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Seven Cities of Gold

Something for the Weekend.  After hearing this week that Pope Francis plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, while he is in this country later this year, the musical score to the heavily fictionalized account of the first missionary journey of Serra, Seven Cities of Gold (1955) seems appropriate.

In 1955 Hollywood told the story of the 1769 expedition to Alta California in the film Seven Cities of Gold.  Michael Rennie gave a very good performance as Father Serra and Anthony Quinn gave an equally fine performance as Governor Portolla.  Of course Hollywood could not remain completely faithful to history, and a fictional hunt for the Seven Cities of Cibola was given as the reason for the expedition.  A love story between an Indian girl and one of the Spanish officers was also grafted on to the story.  In spite of the usually Hollywood twisting of history, the film is accurate in its depiction of the goodness and charity of Father Serra and his zeal to spread the Gospel.  One scene from the movie has him denouncing the greed of the Spanish soldiers and their desire to exploit the Indians:

Overall, a fine tribute to the Saint who traveled around the globe, in the grand tradition of Franciscan missionaries, to bring Christ to the peoples of California.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

2 Comments

  1. Mr. McClarey, As you can imagine the articles in the LA Times regarding Fr. Serra’s canoization are emphasizing the modern Indians’ negative reaction rather than the good the missionary did. Fr. Serra was a very accomplished man before he ever boarded a ship to the New World.
    Question: Why is the Pope waiving the second miracle in this cause and others?

  2. “Question: Why is the Pope waiving the second miracle in this cause and others?”

    Eagerness to canonize people presumably.

    In regard to Father Serra he is above such criticisms. He was noted at the time for being mild and gentle to the Indians. By 18th Century standards he would have been regarded as perhaps overly indulgent to all he came in contact with. Modern controversies about him are just that, and have zero to do with the times in which he lived.

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