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On our recent trip to Petra, Mallorca, the birthplace of Fr. Junipero Serra, one place stood out above all the others. The friary of St. Francis was built in 1607 for the friars so that they could care for the sick and teach the children of Petra. For over 200 years this was a place for solace, refuge, learning and prayer.
In times of famine and disease, there was always soup for the sick and cheese for the poor, which were obtained from the sheep of the friary that grazed all over the local area.
In the first guide book published in 1931, it states, “Let us love this friary so full of the history of Petra and California.”
Father Palou, Serra’s biographer and friend, described the early education of the future missionary:
“As a child, his devout parents instructed him in the first steps of the Faith and to be Godfearing, encouraging him to attend St. Bernadine Church and friary, founded in the village of this holy Province, as soon as he was able to walk. The friars held his father in high esteem, so when his son was brought to the friary he gained their affection. He learned Latin there and he turned out pertly instructed. At the same time, he learned Gregorian chant, because of the custom of the religious Grammar Teacher of taking his disciples to sing with the community choir on festive days. Thanks to this holy exercise and devout conversations he heard from his parents, yet lamenting his too young age, the desire to take the holy vows in the order of St. Francis were soon born in his heart.”
Throughout his life, Serra always remembered his boyhood school. After he was ordained, he often returned to the friary to preach. It was during Lent, in 1749, on a return trip to his boyhood home, that he learned that his application to become a missionary had been accepted. Before departing for the New World, Serra donated his books to the friary’s library. His parents and sister are in a crypt in St. Bernadine’s.
Serra’s first baptism at the Mission in Monterrey on Dec. 26, 1770 recalled his childhood when he named the child Bernardino de Jesus. A Church historian, Father Geiger stated, “California had a man like Serra thanks to the role played by the San Bernardine Friary.”
The high altar of the friary was consecrated in 1721. Serra was 8 years old and he took part in the celebration by singing in the children’s choir. He would always remember that ceremony. The altar is one of the finest pieces of Majorcan baroque art. The Immaculate Virgin is surrounded by three Franciscan saints—St. Bernadine, St. James and St. John Capistrano. Serra honored his hometown by naming the seventh Mission in Alta California, that he founded, San Juan Capistrano.
Added to the church of the friary is a statue of Fr. Serra with a native Americans by his side.
Another room in the friary is devoted to mementos from Serra’s time in Mexico, along with information on his Beatification.
We are fortunate in San Juan Capistrano to be able to spend a Moment in Time every day by visiting the Mission and appreciating the relics, mementos and artifacts left to us by Fr. Junipero Serra.