A Letter from St. Junipero Serra to His Parents

The Church’s newest saint, Junipero Serra, a Spaniard by birth, but an “American” by virtue of his selfless service to the natives of what would become the American southwest and Mexico, left home at the age of about 35, having already enjoyed a successful period teaching philosophy at a Franciscan seminary. When the desire to be a missionary in the New World took hold of his heart, he struggled to tell his parents. In fact, in the end, he left without saying good-bye and only after he left were they informed of his departure. He would never see them in this life again. The following letter expresses the deep desire of his heart for them and, even more importantly, for the will of God in his life and theirs!It is a beautiful reflection on the priesthood, on the relation between a priest and his parents, and on the things that matter most in this world; St. Junipero Serra, pray for us!

“I am writing this letter in farewell, while we are getting ready to leave the city of Cadiz and embark for Mexico. The day fixed upon is unknown to me, but the trunks containing our baggage are locked and strapped, and they say that after two, three, or possibly four days, the ship called Villasota, in which we are to embark, will sail…

“Friend of my heart, on this occasion of my departure, words cannot express the feelings of affection that overwhelm me. I want to ask you again to do me the favor of consoling my parents, who, I know, are going through a great sorrow.

“I wish I could give them some of the happiness that is mine; and I feel that they would urge me to go ahead and never to turn back.

“Tell them that the dignity of apostolic preacher, especially when united with the actual duty, is the highest vocation they could have wished me to follow…

“Tell them how badly I feel at not being able to stay longer and make them happy as I used to do. At any rate they know well that first things come first; and our first duty, undoubtedly, is to do the will of God. Nothing else but the love of God has led me to leave them. And if I, for love of God and with the help of His grace, can muster courage to leave them, might I suggest that they also, for the love of God, be content to forego the happiness of my presence?

“Let them listen attentively to the advice they will receive on this matter from their Father Confessor; and they will see, in fact, that now God has truly entered their home. By practicing holy patience and resignation to the Divine Will, they will possess their souls, and attain eternal life.

“They should hold nobody but our Lord God alone responsible for the separation. They will find how sweet his yoke can be, that what they now consider and endure as a great sorrow will be turned into a lasting joy. Nothing in this life should cause us sadness. Our clear duty is to conform ourselves in all things to the will of God, and to prepare to die well. That is what counts; nothing else matters. If this is secured, it matters little if we lose all the rest; without this all else is useless.

“Happy they to have a son a priest – however bad and sinful – who, everyday, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prays for them, as best he can, and very often offers for them exclusively his Mass so that the Lord send them help, that they be not without the necessities of life; that he grant them the grace of patience in their trials, of resignation to His Holy Will, peace and union with their neighbors, courage to resist the temptations of the devil, and finally, at the proper time, a happy death, in His holy grace.

“If, by the help of God’s grace from above, I succeed in being a good religious, these prayers of mine will be all the more powerful and my parents will be the first to profit from them.”

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