Francisco Palóu.

Francisco Palou's life and apostolic labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, founder of the Franciscan missions of California online

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that it would not be long before our beloved Prelate would leave us,
judging from his great weakness. Although both of them set out as
soon as they received the letters, they did not arrive in time, as the one
from the Mission of San Antonio, which is twenty-five leagues distant,
arrived after his death but in time for the funeral, while the one from
San Luis, fifty leagues distant, arrived three days later and was only able
to be present at the Memorial Service which was held on the 7th.

On the 26th he arose more exhausted, saying that he had passed a
bad night and that he wished to make disposition of himself in order that
God might dispose of him. He passed the whole day in retirement with-
out admitting of any distraction whatever, and, at night, he repeated
with me his General Confession in many tears, but with complete knowl-
edge of himself, as if he had been entirely well. When this was finished,
after a little time spent in meditation, he took a cup of broth and lay


down, saying that he did not wish any one to remain with him in his

At daybreak on the 27th I went to see him and found him with his
breviary in his hands, as he was always accustomed to begin Matins
before daybreak, and when he was on the road he used to begin them at
daybreak. In reply to my question how he had passed the night he
replied that he was all right, but that it might be well to consecrate a
Host and to keep it in reserve until he would let me know. This I did,
and when the Mass was over, I returned to advise him and he said that
he was ready to receive the Most Divine Viaticum and that he would
go to the church to receive it. I told him that this was not necessary,
that we could adorn the cell as attractively as possible and that His
Divine Majesty would come to visit him there. He replied in the
negative, sajring that he preferred to receive it in the church, seeing that
as he could walk, there was no reason why his Lord should come to him.
I had to yield and to carry out his holy wishes. He went by himself to
the church (a distance of one htmdred yards) accompanied by the
Commander of the garrison, who had come to the ceremony, with some
of the troops, which he had joined with that of the Mission. All the
Indians of the village or Mission accompanied the devoted sick Father
to the church with extreme tenderness and affection.

On arriving at the steps of the presbytery his Reverence knelt by
the side of a little table which had been prepared for this service. I
came out of the vestry robed, and approached the altar. While I was
preparing the incense in order to begin the religious ceremony the
ardent servant of God intoned the verses which begin with the words:
"Tantum ergo Sacr amentum," ^^ with his natural voice as sonorous as
when in good health, though the tears in his eyes showed his emotion.
I administered to him the Holy Viaticum with all the ceremonies of the
ritual and when this most devout fimction had been concluded, which
I had never seen under such circumstances, his Reverence remained
kneeling in the same posture, giving thanks to the Lord. When he had
finished he returned to his little room, accompanied by all the people.
Some of them were weeping from devotion and tenderness, and others
from grief and sorrow, because they feared they were to be deprived of
their beloved Father. He remained alone, and going to his cell, seated
himself in the chair by the table and fell into deep abstraction. When
I saw him so withdrawn within himself I did not allow any one to go in
to speak to him.


I saw that the carpenter from the presidio was about to go in, and
when I stopped him, he told me that the Father had sent for him to have
him make the coffin for his burial and he wished to ask him how he want-
ed it. This affected me very much but I woxild not allow him to go in
to speak to the Father, but told him to make the coffin just as he had
made the one for Father Crespi. His Reverence passed the whole day in
absolute sUence and profound recollection, sitting in his chair and taking
a little soup only once in all the day, and without lying down.

At night he felt worse and asked me for the Holy Oils. This Holy
Sacrament he received seated on a little stool made of rushes, and he re-
peated with us the Litany of the Saints with the Penitential Psalms.
He passed the whole night without sleeping, the greater part of the time
kneeling and leaning his breast against the boards of his bed. When I
asked him why he did not lie down for a little while, he replied that he
felt a little easier in that position. At other times he was seated on the
floor, leaning against the breast of some one of the converts, who were
all night long in the cell, attracted by the great love which they had for
him as the Father who had begotten them in the Lord. When I saw
him so greatly exhausted and leaning upon the arms of the Indians I
asked the surgeon how he thought he was. He replied (as he seemed to
be much aggravated) that it appeared to him that the Venerable Father
was anxious to die upon the floor.

