Pope declares Junipero Serra a Saint
(Vatican Radio) Celebrating his first Mass in the United States on Wednesday, Pope Francis declared a new saint of the United States. Fr. Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan priest known for starting nine missions in the 18th century in what is today the US state of California, was raised to the glory of the altars during a solemn open-air Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in the US capital, Washington. Several cardinals and bishops, all in white vestments, joined him at the altar on a state erected specially for the canonization, while many more sat in front of the altar.
The Pope who is in the US, following his visit to Cuba Sept. 19-22, was accorded a state welcome Wednesday morning, at the Whitehouse in Washington by President Barack Obama, after which he met US bishops in St. Matthew’s Cathedral. The canonization rite at the start of the evening Mass included a biography of Fr. Serra and the chanting of the Litany of the Saints. Pope Francis then pronounced the formula of canonization, officially declaring Junipero Serra a saint.
In his homily, Pope Francis held up the figure of America’s new Saint, Junipero Serra, as a model of one who having experienced the joy of God’s merciful anointing, in turn went out to joyfully proclaim the Good News to all people, leaving behind the security and apathy of his comfort and home. Taking his cue from St. Paul who invited Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Pope Francis, delivering the entire homily in Spanish, said the desire for a fulfilling, meaningful and joyful life is something all have in their hearts. He noted that the struggles of everyday life seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine, he said, can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, making our hearts grow numb. But against this, Jesus offers us the answer. He says, “Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.” “For the source of our joy is “an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy,” the Pope stressed.
The Pope said that Jesus intended his Good News for all, embracing life as he saw it, in faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin, in faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. He said, Jesus embraced life as he found it, whether dirty, unkempt or broken, and urges us to go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father…who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil od salvation.
The Pope explained that mission is never the fruit of a perfect planned program, but is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing. In this regard, Pope Francis recalled the Aparecida Document of the Latin American Bishops, saying “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.” And one such person who witnessed to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, the Pope said, is Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life, and learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. The Pope said mistreatment and wrongs still trouble us today, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.
The Canonization Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was in Latin, Spanish and English, and one of the scripture readings was in a native American language. The prayer of the faithful was is Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog of the Philippines, Igbo of Nigeria, Criollo and American sign language, symbolizing the rich multi-cultural character that the US is known for.