At the end of the last millennium, on Dec. 31, 1999, Pope John Paul II said that the discovery of America was the principal achievement of the millennium.
In July the Church commemorates two great Franciscan missionaries of America. On July 1 dioceses in the U.S. will honour Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784), a Spanish missionary, and on July 14 the Franciscan family will honour St. Francis Solano (1549-1610). Blessed Serra joined the Franciscan order soon after the canonization of St. Francis Solano in 1726, and took him as a patron and model.
Missionary to South America
St. Francis Solano was born in Andalusia, Spain. He joined the Franciscans in 1549, and was ordained a priest in 1576. Full of zeal for souls, he divided his time between silent retirement and the ministry of preaching.
Father Solano was selfless in serving others. When he was novice master, if the novices committed faults he would take the blame on himself and give a penance not to them, but to himself. In southern Spain Father Solano served the sick heroically during an attack of the plague and he himself was struck down, but he made a quick recovery.
In 1589 Father Solano was sent to Peru. As the ship was approaching Peru, there was a bad storm and it ran aground. The master of the ship ordered them to abandon ship, but there was only one lifeboat. A number of Negro slaves were left behind on the ship, which was breaking up.
Father Solano refused to leave the slaves. He gathered them around him, encouraging them to trust in the mercy of God and in the merits of Christ. He then baptized all of them. The vessel broke into pieces and some of the slaves were drowned. Father Solano and the rest of the slaves held on to a part of the hull for three days until the lifeboat returned to take them ashore.
Over the next 20 years Father Solano worked tirelessly for both the natives and the Spaniards. He learned the native languages and dialects, made missionary journeys, and converted numerous people.
He had the gift of tongues and performed miracles; hence he was called the “Wonder-worker of the New World.”
Father Solano was a man of prayer who loved to sing to Our Lady. He died on July 14, 1610. It was said that the life of Father Solano was both an “uninterrupted course of zealous action” and a “continued prayer.”
Missionary to North America
Blessed Junipero Serra, another Franciscan priest, was an admirer of St. Francis Solano, and imitated his missionary zeal. In 1749 he and Father Francisco Palou were appointed missionaries to America.
Father Serra reached Mexico City on Jan. 1, 1750. He served the native people with great zeal and devotion. He travelled a great deal, established nine California missions, and founded farms, rancherias, and schools.
Like St. Paul, Father Serra suffered many hardships during his missionary endeavours: hunger, stormy seas, a near shipwreck, threats, and violent attacks from enemies, but he always lived out his personal motto: “Always forward.”
It was estimated that Father Serra baptized more than 6,000 natives and confirmed more than 5,000. He also travelled about 4,300 miles on foot or by pack animal.
In mid-August 1784 Father Serra asked Father Palou to help him in dying. Father Palou rushed to Serra’s side, and for 10 days the two men prayed together. On Aug. 28 Father Junipero Serra died surrounded by his spiritual children, the native people.
Zeal is “love in action.” According to Father John Hardon, author of the Modern Catholic Dictionary, zeal is “manifested by an impelling desire to advance the kingdom of Christ, sanctify souls, and advance the glory of God by making Him better known and loved, and thus more faithfully served.”
Both St. Francis Solano and Blessed Junipero Serra zealously spent their lives for the salvation of souls. Imitating their examples, let us strive to share the Gospel with others through prayer, example, words, and works.
一九九九年的大除夕、也是上世紀的最後一天，已故教宗若望保祿二世稱，發現美洲新大陸是當代最主要的成就。 七月份，聖教會紀念兩位美洲偉大的方濟會傳教士﹕七月一日，美國教區紀念真福余念樸.瑟肋Bl. Junipero Serra (1713-1784) ，他是西班牙裔的傳教士。七月十四日，方濟會則紀念聖方濟. 蘇拉諾St. Francis Solano (1549-1610) 。真福瑟肋於聖蘇拉諾被宣聖(一七二六年) 後不久加入方濟會, 並奉他為個人的主保和榜樣。
聖方濟. 蘇拉諾生於安大路西亞Andalusia，一五四九年加入方濟會，一五七六年晉鐸。他熱愛人靈，把日常時間分為兩部份：一部份是為自己靜修，其餘就是牧民 講道。
真福余念樸.瑟肋敬佩聖方濟. 蘇拉諾，要效法他傳教的熱誠。一七四九年，他和方濟. 伯樂Francisco Palou被遣往美洲傳教。一七五零年元旦日，真福抵達墨西哥城。他熱誠和專注地服務當地的人，同時週歷多處，在加卅設立九個傳教區，建農場、牧場和學 校。
一七八四年八月中旬，真福瑟肋請伯樂幫助他善終。伯樂在他病榻旁，與他一起祈禱了十天。八月二十八日，余念 樸. 瑟肋在他眾多的靈性兒女---土著們---的陪伴下去世。
熱誠是「愛的實質行動」。若望. 赫頓John Hardon神父說：「熱誠驅使一個人渴望基督的國度、聖化靈魂，切願彰顯天主的光榮而讓祂更為人認識、愛慕和事奉。」 聖方濟. 蘇拉諾和真福余念樸. 瑟肋，都以他們的一生，熱切地救人靈魂。我們應該向他們學習，以祈禱、言語、行為和善表，與他人分享福音的喜訊。