Driven mostly by greed, and consisting mostly of Spaniards, the sixteenth century saw continued migration to the New World. The conquering Conquistadors were proving themselves to be as Godless as the native cannibals, including those who practiced human sacrifice. However, accompanying the Conquistadors were Franciscan and Dominican friars. These were deeply devoted Christians who had a great desire to be a light for Christ in lands that were steeped in spiritual darkness. Along with churches, these first friars built orphanages and schools to serve the Indians. Through their efforts, thousands of natives came to know Christ.
By the early seventeenth century, friar Alonso de Benavides reported that 80,000 Indians had been baptized, while over two-dozen missions in what is today’s American Southwest served ninety Indian communities.
Without fear of death (which many would experience) these brave friars would later enter what is now New Mexico and Lower California. The famed and universally loved Junípero Serra, a former professor of philosophy turned Franciscan Friar, established a total of nine missions, including those at San Diego, San Carlos, and San Francisco.
Serra was an accomplished intellectual and orator. He worked tirelessly and his zealous efforts to bring the lost to Christ made him a legend in his own time. There were instances when he walked hundreds of miles in a single expedition. By the time of his death in 1784, the nine missions he founded had converted several thousand native Indians to Christianity.
Until the King of Spain, Charles III, ordered their expulsion in 1767, the French Jesuits also had a presence in America’s West. However, the Jesuits efforts on the East Coast, though difficult, would go more undeterred. These zealous, brilliant, and disciplined “soldiers of God” were deeply committed to the mission field. As I noted with Columbus, such a commitment was necessary, as, along with the many other harsh experiences that came with an unfamiliar and untamed wild wilderness land, several Jesuits ended up as martyrs.
Not only were these brave souls martyred, but many were subjected to unspeakable tortures prior to death. The Iroquois were especially cruel. In spite of this, the Jesuits continued to minister to the Iroquois and other Indian nations. Thus, the light of the truth of Jesus Christ was penetrating the future United States of America from both coasts, and the foundation was being laid for the greatest nation the world has ever known.
Copyright 2014, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled Worldtthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com
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