I went in soon after and asked him if he wished Absolution and the
application of Plenary Indulgence. He replied in the affirmative. He
prepared himself for it, and then, getting on his knees, he received Ple-
nary Absolution and I applied to him the Plenary Indulgence of the Order.
With this he was greatly comforted and spent the rest of the night in the
manner I have described. The next day was that of St. Augustine, the
28th of August, and he seemed somewhat better, with less of suffocation
in the chest, although during the whole night he had not slept, nor eaten
anything. He spent the morning seated in his little rush chair leaning
against the bed. This consisted of a few hard boards roughly hewn and
covered with only a blanket, which he used rather to cover himself with
than to soften his couch for resting, and he did not even have a sheep
skin as is the custom in the College. He always slept this way when on
the road, stretching out on the grotmd a blanket and a pillow and lying
down upon them to get the necessary rest, sleeping always with a Cross
upon his breast which he held in his arms. It was about a foot in length


and he had carried it since he lived in the novitiate of the College and
had never left it behind, but always took it with him on his journeys
together with the blanket and the pillow. In his Mission, and in other
places where he stopped, as soon as he arose from bed he would put the
Cross upon the pillow. So it was on this occasion, as he had not wished
to Ue down during the night nor dtuing the next morning of the day in
which he was to yield his soul to his Maker.

About ten o'clock in the morning of St. Augustine's Day the
officers from the frigate came to see him. They were the Captain and
Commander, Don Jos6 Canizares, very well known to his Reverence
since the time of the first expedition in the year 1769, and the Royal
Chaplain, Don Christobal Diaz, whom he had also known in this port
in the year 1779. He received them with every mark of esteem, order-
ing that the bells be rung in their honor. He stood up to give each one
a close embrace, just as if he were quite well, meeting them with all the
compliments and ceremonies befitting their rank, and when they were
seated, his Reverence occupying the little stool, they told him of the
voyages which they had made to Peru since the time he had seen them,
in the year 1779.

After having heard their story he said to them: "Well, Sirs, I am
thankful that after so long a time in which we have not seen one another
and in which you have made so long a voyage that you have been able
to come to this far distant port in order to place a little earth upon my
body." When the officers and all the rest of us who were present heard
this we were quite surprised, because we saw him sitting there in his
little chair and yet we heard him use this very expression. They said
to him (scarcely concealing the tears which they could not keep back),
"No, Father, we trust in God that you may yet recover and continue
your work of conversion." The Servant of God replied (who if he had
not had revealed to him the hour of his death, could at least say that
it was very near at hand) : "Yes, yes. Please do me this charity and
work of mercy of throwing a little earth over me and I shall be very
thankftil to you. " And then fixing his eyes on me he said : "I wish you
to bury me in the church next to Father Fr. Juan Crespi, for the present,
and when the stone church is built, you may place me where you will."

When my tears could be controlled enough to allow me to reply, I
said to him: "Father President, if it is God's wish to take you to
himself, it shall be done as your Reverence desires and in that case I


ask your Reverence for the sake of the great love and affection which
you have always had for me that when you arrive in the presence of the
most Holy Trinity, you wUl offer adoration in my name, and that you
will not forget me nor to pray for all those who dwell in these establish-
ments, and especially for those who are here present." "I promise,"
he said, "that if the Lord in His infinite mercy shall grant me this
everlasting felicity which I in no wise deserve on account of my faults,
that I will do so for aU, and that He may grant the conversion of all
these pagan people whom I am leaving imconverted."

