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Blessed Junípero Serra

Birth to Missionary 1713-1749

Born 1 a.m. Friday 24 November 1713
Miquel José Serra, third child of five, is born to farmers Antiono Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa (Ferrer) Serra of #6 Calle Barracar, Petra, Mallorca, Spain. He is baptized on the same day by Rev. Bartolomé Lladó at Petra's San Pedro Church, baptismal entry #85. His godparents are Sebastiana Serra (paternal aunt), and Bartolomé Fiol (maternal relative - status unknown).

Sunday 26 May 1715
Retaining his baptismal name, Serra is confirmed by Most Rev. Atanasio Esterripa y Tranajáuergi, Bishop of Mallorca. His sponsor is the same priest who married his parents on 7 August 1701, Rev. Pere Mestre.

1719 - 1729
Serra attends Franciscan elementary school at he Convento de San Bernardino, two blocks from home. He excels in Latin.

September 1729
Serra enrolls as a philosophy student at the Franciscan Convento de San Francisco, Palma.

Thursday 14 September 1730
Serra receives the Franciscan habit at the novitiate Convento de Santa Maria de los Angeles de Jesús, just outside Palma. He has a facile memory and a strong singing voice, but is excused from turning the large sheepskin choirbook pages, because in his words, "I was almost always ill and so small of stature that I was unable to reach the lectern." Serving as an altar boy instead, he will eventually grow to an adult height of 5 feet, 2 inches, and reach a maximum weight of around 110 pounds.

Saturday 15 September 1731
Serra makes his solemn profession into the Franciscan Order. He assumes the religious name Junípero, after a companion of Saint Francis of Assisi who was simple, sincere, and good-natured. When the original Junípero was chided by others, Saint Francis was to have remarked: "My brothers, my brothers, I wish I had a forest of such junipers. Serra moves to the Convento de San Francisco, Palma, and studies philosophy until June 1734.

Friday 21 December 1731
Administered by Most Rev. Benito Panelles y Escordó, Bishop of Mallorca, Serra receives tonsure and the four minor orders.

Saturday 18 December 1734
Serra is ordained a sub-deacon. He studies theology until June 1737.

Saturday 17 March 1736
Serra is ordained a deacon.

Friday 29 November 1737
Serra successfully competes for the office of Lector in Philosophy at the Convento de San Francisco.

December 1737
Probable month of Serra's ordination to the priesthood, exact date unrecorded

October 1739-October 1743
Serra teaches the complete course of philosophy at the Convento de San Francisco, and among his students are Francisco Palóu and Juan Crespí, natives of Palma. Just beginning their professional studies, both choose to retain their baptismal names. Serra concludes the three year course by saying:

I desire nothing more from you than this that when the news of my death shall have reached your ears, I ask that you say for the benefit of my soul "May he rest in peace," and I shall not fail to do the same for you so that all of us will attain that goal for which we have been created. Amen and farewell.... I am no longer your professor, but your most humble servant, Fray Junípero Serra of the Order of Friars Minor.

Serra earns a doctorate in Sacred Theology (exact date unrecorded) from the Pontifical, Imperial, Royal and Literary University of Mallorca, commonly known as Llullian University, after Blessed Ramon Llull.

Thursday 13 June 1743
Upon invitation, Doctor Serra delivers the famous annual Feast of Corpus Christi sermon at Palma Cathedral.

Wednesday 16 October 1743
Dr. Serra is appointed catedratico de prima of the Duns Scotus Chair of Sacred Theology at Llullian University. He is frequently called upon to preach in Palma and various other Mallorcan cities, and holds the distinguished tenure until his departure for Mexico in 1749.

Saturday 25 January 1749
Dr. Serra is chosen by professors and benefactors to deliver the most prestigious sermon of the year, delivered at San Francisco Church in honor of the feast of Blessed Ramón Llull, patron of Mallorca.
All who heard him were in admiration. When he finished the sermon,... a retired professor who himself was very famous in the professor's chair and in the pulpit, but who was in no way partial to the preacher, [said]: "This sermon is worthy of being printed in letters of gold."

Tuesday 1 April 1749
Serra makes his last romería (pilgrimage) to the Petran hilltop shrine of Nuestra Señora de Bon Any. He has decided to become a Mexican missionary, writing that "the dignity of Apostolic preacher, especially when united with the actual duty, is the highest vocation."

Sunday 13 April 1749
In the company of Palóu, who has also decided to become a missionary, Serra sails from Palma to Málaga and Cádiz, the first leg of a 5,000-mile sea journey to Mexico. Serra tells Palóu to "stop using all these titles of respect and superiority in regard to each other; for we are now in every respect equals." En route to Málaga, an anti-clerical skipper threatens to throw the pair overboard, and brandishes a dagger at Serra's throat with "the intention of taking his life." Cádiz Board of Trade officials document all missionaries who pass through, and Serra is recorded as "Lector of theology, native of Petra in the Diocese of Mallorca, thirty-five years old, of medium height, swarthy, dark eyes and hair, scant beard. " From Cádiz, Serra writes to Petra's parish priest, asking him to deliver a final farewell to his parents. He expresses his "great joy" at becoming a missionary, and is confident that his family will . . . always encourage me to go forward, and never to turn back.... Let them rejoice that they have a son who is a priest, though an unworthy one and a sinner, . . . in order to become a good religious I have set out on this course.... Blessed be God. May His holy will be done.

Junípero Serra's Legacy
by Martin J. Morgado
Published by Mount Carmel, 1987

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Created: 03/20/98
Revised: 07/31/2008