ARCHBISHOP GOMEZ CALLS ON FAITHFUL TO REFLECT ON LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF ST. JUNÍPERO SERRA AS HIS FEAST DAY APPROACHES
Archbishop José H. Gomez addresses recent controversies in California surrounding public monuments to St. Junípero Serra in aletter published today to the community of faith in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Archbishop asks the faithful of the Archdiocese to invoke the saint’s “intercession for this nation that he helped to found.”
“I understand the deep pain being expressed by some native peoples in California. But I also believe Fray Junípero is a saint for our times, the spiritual founder of Los Angeles, a champion of human rights, and this country’sfirst Hispanic saint,” wrote Archbishop Gomez. “Pope Francis called Junípero ‘one of the founding fathers of the United StatesHe recognized that the saint’s witness anticipated the great spirit of human equality and liberty under God that has come to define the American project.”
The Archbishop stressed that “the exploitation of America’s first peoples, the destruction of their ancient civilizations, is a historic tragedy. Crimes committed against their ancestors continue to shape the lives and futures of native peoples today. Generations have passed and our country still has not done enough to make things right.”
“In the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, we have worked hard to atone for past errors and wrongs and to find the path forward together. We honor the contributions that native peoples made tobuilding the Church in Southern Californiaand we cherish their gifts in the mission of the Church today,” wrote Archbishop Gomez.
“But the crimes and abuses that our saint is blamed for — slanders that are spread widely today over the internet and sometimes repeated by public figures — actually happened long after his death,” added the Archbishop. “For Serra, the natives were not just powerless victims of colonial brutality. In his letters, he describes their ‘gentleness and peaceful dispositions,’ he celebrates their creativity and knowledge; he remembers little acts of kindness and generosity, even the sweet sound of their voices as they sang. He learned their languages and their ancient customs and ways. St. Junípero came not to conquer, he came to be a brother. ‘We have all come here and remained here for the sole purpose of their well-being and salvation,’ he once wrote. ‘And I believe everyone realizes we love them.’”
“Historical memory is the soul of every nation. What we remember about our past and how we remember it defines our national identity — the kind of people we want to be, the values and principles we want to live by,” reflected the Archbishop in his writing.
Archbishop Gomez urges prayers especially for “an end to racial prejudice and a new awareness of what it means that all men and women are created equal as children of God.” He also offers an original spiritual meditation that he composed almost entirely from words drawn from St. Junípero’s sermons and letters.
“Every true reform begins in the human heart, and St. Junípero would tell us that only mercy and pardon and true contrition can move us forward at this moment in our history,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.
The attached letter in English and Spanish and spiritual meditation from the writings of St. Junípero Serra are also available online on Angelus News athttps://angelusnews.com/voices/letter-to-the-faithful-for-the-memorial-of-st-junipero-serra/ andhttps://angelusnews.com/archbishops-esp/carta-a-los-fieles-para-el-memorial-de-san-junipero-serra/.