Nobody Doesn’t Love Serra...
Among all the announcements around Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States, one of the most exciting for Franciscan-minded people was the unveiling of plans to canonize American missionary Junipero Serra. While my fellow residents of the USA might tend to think that Christianity has been here forever, we were described as a “mission field” by the Church until 1908. Though the early Puritans and waves of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries take the credit for the ingrained nature of Christianity in the nation, a great number of people came to the faith through the work of missionaries in what was to become the United States. Many of these tireless proclaimers of the Gospel were Spanish and Franciscan, like our brother Junipero.
But the history of the missions in the West is not an unambiguous success. Even the most well-intentioned often brought disease along with the Gospel, and many missionaries were, like ourselves, products of their culture and chronology. What was hailed as heroism in the eighteenth century is sometimes found to be short of the mark in the twenty-first. And one shudders to imagine how future generations will think of what we cherish as our best accomplishments.
Perhaps in choosing Serra for canonization, Pope Francis is signaling that even sainthood, while for saints, is not for the perfect. God alone is perfect and we can only do our best to follow God’s will as we understand it. In the economy of salvation, maybe there are points for trying.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, freedigitalphotos.net.