Many learned papers have been written about St. Francis, but St. Francis was a fold hero.  It is the people who have kept his spirit alive.  They loved him.  They loved his simplicity, his genuiness, his dedication and his love of life.  He opened their eyes to a God who could be happy and loved nature and all his creatures.  They were helped by his deep prayers.  Some followed him.

St. Francis was a mendicant friar.  He wandered from village to town, praying for the sick and living with the poor.  He told them God loved them and about the beauty of his world.  He helped them any way he could.  Sometimes he helped them rebuild a church which had fallen down.

As he walked barefoot across the countryside he became on with nature and one with the animals.  He slept outdoors, right with them.  He was among them.  They came to trust him and look for him.  He talked to them and prayed for them.  He blessed them.  He called them his brothers and sisters.

Gradually St. Francis began to have followers, people who lived in the same way.  Even some wealthy followed him.  They like his way of life.  They did it too.  They were dedicated.  And so the Franciscans grew, following St. Francis in different degrees.  There are Franciscans around the world.  They loved him, they followed him, for in him they saw the qualities of God, made happy, in this Godlike man.

The California Missions
Founded by the Franciscans

In the Spanish empire’s
last and dying days
they gave permission that this land
be settled right away.

North of Baja unexplored
in this wilderness.
It was 1769
in this land out West.

The government wanted land:
the padres wanted souls
and so they worked together
when northward they did go.

The soldiers (leather jackets)
went along beside
the padres on the mules
which they all did ride.

Ships did bring supplies
so they wouldn’t starve
and many things they needed
until they made a start.

Settling he frontier
was the Spanish was
of making natives colonists
wherever they did stay.

Here it was the Indians
they wished to make into
colonists for Spain
with a modern view.

This method was benevolent
and far different form
Americans in the East
who shot them with a gun.

The missions served the purpose
of showing a new way
with cattle and with crops
for them to emulate

Working in the missions
they would learn the tasks
of daily life and trades
which they could do at last.

A town within itself
its lands extended far - -
crops and herds and orchards
once they got a start.

And bustling daily life
to get the work all done - -
the settlers and the Indians
to get the battle won.

The padres’ purpose was of course
to win them to the  Lord
and they were eager for their souls
to find an answering chord.

For this purpose they endured
hardship every day
but were undaunted in their goal
to win their souls this way.

But mostly they were lost in work
of a worldly king - -
haying, tanning, cooking
and had little time.

Altho these Indians primitive,
far, far back in time,
they hoped to teach them modern ways
and useful service find.

These men were very dedicated
in their souls too
and very strong in character,
their stature only grew.
they set a good example
of what a man could do.

In 10 years the missions
would be secularized
and they would run it all alone
with newly opened eyes.

Altho this plan had worked before
in their vast domain,
these Indians back so far in time
were not at all the same.

When the missions given back
to these native fold
results there were disastrous
when they were on their own.

Colonists did seize the land
and crops and hers and all they had
and Indians went back to tribes
or worked for white men till they died.

Father Serra founded
the missions one by one
enduring greatest hardship
but they were well begun.

From San Diego in the south
to San Francisco bay
there were 21
missions in the chain.

Her is now considered
the founder of the state - -
California’s padre
at the early date.

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The First Mission, San Diego
Founded under greatest hardship
by the military
traveling with the padres
from Baja to the north.

Two parties left by land
and 2 there were by sea,
and in San Diego
these parties planned to meet.

Two ships were sent with soldiers
and loaded with supplies.
It took them several months at sea
the harbor there to find.

Another ship, the San Jose,
was loaded with supplies - -
10,000 lbs. of dried meat
and 8 casks of good wine.

It also carried beans,
raisins and dried figs
and 2 casks of brandy
and also some dried fish.

It had vestments for the padres
and a mission bell.
Also gifts for Indians
were on the ship as well.

But these supplies so needed
the mission never reached
for sailing out from Baja
it was lost at sea.

A pack train started then
with 180 mules,
500 head of cattle
and all that they could use.

They traveled north thru Baja,
350 miles.
Hardly any grass or water
in the hardship trial.

They came to San Diego
after 60 days.
The Indians traveling with them
died or ran away.

Those last to leave by land
started in mid-May.
Father Serra with this group
with trials every day.

The food did soon run out
and they subsisted then
on small game and fish
and for themselves did fend.

The group reached San Diego
on July the first
and found conditions there
were even for the worse.

The ships were in the harbor
but as for the crew
most had died of scurvy
and the rest sick too.

On one ship the sailors
had all dies but 2
and all the other ship was sick - -
just a skeleton crew.

They had to change their plans
due to such great loss
but went ahead the best they could,
survivors of the lost.

For the dedication
a wooden cross was raised
on a sloping hill
that overlooked the bay.

Father Serra sang high mass
and gave a sermon too
to those that had survived - -
the soldiers and the crew.

He dedicated this first mission
to St. Didacus,
a Franciscan friar
who was a saint to us.

Meanwhile the military
was looking for a bay
seen by ship one time,
the Bay of Monterey.
Coming back they almost starved
and ate a mule each day.

They found the mission not much better - -
they were starving too.
The governor said they’d have to go.
The mission would be thru.

They said a ship was coming
but they didn’t know
when it would shop up.
They didn’t want to go.

The governor set a date
when they would have to go
if the ship had not arrived
that they needed so.

Father Serra prayed
that the ship would come
by this given date
but there had been none.

