Walking with Saint Junípero Serra to Proclaim the Good News
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has concluded his apostolic journey to the United States and returned to Rome, but the experience continues to live on in the hearts of many. The enthusiasm we saw from so many people from so many walks and sectors of life shows that there is a hunger for the Good News that the Church has to offer. There is a vibrancy and excitement within both the Church and the greater society and his presence among us is sure to bear fruit for many years to come as we take his words to heart and go out to care for one another, bringing mercy and hope and the joy of being loved.
Each of us in our own way will have our own favorite memories of this time of grace. Many of those memories, I saw at every location, were captured for posterity by a sea of smart phones, tablets and even a few old styled cameras. Whatever your favorite moments were, even if you watched the proceedings only on television or through our digital media on the Internet, I encourage you to share them with others. In this small way, we do the work of evangelization, sharing the joy of the Gospel by showing how we walk with Pope Francis and the Lord in our pilgrim journey.
Space limitations here really do not permit an extensive discussion of each of Pope Francis’ addresses and homilies. Each in its own way is worthy of careful thought and reflection. Thus, for now I would like to focus on the Mass for the canonization of Saint Junípero Serra, the extraordinary missionary priest. Celebrated on the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the liturgy in a way extended the Church out into the world, illustrating our mission to extend the Gospel to the world.
Following that beautiful litany of the saints, where the people assembled in communion with the whole Church sang out “ora pro nobis” (pray for us), as each saint’s name was invoked, our Holy Father spoke the formula of canonization, saying that after due deliberation, frequent prayer and the counsel of many brother bishops, “we declare and define Blessed Junípero Serra to be a Saint and we enroll him among the Saints . . .”
Pope Francis began his homily with words of joy – “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice! These are striking words, words which impact our lives.” Then he asked how, in the face of so many daily struggles, we could make the joy of the Gospel take deeper root in our lives? Rather than settling for what comes easy, a “Christian finds joy in mission,” said our Holy Father. “The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. . . . So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.”
Our heritage as Christians is a bold missionary spirit. “We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both ‘good’ and ‘news,’” the Pope reminded us. One of those sublime witnesses was Saint Junípero. “He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.” Although Saint Junípero faced great challenges, “He kept moving forward because the Lord was waiting. He kept going because his brothers and sisters were waiting,” said Pope Francis.
This is what we are all called to do – to keep going forth to every nation and to all people, proclaiming the love and mercy of God. This is the joy of the Gospel.