Not long after he asked me to sprinkle the room with holy water.
This I did, and when I had asked him if he felt any pain he said "No."
But he asked me that I would do it that he might have none. Then
he remained awhile in profound silence. Suddenly he spoke to me as if
much frightened and said: "I have come under the shadow of a great
fear; I am very much afraid. Read to me the Recommendation for the
Soul and please speak loud that I may hear it." This I did, attended
by all the officers from the vessel, as well as by his companion, Fr.
Matias Noriega, the siu-geon, and many others from the vessel and from
the Mission. I read the Recommendation for the Soul, to which the
dying man made the responses as if he were well, sitting on his little stool,
and moving all our hearts to tenderness.

As soon as I had finished he burst forth quite full of joy, saying:
"Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God! He has quite taken away my
fear! Thanks be to God, there is no fear now, and so let us go outside."
We aU went to another little outside room with his Reverence and all
were astonished and filled with joy at seeing this new spirit in him. The
Captain of the vessel then said to him: "Father President, you see
what my Patron Saint, San Antonio, can do. I have asked him to
make you well and I expect that he wiU do it and that you wiU be making
some more voyages in behalf of these poor Indians." The Venerable
Father did not reply to this, but with a little snule which he gave he
made us all to understand that he did not expect such a thing, nor did
he think he would recover.

He sat down in the chair by the table and taking up the Divine Office
book began to recite the prayers. As soon as he had finished I reminded
him that it was after one o'clock in the afternoon and asked him if he
would like a cup of broth, and when he had assented he took it. After
giving thanks, he said: "Let us now go to rest." He went on foot to


his little room, where he had his bed of boards, and taking oflf only his
mantle, he lay down upon the blanket which covered the boards, taking
his Cross as before described, in order to compose himself for sleep.
We all thought it was to sleep, seeing that in all the night he had not
closed his eyes. The officers went out to dine, but as I was somewhat
solicitous for him I returned after a few moments, and going up to the
bed to see if he was asleep I found him just as we had left him a little
before, but now asleep in the Lord, without having made any sign or
movement of the agonies of death, his body showing no other sign of
death than the cessation of breathing. He seemed to be asleep, and
we all devoutly believe that he slept in the Lord a little after two in the
afternoon of St. Augustine's Day, in the year 1 784, and that he has gone
to receive in heaven the reward for his Apostolic labors.

His laborious life came to an end at the age of seventy years, nine
months and four days. He lived in the world sixteen years, nine
months and twenty-one days, and as a religious fifty-three years, eleven
months and thirteen days. Of these latter, in the exercise of his
Apostolic ministry, he passed thirty-five years, four months and thirteen
days, in which time he accomplished the glorious deeds which we have
seen, in which his merits were more numerous than his steps, having
Uved in continual activity, always busy in virtuous and holy exercises
and in peculiar achievements, all directed to the greater glory of God
and the salvation of souls. He who with so great labor worked for others,
will he not have done even more for the saving of his own soul? I
might say a great deal, but the subject demands more time and more
repose. If God wUl permit and if it be His Will, I will not neglect the
labor of writing something concerning his heroic virtues for the sake of
edifying and encouraging others.

As soon as I had made sure that we had all been left orphans through
the departure of our Venerated Prelate, who had not fallen asleep but
who in reality had died, I motioned to some of the neophytes to make
the announcement with the bells. As soon as the double tolling spread
abroad the sad news, the whole people came flocking in, lamenting the
death of their beloved Father who had begotten them again in the
Lord, and who had loved them more than if he had been their natural
father. All desired to see him in order to relieve themselves of the
sorrow which oppressed their hearts through the tears that flowed from
their eyes. So great was the crowd of people, both of Indians and of


soldiers and marines, that it was necessary to close the door in order to
put him into the coffin, which the day before his Reverence had ordered
made. And in order to prepare him for burial it was not necessary to
do ans^thing more than to take off his sandals (which became the keep-
sakes of the Captain of the packet-boat and the Father-Chaplaia who
had been present), and he remained with the same shroud as that in
which he died, namely, with his habit, hood and cord and without an
inner tunic, as the two which he had for his journeys he had sent to be
washed six days before he died, together with a change of under-clothing
which he did not care to put on again, as he wished to die with only his
habit and hood, with the cord.

