Born at Petra, Island of Majorca, 24 November, 1713; died at Monterey, California, 28 August, 1784.
On 14 September, 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood. Later he received the degree of Doctor of Theology from the Lullian University at Palma, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until he joined the missionary college of San Fernando, Mexico (1749). While traveling on foot from Vera Cruz to the capital, he injured his leg in such a way that he suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever possible. At his own request he was assigned to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions some thirty leagues north of Querétaro. He served there for nine years, part of the time as superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions. His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary means in order to move the people to penance. He would pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit, scourge himself, or apply a lighted torch to his bare chest. In 1767 he was appointed superior of a band of fifteen Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Lower California. Early in 1769 he accompanied Portolá's land expedition to Upper California. On the way (14 May) he established the Mission San Fernando de Velicatá, Lower California. He arrived at San Diego on 1 July, and on 16 July founded the first of the twenty-one California missions which accomplished the conversions of all the natives on the coast as far as Sonoma in the north. Those established by Father Serra or during his administration were San Carlos (3 June, 1770); San Antonio (14 July, 1771); San Gabriel (8 September, 1771); San Luis Obispo (1 September, 1772); San Francisco de Asis (8 October, 1776); San Juan Capistrano (1 Nov. 1776); Santa Clara (12 January, 1777); San Buenaventura (31 March, 1782). He was also present at the founding of the presidio of Santa Barbara (21 April, 1782), and was prevented from locating the mission there at the time only through the animosity of Governor Philipe de Neve. Difficulties with Pedro Fages, the military commander, compelled Father Serra in 1773 to lay the case before Viceroy Bucareli. At the capital of Mexico, by order of the viceroy, he drew up his "Representación" in thirty-two articles. Everything save two minor points was decided in his favour; he then returned to California, late in 1774. In 1778 he received the faculty to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. After he had exercised his privilege for a year, Governor Neve directed him to suspend administering the sacrament until he could present the papal Brief. For nearly two years Father Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights. During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, six hundred miles, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5309 persons, who, with but few exceptions, were Indians converted during the fourteen years from 1770. Besides extraordinary fortitude, his most conspicuous virtues were insatiable zeal, love of mortification, self-denial, and absolute confidence in God. His executive abilities has been especially noted by non-Catholic writers. The esteem in which his memory is held by all classes in California may be gathered from the fact that Mrs. Stanford, not a Catholic, had a granite monument erected to him at Monterey. A bronze statute of heroic size represents him as the apostolic preacher in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. In 1884 the Legislature of California passed a concurrent resolution making 29 August of that year, the centennial of Father Serra's burial, a legal holiday. Of his writings many letters and other documentation are extant. The principal ones are his "Diario" of the journey from Loreto to San Diego, which was published in "Out West" (March to June, 1902), and the "Representación" before mentioned.
More Catholic Encyclopedia
Browse Encyclopedia by Alphabet
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Browse the Catholic Encyclopedia by Topic
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online