On Saturday April 23, 2016, pilgrims from Texas join the annual pilgrimage to the San Antonio Missions organized by St. Joseph chapel.
As Our Lady of Fatima Statue was visiting St. Joseph's in San Antonio, Texans from El Paso, Corpus Christi, Dickinson and Austin join those of San Antonio in a fervent 9-mile pilgrimage to the Spanish Missions of San Antonio, TX. Led by Fr. Kevin Robinson, the courageous pilgrims walked singing hymns and praying the rosary visiting the Concepción Mission, Mission San Jose and Mission San Juan.
Here below is an homage to the Spanish Missionaries in Texas.
The Spanish explorers and the sons of St Francis sowed the first seeds of civilization in the most romantic and fascinating achievement to be found anywhere in America. The Padres and Conquistadores journeyed thousands of miles through the tierra incognita (the unknown land) to inform the pagan natives about Jesus Christ.
Spain was not the only European power interested in the colonization of Texas; France, under the leadership of Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle is credited with exploring and establishing France's claim to Texas. La Salle had Franciscan and Sulpician friars with him in his travels in Texas; misfortune followed the footsteps of La Salle who ultimately died in East Texas on the Nueces River.
To put an end to the penetration of Texas by France from Louisiana, the Spanish increased their missionary activity by establishing a Mission on the River San Antonio de Padua (present day San Antonio river) for the purpose of the conversion of the natives.
On May 1, 1718, the Mission, San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) became a reality; two years later San Jose Mission became the second Mission in the San Antonio area. These extraordinary sons of St Francis who established these Missions came to Texas "by foot" from the colleges of Queretaro anf Zacatecas in their fantastic zeal for the salvation of souls; there were colleges in Mexico long before Jamestown was founded in the present day United States.
After Heman Cortes conquered the Aztecs (1521) with the backing of the Crown the work of evangelizing became much easier. In every town a church was built with its rectory or monastery at royal expense. Spain paid the traveling expense of the Missionaries and maintained the clergy in their work of Christianizing and civilizing the Indians. The results of the first 50 years are truly amazing.
At the end of the 16th century the entire population of New Spain has been converted to the Christian Faith. It is no wonder that St Teresa of Avila remarked that "Spanish is the language of heaven."
Thoughtful students of the history of the Catholic Church in New Spain maintain that the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was the "sine qua non" of the conversion of the Indians. Following the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, the Dominicans and Augustinians arrived to assist the Franciscans in the conversion of Indians.
Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is traced to the old tradition when on December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was blessed with seeing the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac at a hill northwest of Mexico City. Three days later in a second appearance the Great Lady told Juan Diego to pick flowers and take them to the Bishop. When Juan presented them as instructed, roses fell out of the mantle and beneath them was the painted image of the Lady.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe more pagans in Mexico were received in the Catholic Faith in the ten years following her apparition to Juan Diego than were lost in the same years by the disciples of the heretic, Martin Luther.
Spanish Missionaries not only had the assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, there was also the decisive factor of "The Lady in Blue" in bringing the Indians to the Missionaries for instruction in the Catholic Faith. To this day the descendents of the Jumano Indians in the San Angelo-Presidio area of Texas are extremely proud to have had Mother Maria de Jesus (the Lady in Blue) as their advocate to bring their ancestors back from their pagan life.
The Missionary Priest in Texas was not only the religious instructor of the Indians; the Padre was the manager of a cooperative farm, a skilled rancher and an expert teacher of various trades. A self-sustaining Mission was usually surrounded by a defensive wall enclosing the living quarters, shops and work area of the Indians; soldiers lived in a nearby garrison to give protection from unfriendly Indians...the word "Apache" in the Indian language means enemy. Yes, the Apaches were a perennial stumbling block for the Missionaries.
It is truly mind boggling when one thinks about the extraordinary journey at such a distance to save souls. The Franciscan Missionaries walked... yes walked 521 miles from the College of Zacatecas and 725 miles from the college of Queretaro to establish these Missions in and around San Antonio. On an average of 21 miles a day, the Padres from Zacatecas could make the journey in about 25 days. In the longer distance from Queretaro averaging the same 21 miles a day, the Missionaries would arrive in San Antonio in about 35 days. However, if the Missionaries had livestock with them, the journey would take longer.
When I think about the ardent passion of the Spanish Missionary in their quest to save souls, we recall the words in the Gospel of Saint Matthew:
Go therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt 28: 19-20).
Yes, the Spanish Missionaries...truly, children of God did not flinch from their commitment to save souls.