Photo of Junipero Serra

Fr. Junipero Serra a Saint?
American Indians, NO!

Pope Francis announces sainthood for Fr. Junipero Serra saying he “brought the Gospel to the New World and, at the same time, defended the indigenous people against abuses by the colonizers.”

In the theological sky his career a supernova:
lector of philosophy before ordained a Catholic priest,
doctorate in theology, Duns Scotus        
His obsession: save the heathen

Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

The Franciscan accepts his stigmata,
 flesh-searing festering—for years,
thought inflicted by Brown Recluse Spider. 
Father Junipero Serra, clinging to his mule,
struggles the California coast north with Spanish crown’s conquering conquistadors. 
Twilight reaches camp, soldiers already warming hands over fires.
”Turn back, Father,” the commandant urges.
But the five-foot-five missionary will journey twentyfour thousand miles, found the California Missions, save Indian souls for Christ



Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

Father Serra brings the Holy Waters of Baptism,
the blessed sprinkled drops, to neophytes (converts),
 makes Sign of the Cross on each indigenous brow,
”In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
 Tears when fails to baptize Indians before killed by soldiers, 
tears when Chumash father seizes baby,
vanishes into forest of Coastal Live Oak



Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

In the Missions
 Father Serra gathers neophytes twice daily, 
teaches them catechism. 
But Chumash believe a theology, experience Cosmic Consciousness, “God realization.”
They celebrate the Winter Solstice: — one called paha, “Image of the Sun,”
his twelve assistants, “Rays of the Sun,” with their solar aligned stone disk, 
pull Sun back toward Earth


Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

Teaches Chumash Gregorian chants,
people who sing exquisitely
demonstrated on a scratchy 1890s recording.
Centuries, lovely voices chorusing cooking instructions,
accompanying gambling, spiritualizing rituals, healing,
singing accompanied with seashells, turtle shells

Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

In the Missions
No sparse dress, nakedness
Men wearing white wih short pants
But Chumash know proper dress in Southern California mildness
women don capes, skirts of skin, fur, necklaces, earrings,
their “dress and adornment. . . graceful,” writes Spanish explorer
Men—only a belt, really bit of netting for suspending tools, food



Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void


In the Missions:
Father Serra teaches neophyte women weaving.
But Chumash women coil, twine rushes
with commitment they are creating planets.
Chumash women fashion baskets of “delicacy, restraint and marvelous balance:”
bucket-and basin-shaped baskets,
 baskets for storing seeds, acorns,
baskets for storing water by the five and six gallons, 
baskets for dishes, for hats, for gambling, 
in rituals baskets for collecting “tears of the sun.”
 Village’s stock of baskets, purchases by travelers, 
souvenirs they send home to France, Spain, Russia



Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void

In the Missions:
 Father Serra teaches neophyte men carpentry.
 But Chumash men constructed first planed canoe. 
Chumash men, adopted into Brotherhood of the Canoe,
crafted the hardiest of Indian canoes, the thirty-foot, red-hulled Tomol,
 built this revered vessel of beached drift redwood
for trade among Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Channel,
for hunting deep-fathomed fish, sea-ranging birds,
 seal, sea lion, sea otter.
 With captain, dozen oarsmen, this craft crowned Pacific crests                       


Beware! The Dedicated Deed Can Cause the Devastating Void


Come to People’s Day at La Purisima Mission, Lompoc.
 Docents act the Mission roles:
Spanish soldiers strut in blue, red edged uniforms,
Father Mariano Payeras, in charge, vested in gray cassock,
 tells visitors he slips bit of brandy to visiting ships’ captains, 
gets good trade on wool blankets weaved by neophyte women

. Ask actor portraying neophyte man
 question about Chumash theology, 
about astronomer priests who practice keeping the cosmic forces balanced.
 He smiles wisely, 
”The padre wouldn’t like that.”

Ask actress portraying neophyte woman
wearing orange woolen skirt,
large silver cross over her white cantone. 
She creases her eyes. 
”I was baptized when I was ten.
 My name was Yul. That means bluebird.
They changed my name to MariaVilla.”

                Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
                First Poet Laureate
                Nassau County, New York 2007-09                                  
                E-mail: [email protected]

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Permission Given to Use this Poem
If used please send copy to author.
E-mail: [email protected]
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Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
C/O Dede Amescua
4372 Scorpio Road
Lompoc, California 93436
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