Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Saint Junipero Serra's Camino by Stephen J. Binz

Saint Junipero Serra's Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions by Stephen J. Binz

Stephen Binz's Saint Junipero Serra's Camino is an eminently practical book. As the title says, it is a guide for those who want to make a pilgrimage through the missions that Junipero Serra founded along the California coast in the late 1700s. The book covers all the bases. It has a historical review of Serra's life and the founding of the missions. It looks at the spirituality of Serra and Saint Francis, since Serra was a Franciscan who took to heart Francis's simplicity of life and importance of evangelism. It also looks at the spirituality of the natives and how they were treated by the missionaries and by the Spanish and later Mexican governments. Binz is refreshingly honest about the mistreatment of the native Californians and the both good and bad impacts of European life. The last two thirds of the book describes the missions in turn.

Each description covers the history of the mission including its current condition (some were better preserved than others). Binz also provides an overview of the saint to whom the mission is dedicated (e.g. San Juan Capistrano is named after Saint John of Capistrano, a fourteenth century Franciscan who preached and taught in Europe). He describes the mission bells and the current church in detail. He's also composed some prayers for pilgrims to say at the churches. Finally, he describes any museum and grounds around the church, along with nearby points of interest.

The book makes for a fascinating arm-chair pilgrimage. I am very interested in taking my family to travel from mission to mission as a pilgrimage/vacation. This book will be very handy companion on that trip. It is thorough and compact.

Highly recommended, even if you don't plan to visit the missions in California.

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