[UPDATE: Pope Francis canonized St. Junipero Serra on 24 September 2015 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The feast day of St. Junipero Serra is 1 July.]
I have spent many summers in California, in fact, the Cali coast is one of my favorite places on earth! I love looking out over the Pacific toward Asia, sand beneath my feet, mountains and cliffs nearby, lots of warm sun... I cannot help but thank God in the midst of such natural beauty. (Not that Buffalo isn't great too, of course - let's not get too sensitive!)
Blessed Junipero Serra was a Franciscan Friar who lived from 1713 to 1784. He was born in Spain, received his doctorate, and taught philosophy in Spain and in Mexico. He later presided over the Alta California mission chain, the work for which he is best known. He was beatified by Pope John Paul the Great in 1988. The picture here is from Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building. Californians, even non-Catholic ones, are proud of his work in their state, notwithstanding the reticence on the part of some Native Americans groups. Detailed biographical information about Blessed Junipero is easily available on the internet if you would like to know more.
It's the Catholicism of Cali that strikes me when I'm there. Some people catch it and others don't; but I'm struck everytime I visit by the Catholic heritage and practice of Californians. I think part of the reason for this is that I walk a lot (like Junipero Serra, I might add). I've noticed that car people miss people-stuff like religion and focus too much on garish things and places.
Nowhere was this Cali Catholicism more clear than in Los Angeles, originally, "Town of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels." When my wife and I walked the streets or took public transportation, rosary beads, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and praying people were everywhere, except in the touristy and upscale places, of course. A homeless-looking person we saw on a bus was praying the rosary. The corner drug stores in the neighborhoods we visited sold rosary beads and religious items. I have never felt as comfortable praying the rosary in public in the US as I did on the beach at Santa Monica. By the way, there is a giant statue of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, at the very end/beginning of Route 66!
One can read between the lines here too I guess: Mexican-Americans tend to be Catholics. They are the ones on the streets, busses and subways in LA. And the Church is with them. And so was I.
So many southern Californian cities have Catholic names that one could practically teach the Faith through them alone. This is due in large part to Bl. Junipero Serra and the Franciscan missionaries. So here's my stab at a personal Californian Litany, purposely shmearing Spanish and English - it's more Catholic that way.
Let's pray it throughout July for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life and lay leadership roles.
Let us pray:
Most Holy Sacrament of the Body & Blood of Christ (Sacramento)...have mercy on us.
Our Lady Queen of the Angels...pray for us.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel...pray for us.
San Jose...pray for us.
San Mateo...pray for us.
San Miguel...pray for us.
San Rafael...pray for us.
Santa Ana...pray for us.
San Joaquin...pray for us.
San Francisco...pray for us.
Santa Clara...pray for us.
Santa Monica...pray for us.
San Bernardino...pray for us.
Santa Rosa...pray for us.
San Fernando...pray for us.
Santa Catalina...pray for us.
San Clemente...pray for us.
Santa Barbara...pray for us.
San Luis Obispo...pray for us.
San Diego de Alcala...pray for us.
Blessed Junipero Serra...pray for us.
Almighty and ever-living God,
Bless the Church with new laborers for Your vineyard.
Inspire each of us to work diligently to spread the Gospel.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.