On the evening of this date
a sail did pass by.
Altho it didn’t stop it seemed
a miracle in their eyes.

They waited for awhile
and sure enough it came,
loaded with supplies
and the mission saved.

The Indians watched the settlers
with curiosity
and apprehension too
of what it all did mean.

The purpose of the padres
was to turn their souls
into Christian people
and Christian ways to show.

Dedicated to this end
the way was very slow
for first were crops and herds
and building as we know.

Their daily life was practical
for food and shelter too
and little time remained
for what they wished to do.

But thy did make some progress
and some were Christianized
and worked within the mission
in trades new to their eyes.

For they were hunting people
and lived off game and fish
and had no need to farm
even if they wished.

The Indians even built a dam
as water there was scarce
and a aqueduct
to take the water there.

They gave them lots of holidays
and had a lot of feasts
for they weren’t regimented
in their history.

They always had enough
of acorns and of game
and did not starve to death
if supply ships never came.

The Indians got diseases
from the white men there - -
chicken pox and small pox
and thousands died, despair.

They also got venereal disease
from soldiers’, sailors’ lust
and made it very difficult
for the padre’s trust.

In spite of this they went on
with their mission plans
and built a fort and quadrangle
and worked and used the land.

The Indians on the outside
often jeered the ones
working under padres
in the mission sun.

The situation got so bad
the Indians did revolt
to cast the mission out
and rid them of these folks.

One night 800 Indians
descended on their land.
They burned many buildings
which were logs and thatch
and the few people killed
were glad it didn’t last.

It turned out that the fort
with all the soldiers there
slept soundly thru it all
and never were aware.

It was the second time
the mission had been built
for it was moved upriver
and now their work was nil.

After several months
they built it up again
and soldiers made a stockade
for the mission fence.
Secularization of the missions,
as the Spanish planned
was a great disaster
in the Indians’ hands.

It quickly went to colonists
who seized the land and herds
and even tiles from the roofs
to those who came there first.

Then the adobe walls dissolved
and perished over time
with only heaps remaining
of what was once their life.

Some Indians went back to tribes
and others hire to work
for greedy colonists
a trade that they had learned.

This mission was restored
in 1931
with its plain exterior
and tower of bells redone.

And when seen today
you would never guess
the turmoil and the history
preceding peaceful rest.

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The Mission Capistrano
The 7th mission, Capistrano,
is quite widely known - -
famous for its swallows
who made it their home.

Named for an Italian saint,
the work there was begun
about 200 years ago
until it all was done.

The mission was pastoral
by design and form
with haying and with tanning
and all the many chores.

Most prosperous of the missions,
the valley yielded grain
and livestock by the thousands
on the open range.
The setting of the valley
was beautiful to see
with the rolling hills
and all in harmony.

St. Francis would be proud
of this growing mission,
peaceful and productive
and it was Franciscan.

Father Serra built a church
standing still today
and it is the oldest church
in the state they say.

The mission was industrious
and had a thriving trade
with the eastern colonies,
now the USA.

They had a trade in hides
exported by the sea.
From a cliff above
they threw them lustily.

The wind would catch the folded hides
and toss them all around,
sailing in the currents,
going up and down.

When they finally landed
280 feet below
they were carried to the ships
by sailors, hides in tow.

As more Indians came
the church became too small
and so they built a church of stone
in 9 years overall.

Indians hauled the sandstone
quarried miles away
and an expert stonemason
watched o’er work each day.

It was 180 feet
and the tower for bells
was 120 feet
and heard for miles as well.

Only 6 years later
after morning mass
the bells began to jangle
and the roof collapsed.

It was the quake of 1812,
violent right here.
The church was never built again
but some stood thru the years.

Most beautiful of churches
in the mission chain,
ivy covered walls
are all that do remain.

White doves love to come
and strut upon a pool
or fly around the entrance
and make life to bloom.

Cliff swallows too come there
St. Joseph’s day in spring
and they are very famous
circling with their wings.

People come to see them
swooping from the sky
and they make mud nests
on the archways high.

The walkway with the arches
around the patio
lasted thru the years
for it was brick and stone.

Looking out on gardens
beautiful to see
and pools that have been added,
blending carefully.

Later on a padre
thoughtfully restored
some of the old buildings
and gardens there and more.

The bells of Capistrano
are famous in their use
and they have long been lauded
in song and writing too.

There are 4 bells in all
and they are always rung
by ropes tied to their clappers
pulled by a mission monk.

In the quake of 1812
the bells did loose and fall
but now all 4 of them
are in a garden wall.

It is said the bells
have rung all by themselves
when lovers were in ecstasy
or tragedy befell.

The missions’ peacefulness today
is far different than
the history of the missions
from when they first began.

Time has mellowed them
with quietness, repose
and peaceful atmosphere
of spiritual abode.

Time and death lend peacefulness
to the mission walls
where ivy grows today,
beautiful to all.

Gardens grow there too
as may have been before
and doves sit by the pools
gracefully restored.

We see the graves and tombstones,
sobering in thought,
but peace remains throughout
and comes almost unsought.

Doves do grace the mission
and the swallows fly
and the sun shines down
and we are alive.

An so we see the beauty,
the peace and mellow ways
and forget the tragedies
haunting many days.

Admiring what they did
the spirit does remain
and shines thru darker days
inspiring just the same.


California Missions, a pictorial history.  A Sunset book, 322 pp., Illus.

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