Should Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who founded nine missions in California, be canonized a saint?
The question is being debated as Pope Francis prepares for a visit to the United States where he will canonize Serra at a Mass in Washington, D.C. at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on September 23.
Many view Serra as a faithful and adventurous Franciscan who brought the Gospel to the native peoples of California, while others see him as a co-conspirator with the Spanish empire in their oppression.
In this video, bishop-elect Robert Barron takes a look at both sides of the debate over Serra and offers his perspective. While we must be careful to not impose the standards of today onto the actions of historical figures — we are all products of our culture and time in history — it is also important to remember that declaring Serra a saint is about his degree of heroic virtue and not whether he was perfect in all of his beliefs and actions.
An interview in NCR by Thomas Reese with Robert Senkewicz, professor of history at Santa Clara University and an expert on early California history, provides a look at the Serra of history. Senkewicz wrote the recently published Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, along with his wife, Rose Marie Beebe.
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Content Producer at Aleteia