As soon as the body had been placed in the cofiSn, with six candles
lighted, the door of the cell was opened. The sorrowful neophyte In-
dians were already there with their bouquets of flowers of every color
which they had gathered from the fields to adorn the body of their
lamented Father. The body was left in the room until evening and
there was a continual flow of people who came and went, some of them
repeating prayers, others touching his Venerable hands and face with
rosaries and medals, crjdng out in great lamentation: "Holy Father!"
"Blessed Father!" and using other epithets which were bom of their
great love for him, and in manifestation of the heroic virtues which they
had seen him exercise, when alive, in their behalf.

As night came on we took him to the church, in procession which
was formed of all the neophytes, soldiers, and the sailors who had re-
mained. After placing the body upon a table, surrounded by six lighted
candles, the service was concluded with a Responsorio. Those present
begged me to leave the church open that they might watch over him
and sing the Rosary for the Soul of the Deceased, renewing the watch
at set intervals and so spending the whole night in continual prayer. I
yielded to them in this, but placing two soldiers to act as sentinels, in
order to prevent any indiscreet act of piety, or pious theft, as all were
very anxious to secure some little thing which the deceased had used,
especially the sailors and the soldiers who, on account of their larger
knowledge of things, and because they held the late Venerable Father
in very high esteem on account of his virtue and sanctity, as they had
had dealings with him both on land and at sea, kept asking me for little
things which he had used. Although I promised them that I would
grant them their wish after the burial, this was not sufficient to prevent


them from cutting off little pieces from his habit, taking them from the
under side that it might not be noticed, and also a part of the hair of
the crown, when they could do so without being seen by the sentinel,
if, indeed, he did not become an accomplice with them and a partici-
pant in this pious robbery, for aU were very anxious to secure some
keepsake from the deceased, although such was their great esteem for
him that they called them relics, in spite of my efforts to correct them
and explain, etc.



Solemn Burial of the Venerable Father Junipero.

THE poverty of the land and of the people who inhabit it made it
impossible to give the blessed remains of the Venerable Father
Junipero the burial and the funeral honors with the pomp which his
heroic virtues deserved, as we were reduced to simply a little detach-
ment of troops from the presidio which was a league distant from the
Mission, to the small guard located at the Mission, and the Mission
converts who composed the congregation, the whole number not exceed-
ing 600 persons of all ages. It was also impossible to have present many
priests as there were no chaplains at the presidios and in each Mission
there were stationed only two Missionaries and these far apart, so that
it would be nattural to expect that in the burial of any of the Missionaries,
his companion who would be left alive would be the only one to take part
in the ceremony and there would naturally be no larger concoiurse of
people than the converted Indians and the little squad of five soldiers
with their corporal.

But God saw fit to honor his Faithful Servant (who had so con-
stantly labored in order to create these establishments in which the
Lord is praised and who had been equally anxious to separate himself
from every earthly honor) by permitting that his death should occur at
the time when the vessel was anchored in the port of Monterey, which is
only during the short time each year when it stops to leave the cargo,
so that we had the privilege of having with us at that time some Spanish
people. So that the funeral took place in the presence of the sailors and
the soldiers from the royal garrison and was conducted by four priests,
and later in the memorial service, five were present, of which I shall
speak later.

The burial took place the day following his death; that is, on the
29th of August, which was Sunday. In the morning the Reverend Fr.
Buenaventura Sitjar arrived at the presidio, coming from the Mission of
San Antonio, twenty-five leagues distant. As soon as he had received
my letter, of which I have already spoken, he sent it on to San Luis,


twenty-five leagues farther, and then started out without loss of time,
but had not been able to arrive before the death of the Fr. President.
On arriving at the presidio and learning that he had died the previous
afternoon, he remained there long enough to say Mass and then came on
to the Mission, accompanied by the Lieutenant-Inspector of both Cali-
fomias (in the absence of the Governor) and by the Commander of the
presidio with almost all the troops, leaving behind only a small nimiber,
necessary to act as guard. A little later the Captain and Commander of
the packet-boat arrived, accompanied by the Chaplain and other Naval
Officers, together with all the crew, except a few left to keep watch on
board, and also to take charge of the firing of a cannon every half -hour,
to which another cannon at the presidio responded (and in which
exercise they were engaged all day long) . These shots, being heard at the
Mission and being accompanied by the double tolling of the bells, melted
the hearts of all.

