Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fathering, Missions and the Father's Moon

Full Father's Moon

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JUNIPERO'S mode of life in his mission never varied He rose with the dawn He seemed to require little sleep The greater portion of the night he passed in prayer.

At sunrise he said mass and afterwards distributed breakfast to his neophyt
es This task he always refused to delegate to others. His Indians were well-fed and well-cared for. He found time to cut out all the shirts and petticoats needed in the missions and all the little garments worn by the children. During stated hours in the mornings and afternoons he instructed the Indians in the doctrines and observances of the church. In the intervals he taught the women to sew and superintended the labors of the men, tucking up his shabby friar's frock to work himself, the better to show his pupils and to stimulate them to habits of industry by the force of his example. He was always kind to the neophytes although he did not hesitate to punish them whenever he deemed punishment necessary. He refused to overlook, even in the newest converts, the slightest lapse from the strict code of morals he insisted upon, nor would he pardon the least carelessness or neglect in church attendance or observances.

In spite of this severity the neophytes were devoted to him. They saw that he exacted from them no duty which he did not exact from himself with far greater rigor, that the pu
nishments he inflicted upon his own delicate body surpassed severity anything to which they were subjected. An intuition which belongs alike to children and savages taught them that in Junipero they had not teacher only, but a friend, a brother, and champion.

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I'm late in posting my full Father's Moon post because I was on vacation for a week in Southern California, visiting family. My sister and I traveled together and had a great time. We went to the Santa Monica Pier, swam in the ocean at Corona del Mar, visited the Natural History Museum and ate as much ethnic food as we could pack into our five days (I believe the final count was 9 restaurants representing 6 cuisines).

One of the highlights of
the trip for me was our visit to Mission San Gabriel, the fourth of 21 Spanish Missions built in the 18th century in south and Central California. The missions in Alta California, as the area was called in late 1700s, were begun by Father Junipero Serra. Serra was born in Majorca in 1713 and studied theology and philosophy as a priest and lecturer at the University in Majorca. When he was 36 years old he left his home to work as a missionary in Mexico where he worked both among the Indians and in Mexico City for almost 20 years. In 1768 he was appointed the Father Presidente of the Missions in Baja California and in 1770 founded the Mission San Diego in what is today a city that bears that same name. He founded missions all along the California coast for the rest of his life, working to convert Indians and turn the land around the missions into productive farms.

Mission San Gabriel, 9 miles east of downtown Los Angeles (the original Mexican settlement of Los Angeles was an secular outgrowth of the mission), is as stunningly beautiful as any of the other missions. It's exterior walls are a warm and lovely golden sand color and its interior a series of shady gardens and cool, dark buildings. It is reknown for its campanario, a wall with six bells in it and its elegant capped buttresses and tall narrow windows showing the influence Spanish Moors had even half a world away. Inside the church are 18th century paintings by a Native American artist of the stations of the cross, wooden statues carved in Mexico and a copper babtismal that has seen more than 25,000 baptisms. Mission San Gabriel is also the final resting place of over 6,000 Native Americans, and is the eipicenter of the cultural destruction of the Tongva/Gabrielino Indians. Even today the Tongva people are fighting for federal recognition, for respectful treatment of their cultural artifacts and preservation of their traditional lands.

Father Junipero Serra was a perfect incarnation of the energies of the Father's Moon and so my mixed emotions about him are quite fitting. He was a loving but stern figure, very conscious of the need to train his followers, both Spanish and Native. He was very much a man of his era and had no notion of the multiculturalism and relativism that are hallmarks of our own time. He believe in right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, and he knew the correct path to take to become the right kind of person. Annette Hinshaw notes that humans tend to resent fathering, even as we realize that it is important to our own growth. She also reminds us that the role of the father requires commanding respect, not necessarily love or even affection.

As I've traveled this summer I've gotten to see a number of my friends and family members as they act as fa
thers. One of my friends is the gentlest, most loving father I've ever met and genuinely dotes on his daughters. He has a hard time being a disciplinarian and his 6 year old knows it. Another friend seems overwhelmed by economic hardships and, though I know he loves his kids, seems less able to love and laugh with them. My cousins I was staying with in L.A. are Mormon and the father of that family seems so balanced and comfortable in his role as a father. I wonder how much his religion's traditional views on fatherhood actually give him clear role models and standards to live up to in his fathering. He works full time but comes home to his family full of laughter, encouragement and the ability to be the disciplinary backbone of the household. I love getting to watch my friends grow into this so very difficult role. They are good men and they are growing good kids through their fathering.

I think that Father Junipero Serra thought he w
as doing the right thing and that he can serve as both a model and warning to us as we navigate the treacherous pathways of manifesting the Father's Moon energies. He worked alongside his flock but was confident in his role as a leader. He delighted in giving them gifts but knew they had to do their own work as well. As my sister and I were leaving the Mission we passed the large bronze statue of Fra Serra and stopped for a moment. "He thought he was doing the right thing," my sister said. "I hope history judges me for my intentions," I said. From his own point of view, Father Serra really was just trying to be a good father.

What do you think makes a good father? When have you experienced excellent fathering, whether from your biological parent or someone else? Have you ever been to a California Mission? What historical figures do you think are excellent father figures? How is your summer going?

The quoted story is from
Junipero Serra; A Man and His Work by A.H. Fitch. Click on the link there to access the google books version, or check out another online version here. Old Father's Journey by Beulah Karney is another story about Junipero Serra, told from a more modern, but still favoriable, point of view. Steven W. Hackel's article at Common-Place.org is much more critical, and a very interesting read.

For more pictures from my trip to Mission San Gabriel, check my
flickr page.

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Full Father's Moon 2009: The Aftermark of Almost Too Much Love
This is one of my favorite posts... check it out and read an awesome Robert Frost poem.

Full Father's Moon 2010:
Robin Hood


fillingcalix said...

Alyss, I'd love to recommend Terence Malick's Tree of Life to you. It has really interesting commentary on this subject of fathering, and mothering and god and suffering and guilt and redemption and the Big Bang and dinosaurs. Definitely read up on what the film is before you see it - it's art not entertainment - but D and I both loved it. It's a visual feast for those who love science or spirituality.

fillingcalix said...

Another thought has been rattling around in my brain, related to Tree of Life. Based on psychological research (http://www.psychpage.com/family/baumrind.html), Papa D and I use the motto "High Warmth, High Control" to guide a lot of our parenting. I think your description of Serra captures that idea. The trick, as we see it, is that both parents have to be Warm and Strong - you can't fracture the roles into Warm Mother and Strong Father (or vice versa).