the United States was, in many ways, a tight-wire act of balancing competing demands and constituencies, appeared to address the controversy during Wednesday’s ceremony.
In a short homily delivered in Spanish, the pope praised Serra as someone who “sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs, which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”
“He was the embodiment of ‘a Church which goes forth,’ a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God,” Francis said. “Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.”
In an earlier passage of his homily, the pope alluded to Serra’s critics, implying that they benefited from a historical hindsight to which the friar was not privileged, and that is better for missionaries like Serra to get involved in troubled times that to shy away from conflict.
“Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual,” Francis said. “Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.
“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into elites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.”
Critics counter, however, that the saint presided over a “near-genocidal policy” of putting Native Americans on reservations and forcing them to build Catholic missions.
“We can’t reward Junipero Serra for the dehumanization and destruction of native nations of the land, because that’s what happened, that’s what was done,” Chumash ceremonial elder Mati Waiya told the Ventura County Reporter in January of this year. “It was violent evangelism for the sake of gold, god and glory; it’s what motivated the Spaniards.” Waiya added that the building of the missions was “the ending of our world.”
“Serra was not the face of evil,” Deborah Miranda, a professor of literature at Washington and Lee University and an Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Indian, told the Guardian. “But there were so many atrocities happening and he closed his eyes.”
It’s unclear who defaced Serra’s grave. The vandals evaded security guards to strike sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
When church officials arrived on Sunday morning to prepare for an event that night to celebrate Serra’s sainthood, they discovered statues of the friar and other figures had been toppled over and doused in paint. The vandals had scrawled “Saint of Genocide” on a stone, the Associated Press reported.
“We are sadden[ed] to learn this morning of vandalism inside the entrance courtyard in front of the Basilica early this morning,” the mission said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. “Staff and police are in route to investigate. Apparently a person or persons broke in, splattered paint and toppled down the courtyard statue of St. Serra and other historic statues on display.
“Pray that the people how [sic] did this take responsibility for their actions on this sacred property and that they seek reconciliation.”
Investigators are reviewing surveillance video to try to identify the culprits, Carmel police told the Los Angeles Times.
Like the decision to canonize Serra, the attack on his statue has stirred criticism online.
“Not everyone thinks destroying native culture in the name of Christianity is a good thing,” commented one person on the mission’s Facebook page, citing the controversy around Serra. “This doesn’t justify the destruction of churches, but it’s the truth.”
“Vandalism is horrible, but has anyone on this thread considered WHY this was done?” wrote another commenter. “A lot of people are hurting now over the canonization of Serra. How can the Pope apologize on one hand to the indigenous people of South America for the colonization of the Americas and turn around and celebrate Serra who was one of the architects of the California genocide?”
Most commenters criticized the vandalism, however, with many volunteering to help the church clean it up.
“Hatred only creates more hatred,” one person wrote. “It is time to move forward and find peace in our hearts.”
Others suggested that the vandals were inviting divine punishment by defacing a cemetery.
“So disrespectful and down right sacrilegious,” one person wrote. “Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes!”