This is the only complete letter from the first thirty-five years of Blessed Junípero Serra’s life. Today it is kept in the Capuchin Convent (monastery) in Barcelona.
“Most Dear Friend in Jesus Christ, Father Francisco Serra,
“Words cannot express the feelings of my heart as I bid you farewell nor can I properly repeat to you my request that you be the consolation of my parents to sustain them in their sorrow. I wish I could communicate to them the great joy that fills my heart. If I could do this, then surely they would always encourage me to go forward and never turn back. Let them remember that the office of an apostolic preacher, especially in its spiritual exercise, is the greatest calling to which they could wish me to be chosen.
“Since they are advanced in years, let them recall that life is uncertain and, in fact, may be very brief. If they compare it with eternity, they will clearly realize that it cannot be but more than an instant…
“Tell them that I shall ever feel the loss of not being able to be near them as heretofore to console them, but since first things must come first and before all else, the first thing to do is to fulfill the will of God. It was for the love of God that I left them and if I, for the love of God and with the aid of His grace, had the strength of will to do so, it will be to the point that they too, for the love of God, be content to be deprived of my company…
“Now is not the time to muse or fret over the happenings of life but rather to be conformed entirely to the will of God, striving to prepare themselves for a happy death, which of all things of life is our principal concern. If we attain that, it matters little if we lose all the rest. But if we do not attain that, nothing else will be of any value.
“Let them rejoice that they have a son who is a priest, though an unworthy one and a sinner, who daily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass prays for them with all the fervor of his soul and on many days applies the Mass for them alone, so that the Lord may aid them; that they may not lack their daily bread, that He alone may give them patience in their trials, resignation to His holy will, peace and union with everyone, courage to fight the temptations of the evil one, and last of all, when it is God’s will, a tranquil death in His holy grace. If I, by the grace of God, succeed in becoming a good religious, my prayers will become more efficacious, and they in consequence will be the gainers…I recall the occasion when my father was so ill that Extreme Unction was administered to him. I, being a religious, was home at the time, and thinking he was going to die, we two being alone, he said to me: ‘My son, let me charge you to be a good religious of your Father, Saint Francis.’
“Now, dear father, be assured that those words are as fresh in my memory as when they proceeded from your lips. Realize, too, that in order to become a good religious, I have set out on this course. So do not be disconsolate when I am carrying out your will, which is one with the will of God. I know, too, that my mother has never ceased to commend me to God in order that I may be a good religious. Now, dear mother mine, if perhaps God has set me in this course as the result of your prayers, be content with what God disposes and ever say in life’s tribulations: ‘Blessed be God. May His holy will be done.’
“Good-by, my dear father! Farewell, dear mother of mine! Good-by, my beloved brother-in-law. Take good care of little Mike [his nephew, then eight years old, who would also join the Franciscans] and see to it that he becomes a good Christian and a studious pupil and that the two girls grow up as good Christians. Trust to God that your uncle may yet be of some service to you. Good-by and farewell!
“From this house of the Holy Mission in this city of Cadiz, August 20, 1749.
“Your cordial friend in Christ,
“Fray Junípero Serra
“Most unworthy priest”
(This was originally published in From the Housetops as a sidebar of an article called “The Father of California”)
His own handwriting, of Father Serra’s first baptism in California.