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The Shining Cross Prepares the Indians
to Accept the Gospel

Fr. Francisco Palou
Francisco Palou was a Franciscan friar who worked closely with Fr. Junípero Serra in the missionary apostolate in California, helping with the administration of the Alta California missions and recording their early history. He completed a biography of Junípero Serra three years after Serra’s death in 1784.

This excerpt from Palou’s biography records one of the prodigies worked by God to open the Indians to the truths of the Catholic Faith. Here he records the words from the diary of Fr. Juan Crespi reporting the second land expedition to the Port of Monterey in 1770.

After marching about three leagues we arrived at one o’clock in the afternoon at the lagoons of salt water by the Point of Pines, toward the northeast, where on the first expedition a second Cross had been erected.

indians and fr. serra

The Indians of Monterey were extremely friendly & open to the Friars

Before making camp, the Governor, one of the soldiers and I went to inspect this Cross that had been planted earlier in order to find out if there was any sign of the arrival of the ship there. But we found nothing.

We beheld the Cross surrounded on all sides by arrows and sticks with many feathered crests, which had been placed there by the pagans. There was also a string of sardines still somewhat fresh hanging from a branch by the side of the Cross; on another was a piece of meat, and at the foot of the cross there was a little pile of mussels.

All this excited great wonderment but since none could explain it, judgment was suspended.

As soon as the new converts who had been baptized could sufficiently make themselves understood in Spanish, they gave us this explanation on several occasions. They said that the first time they saw any of our people they noticed that all of them wore on their breast a very resplendent cross. Then, when the Spaniards went away, they left behind them that large Cross by the beach.

At first the Indians were filled with such fear that they did not dare to approach so sacred an emblem. For they saw that, after the sun had set and the shades of nighit had come on, the Cross was shining with the bright rays of a great Light which seemed to them to keep growing until it reached up to the very heavens.


The Cross planted by the expedition shone at night with a brilliant light whose rays reached to the heavens

But when they drew near it by day, these strange appearances were absent, and it was in its natural size. Thus they approached it and tried to win its favor so that it might not do them any harm. For this purpose they had brought to it and made their offerings of meat, fish and mussels.

When to their surprise it not consume what they offered, they placed before it the offering of the arrows and the feathered crests as a sign that they wished to make peace with the Holy Cross and with the people who had put it there.

This strange declaration was repeated by several of the Indians (as I have said) on different occasions, and again in the year 1774 when the Venerable Father President Serra returned from Mexico. They told him the same story that they had told me the previous year without the slightest variation.

This the Servant of God communicated this to His Excellency, the Viceroy, for his edification, in order to increase his fervor and to encourage him at the same time in carrying out the plans of this spiritual enterprise.

As a result of this prodigy and of many others which the Lord wrought, the conversion of the pagans has continued with all peacefulness and without the conflict of arms. Blessed be God to Whom be all glory and praise.

fr Serra

Fr. Junipero Serra, tireless in planting crosses
throughout Alta Californi


Blason de Charlemagne
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Excerpt from Francisco Palou’s Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father
 Junípero Serra
 trans. Maynard J. Geiger, Washington D.C., 1955, 95-96.,

Posted May 25, 2024

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