Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Saint Junipero Serra's Camino by Stephen J. Binz

Saint Junipero Serra's Camino

A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions
by Stephen J. Binz
For each of the 21 missions, this guide offers you the street address for your GPS, the mission’s website, a brief history of the place, the story of the mission’s patron or namesake, and information about the mission bells. You’ll be given a tour of the mission church, as well as a prayer service for your visit.

But this book is much more than a simple travel guide. You’ll learn more about the life of Saint Junípero Serra, whose vision is responsible for this holy Camino. You’ll be enriched by two interwoven traditions: the Spanish Franciscan and the American Indian.
I've always been drawn to the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago, that ancient pilgrimage which treks over mountains and takes weeks to complete. I've also always known in the depths of my sensible heart that time and money will never allow that pilgrimage.

However, it never occurred to me that there is a camino of sorts in the United States. California has a well known string of twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to San Francisco. On foot, on bike, or by car, that is within my reach. Stephen J. Binz has written an eminently usable guidebook which has all the usual practical travel guide info, ranging from GPS to area history to mission bell names.

I learned a lot about California's early history that I never knew before, including details about problems between native people, colonists, and soldiers. Binz also includes that the unintended consequences of Spanish evangelization which didn't always work out for either the missionaries or the natives. I really respected Binz's acknowledgement that history is never simple as we like to paint it, while he sorted through each mission's story.

What makes this more than a travel guide, however, is that Binz takes care to feed the traveler's spiritual side. He explores each mission's patron with the lessons they have for us in our times. Each entry includes a litany and spiritual readings from scripture or missionary letters. These are designed to make each mission visit into a visit with Our Lord.

The only thing I'd change would be to include more photos of each location and to print them in color. But if you want to make a camino pilgrimage, this is the most complete resource I can imagine.

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