|On Saturday, the Pontifical North American College held a day of reflection dedicated to “Friar Junipero Serra, apostle of California, witness of holiness”, with the aim of spreading knowledge of the life, mission and witness of holiness of this blessed who will be canonised in Washington on 23 September during the Holy Father's apostolic journey to the United States. The day, organised by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical North American College, with the sponsorship of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, culminated with the celebration of a Holy Mass at the college at midday, at which Pope Francis officiated.
In his homily, the Pope emphasised three aspects of the life of the future saint: his missionary impulse, his Marian devotion and his witness of holiness.
“First of all, he was a tireless missionary”, the Pontiff affirmed. “What made Friar Junipero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea. … These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings. But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junipero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium”.
Secondly, “Friar Junipero entrusted his missionary activity to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that before leaving for California, he wanted to consecrate his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to ask her for the grace to open the hearts of the colonizers and indigenous peoples, for the mission he was about to begin. … Since then, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become, in fact, the Patroness of the whole American continent. You cannot separate her from the hearts of the American people. She represents our shared roots in this land. Indeed, today's mission to the continent is entrusted to her, the first, holy missionary disciple, a constant presence and companion, our source of comfort and hope. For she always hears and protects her American children”.
Thirdly, the Pope invited those present to contemplate the witness of holiness given by Friar Junipero, “one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country. In this way may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church”.
He went on to cite the example of many American saints, who have distinguished themselves through their various charisms: contemplatives like Rose of Lima, Mariana of Quito and Teresita de los Andes; pastors who bear the scent of Christ and of his sheep, such as Toribio de Mogrovejo, Francois de Laval, and Rafael Guizar Valencia; humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord, like Juan Diego and Kateri Tekakwitha; servants of the suffering and the marginalised, like Peter Claver, Martin de Porres, Damian of Molokai, Alberto Hurtado and Rose Philippine Duchesne; founders of communities consecrated to the service of God and of the poorest, like Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel; tireless missionaries, such as Friar Francisco Solano, José de Anchieta, Alonso de Barzana, Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero; martyrs like Roque Gonzalez, Miguel Pro and Oscar Arnulfo Romero, and so many other saints and martyrs, whom I do not mention here, but who pray before the Lord for their brothers and sisters who are still pilgrims in those lands. There ha been so much holiness in America, so much holiness sown”.
“May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “Confident in Jesus’ promise, which we heard today in the Gospel, we ask God for this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We ask the Risen Jesus, Lord of all ages, that the life of our American continent may be rooted ever more deeply in the Gospel it has received; that Christ may be ever more present in the lives of individuals, families, peoples and nations, for the greater glory of God. We pray too that this glory may be manifested in the culture of life, brotherhood, solidarity, peace and justice, with a preferential and concrete love for the poor, through the witness of Christians of various confessions and communities, together with believers of other religious traditions, and people of upright conscience and good will. Lord Jesus, we are merely your missionary disciples, your humble co-workers so that your Kingdom may come!”
“With this heartfelt prayer”, he concluded, “I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, Friar Junipero and all the American saints to lead me and guide me during my approaching apostolic journeys to South America and North America. I ask all of you to keep this intention in your prayers, and to continue to pray for me”.