Junipero Serra: Who, what, where, when and why

Today I’m pleased to host my very first guest blogger!

Emily Borman is Editor-in-Chief for Conversation with Women, a website where Catholic women anonymously share their stories of struggle, and ultimately joy, in living the Catholic faith in regards to marriage, sexuality, chastity, and society.  Emily is also a Master Catechist for the Diocese of Arlington and holds an Advanced Certificate in Youth Ministry from the Diocese of Arlington in conjunction with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She and her husband Bill have been married for 28 years and are nearing an empty nest.

Many thanks to Emily for sharing with us a post on Blessed Junipero Serra, who will be canonized by Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.


A Walk In Words With Pope Francis - Emily BormanI have been anxiously awaiting the Pope’s historic visit to DC and Philadelphia.  I live near DC and tickets to the Papal Mass are very limited.  Each parish has been given a few according to the size of the parish.  My parish received 3 tickets and held a raffle. There are 1300 families in my parish so I said a prayer, entered the raffle, and proceeded to make other plans. My thoughts and prayers centered on the thought, My Papa is coming to town and ticket or no ticket I will be there to welcome him!

I decided to attend an early Mass in the city and then participate in the Papal parade, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.  And then I got a call from the parish office; I won a ticket to the Papal Mass!  Woot! Alelluia!

The ticket reads:




Canonization Mass of Blessed Junipero Serra

Wednesday September 23, 2015

4:15 pm

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


Hmm, Blessed Junipero Serra?  I have to admit that I have been so focused on Pope Francis that I completely forgot that the Holy Father would be celebrating a canonization Mass and that Blessed Junipero Serra would be canonized as a saint!

So, where and when are pretty well covered by the ticket. But what is a saint? Who is Blessed Junipero Serra and why is he being canonized as a Saint?  Here are some of the results of google searches and my years of experience as a chatechist.

What is a Saint?

A Saint is a holy person who distinguished themselves on earth either by living with heroic virtue or by dying a martyr’s death. We believe Saints are with God in heaven.  Notice I said holy and heroic but I didn’t say perfect? None of us is perfect.  There is a very extensive and scrutinizing process by which a person is canonized a Saint.  The process begins when a Cause for Beatification and Canonization is opened. The process is started for many holy people who do not make it to Canonization as Blessed Junipero Serra has.

As Catholics we believe in the Communion of Saints which means that we often pray and ask those in heaven to intercede and pray for us, much like you might ask your grandmother or neighbor to pray for you.  Technically anyone who gets to heaven is a saint (lower case s), but those who go through the canonization process are officially recognized by the Church as a Saint (uppercase S).

Who is Blessed Junipero Serra?

The short story is that he was born Miguel Jose on November 24, 1713 on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain.  He joined the Franciscan order in 1730 and chose the name Junipero after St. Francis’ brother companion. He was a well-respected professor for almost a decade before he discerned a call to be a missionary to the New World.  He left his parents, the accolades of his relatively comfortable academic position, and sailed for America.  His mission work began in Mexico City, the capital of New Spain.  He was soon called to California where he founded one mission in Baja California, Mexico and the first nine of 21 Spanish Missions in Alta California from San Diego to San Franciso.

Why is Blessed Junipero Serra being canonized a Saint?   

Simply, he was holy and possessed heroic virtue.  His work was characterized with dignity and respect. He referred to the people as gentiles when the common term was pagans.  He learned the language of the native people and also tried to communicate the gospel in a visual manner rather than requiring them to learn his language.  He ministered to them both spiritually and economically.

Although he defended the Indians, he is sometimes criticized for both believing in and practicing corporal punishment, which was common practice at that time.  This biography addresses and essentially refutes those criticisms far better than I can.

My plans have changed. I am the blessed recipient of a ticket to the Mass and that is now my destination.  What about you?  What are your plans?  Are you local to DC?  There is still time to join one of eight parishes in DC that are offering a 6am Mass on Wednesday the 23rd and then are proceeding to the parade route to catch glimpses of the Pope as he travels in the Popemobile from the White House to the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle (for mid-day prayer with the bishops of the USCCB).

Blessed Junipero Serra, I am honored to receive the privilege of participating in your canonization Mass. Please pray for the safe travel of all pilgrims heading to DC to greet their Papa!

Read more about the canonization process here, or here.  Read more about Blessed Junipero Serra here.


For more reports and reflections on the Pope’s visit from members of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network (CWBN), please visit “A Walk In Words With Pope Francis.”

A Walk In Words With Pope Francis