I am visiting the Santa Clara mission that was one of the 21 missions built by Fray Junipero Serra and his fellow priests from my island, Mallorca. Their missions formed the backbone of California and were the seeds for all of its great cities - San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, and Los Angeles.

I believe Serra accomlished more than any other missionary in history. Serra has been beatified but not yet canonized as a saint. His elevation to heaven by the church on earth is vigorously opposed by several native American groups who use him as a symbol of the “white man’s exploitation of the red man.” In reality Serra and his followers saved native Americans from an even worse fate at the hands of their Spanish military colleagues. And Serra confirmed personally over 50,000 native Americans. The difference here is that while baptism may be imposed on one by others, confirmation requires the consent of the recipient and stated acceptance. Thus those native Americans who accepted confirmation chose to do so of their own volition and understanding of their religion.

Funny, we translate the Spanish santo, santa or san to saint which is a French word. The English word is actually holy. One can see this error when he considers that Santa Familia, Santo Domingo or San Salvador are not translated to mean, “Saint Family, Saint Sunday or Saint Savior.” Instead we use the word holy. Funnier still is that California is symbolized by places named for religious people who in today’s world are avoided if not shunned. Even more sublime is the fact that Santa Clara is in the heart of that ultra worldly,hedonistic capitol of mammon, Silicon Valley.

My older daugher, Chiara, is named for Santa Clara in Spanish or Saint Claire in French but who in reality was Santa Chiara in her native Italian. Santa Chiara di Assisi to be precise since she was the “companion” of Saint Francis of Assisi. These two rich young people renounced their wealth and status to live lives of poverty and dedication to God and his people.

Great town, great mission, great saint.