Greetings my brothers and sisters,

The first day of this month of July is the memorial of St. Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who founded
so many of the California missions and so can be considered the father of the Catholic Church in our
state. In recent years, his contribution to the growth of this state and of the faith in this state has been
brought into question. One of the accusations made against him and the other missionaries was that
they imposed their faith on the natives of this land and forced them to become believers. As with most
human endeavors, there are always moments of sin and weakness and no doubt some harm was done
to those who were being evangelized, even if unwillingly. However, as believers in the one Lord and
King, Jesus Christ, we do not believe that those who were in this land before the arrival of the
missionaries were worse off after the missionaries came. After all, they had come to know the source of

We must keep this in mind when we are challenged to give a reason for our faith and hope. Remember
the words of St. Peter in his First Letter:

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you
for a reason for your hope” (3:15)…

and the part that follows is essential to how we are to give this “explanation”

“but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame”(3:16).

This is how St. Junipero and companions went about their evangelization of the natives of our state, with gentleness and reverence. They fought against those who would deprive them of their dignity and worth as human beings and sought to provide for their needs and assist them in their illnesses. I am convinced that this care and concern was a great factor in the conversions of those natives who came to the faith. Not coercion but concern and love!

When we are challenged to explain our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus and in the Church he founded,
we must do so in this way. Pope Francis speaks of “tenderness” in relating to others and this is the same
thing. One of the famous sayings of St. Francis de Sales is that one can attract more flies with honey
than vinegar…assuming ones wants to attract flies! His point, of course, is that our faith in Jesus is more
palatable to others when they see how it causes us to be respectful, loving and peaceful. I have found
this to truly be the case in my many years of religious life and priesthood. Rather than lash out at
someone who challenges my faith, I seek to reach out with a gentle word and explanation, and often
with a little humor. More than once I have seen people who are upset and agitated about something
having to do with the faith and the Church, becoming calm and reflective as I explain things calmly and
gently. It really does work!

Jesus is calling each and every human being to be part of his Body, the Church, and be saved by his gift
of Redemption. He desires that each of us make this gift known to those who are not yet taking part in
it, no matter to which vocation we are called. We must have the courage and conviction to reach out
and allow the Lord Jesus to make this offer through our words and example. We must be reverent and
gentle in doing so, keeping in mind that what is offered is a gift, not an imposition. May the Holy Spirit
gift us with this ability as we continue to discern our vocation.

St. Joseph, Minister of Salvation, pray for us

Fr. Brian, OSJ