When all the people had gathered in the church, crowding it fuU in
spite of its ample size, a Vigil was sung with the greatest solemnity, and
then I immediately celebrated High Mass, attended by the officers who
carried lighted candles. When this was concluded Libera was simg,
then the act of biuial was left until the afternoon, all the people remain-
ing in the Mission, employing the time in viewing the remains, saying
prayers and touching the holy body with rosaries and medals. Bells
continued to toll, accompanied by the artillery of sea and land, as if it
were the death of some General.

At four o'clock in the afternoon bells called the people together
again and they gathered in the church, where a procession was formed,
preceded by the cross and candle bearers and composed of all the people,
converted Indians, sailors, soldiers, and officers (these latter with can-
dles), in double file, and at the head the Missionaries, the same who were
present in the morning. After the singing of the Responsorio they took
up the body and carried it out, the pall-bearers changing at intervals, as
all the officers, both from the army and navy, wished to have the honor
of having borne him upon their shoulder's. The procession made a
circle around the plaza which is quite large. Four stations, or stops,
were made and at each one the Responsorio was sung.

On returning again to the church the body was again placed upon
the same table at the foot of the step of the presbytery. The burial
then took place. Lauds being sung with all solemnity in accordance with


the Manual of the Order. He was buried within the railing of the
presbytery on the Gospel side, and the service was then finished with
the singing of the Responsorio, although the tears and sobs and wailing
of those present almost drowned the voices of the singers. His children
were mourning the death of their Father, who had left his own old
father and mother in his native land and had come this long distance
for no other purpose than to make these his children and the children
of God through Holy Baptism. The flock was lamenting the death of
its Shepherd who had labored so assiduously to provide them with
spiritual food and who had delivered them from the claws of the infernal
wolf. His faithful subjects were mourning the loss of their Prelate, the
wise, the prudent, the courteous, the diligent, and the model leader,
as they all recognized how greatly he would be missed in the develop-
ment of these Spiritual Conquests.

As soon as the ceremony was over the people crowded around me,
asking for some little thing which the Father had aforetime used; but
as the things which the Father had had for his own use were so very few,
it was not at all easy to satisfy them. In order to avoid the clamor of the
crowd in their demands, I brought out the under tunic which the Father
had used (although he had not worn it at the last, for as I have said he
died wearing only his habit), and I delivered it to the Commander of the
packet-boat, telling him to divide it up among the members of his crew
in order that they might make from it scapulars, and to bring them
that I might bless them on the 4th of September, as, upon that day,
which was the seventh day after his death, the Memorial Service was to
be celebrated in honor of the late Father. With this they all went away
satisfied. To the soldiers of the troop and other particular friends I gave
pieces of the under-clothes, cutting them up for this ptupose, and I also
gave away two handkerchiefs.

One of these was given as a legacy to the Royal Surgeon, Don Juan
Garcia, not only as a return for his services, but because of the long
acquaintanceship and the peculiar affection he had for the deceased.
A few days later, when he returned to the Mission, he thanked me for the
little piece of cloth and said: "With this little piece of cloth I expect
to cure more people than with all my books and bottles. I had in my
hospital a sailor who was suffering from very severe pains in the head,
which allowed him no rest at all. I left off administering medicine and

Online LibraryFrancisco PalóuFrancisco Palou's life and apostolic labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, founder of the Franciscan missions of California → online text (page 28 of 35)