Brothers and sisters,
You probably were thinking that I just got lost and show up at St. Bonaventure Mission because it’s the feast of St. Bonaventure today. Well I have something else, it’s good news. So I just want to share with you that we received the news that the Holy Father Pope Francis has granted the title of Minor Basilica to the mission of San Buenaventura.
So, congratulations to you!
We have a letter from the Secretary of Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome saying that the custody “is happy to send you a decree granting the title of Minor Basilica to this important church, which will intensify the bond with the Church of Rome and with the Holy Father. It also promotes it as an exemplar liturgical and pastoral action within the diocese.”
So for me it is a great joy to be with all of you this morning. We are grateful today to the Holy Father Pope Francis for recognizing our great mission as one of the historic basilicas of the universal Church.
When the Church designates a basilica, it means this is holy ground. Something beautiful and important in the history of salvation happened here. A basilica is a place where the mercy of God has been proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ. It is a place where sinners have been saved and saints have been made, and the Kingdom of God has moved forward.
As we all know, Mission Basilica San Buenaventura is the last of nine missions founded by the great apostle, St. Junípero Serra, and it was consecrated by the saint personally on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782.
Serra’s vision was to create what he called “a ladder of missions” along the edge of this great American continent. He said, “Missions, my Lord, missions — that is what this country needs.”1
I was reading the letter he wrote on that Easter night when San Buenaventura was founded, and he describes a wonderful scene, almost like a vision of heaven. Hispanic and indigenous families gathered together before a large cross, celebrating the Eucharist and praising God with joy.
Before founding this mission, St. Junípero had asked the approval of the Chumash, a sign of his respect for the great dignity of this land’s first peoples.2
On the other side of the continent, the revolutionary war was still going on. But at the same time, the new American nation was also being born here, in this holy place where the Chumash and missionaries prayed and worked together in peace, creating a new culture.
So Pope Francis has given us the gift of this new Basilica at a challenging moment in America’s history.
So as we begin this Holy Eucharist, we turn to St. Junípero, and we ask his prayers for this nation he helped to found. We entrust ourselves as he did, to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and we ask for the grace to continue the mission of making this one nation under God, where all men and women can live in equality, liberty and peace.