Life of Father Magin Catalá, O.F.M, by Father Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M.

Father Magí Català i GuaschChapter I

California. Discovery of Gold. The Missions and Missionaries. Father Magin Catala’s Birth, Baptism, Parents. Enters the Franciscan Order.

Ever since the discovery of gold in Northern California, men of almost every nation under the sun flocked to the Pacific Coast. Some braved the hardships of the deserts and the cruelties of the savages by making their way through the country afoot, on horseback, or in wagons of every description; others took passage on the Atlantic Coast to cross the continent at the Isthmus of Panama, or sailed around Cape Horn to reach the Golden Gate. All came animated with the one desire of improving their temporal fortunes. The country was new to them and to the world at large, yet it was not a new country. Others had preceded the fortune-hunters. It had been discovered three hundred years before the little town at the entrance of the famous bay changed its Spanish name Yerba Buena to that of the glorious Saint of Assisi. Carmelite friars, accompanying Sebastian Vizcaino, had celebrated the Holy Sacrifice on the shores of Monterey Bay in December, 1602. Eighty years before the region of the Sacramento began to surrender its metallic treasures, Franciscan friars, vowed to poverty and to contempt for that same metal, had commenced Christianizing the degraded natives of the coast and were developing a system of civilization which has since forced the admiration of the shrewdest statesmen as well as the approbation of the most sentimental humanitarians, and has afforded an inexhaustible theme for the bard as well as the traveler.

The period of eighty years immediately preceding the arrival of the gold-diggers marks the golden age of the California natives. During this time, through the combined efforts of the voluntarily poor Catholic friars and the naturally poor Indians, twenty-one missionary establishments arose and dotted the coast region from San Diego to Sonoma. One hundred and forty-six Franciscan priests, without any worldly compensation whatsoever, there devoted themselves to the arduous task of raising the savages to the plane of Christian manhood and womanhood. Nearly one-half of this faithful band of apostolic laborers fell at their post among their dusky wards as victims of Catholic zeal for the salvation of immortal souls.

Among those that volunteered for this life of hardship and self-denial in the missions of California Father Magin Catala stands conspicuous for zeal, sanctity, and an uncommonly long term of missionary activity in one place. This servant of God was born on the 29th or the 30th of January, 1761, at Montblanch, in the province of Catalonia and the archdiocese of Tarragona, Spain. His parents, Matias Catala, a notary, and Francisca Catala y Guasch, were exemplary Christians. An uncle was a secular priest and beneficiary of the church at Montblanch. In baptism, which was administered on Saturday, January 31st, by the Rev. Jose Montanez y Murtra, parish priest of Saint Mary Major at Montblanch, the child received the names Magin, Jose, Matias. The sponsors were Raimundo and Josef a Catala. On August 7th, 1767, when little more than six years of age, Magin received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the same parish church at the hands of the Most Rev. Juan Lario Lanzis, Archbishop of Tarragona. This is all we know of Father Magin’s childhood.

Matias and Francisca Catala must have trained their child in the path of virtue; for, at the early age of sixteen years, Magin sought refuge from the allurements of the world in the Order of Friars Minor by taking the habit of Saint Francis at the monastery of Barcelona on April 4th, 1777. One year later he pronounced the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, without taking another name on that occasion as is customary in Spanish countries. When he had finished the usual classical and higher studies, the young cleric was elevated to the priesthood, probably in the year 1785. Neither the date nor the year could be ascertained from the archives of the Spanish monastery, owing to the fact that the religious houses in Spain have at different times been subjected to the rapacity of unscrupulous politicians, who under one pretext or another despoiled the convents of their archives and libraries as well as of everything else that appeared valuable.

Chapter II

Dearth of Missionaries. Father Magin Goes to America. Vandalism of the Liberal Politicians. Chaplain on the Nootka Ship. Arrives at Monterey. Reaches Santa Clara.

At the period when Father Magin became priest there was much need of apostolic laborers in the missions of the Friars Minor in America. After the unjust and cruel expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish dominions, the government had directed the Franciscans to take charge of the deserted establishments. Though already employed to the limit of their numbers among the Indians of New Mexico, Florida, Texas, and many parts of Mexico, they accepted the trust with all its hardships, and sent their religious into Lower California, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Arizona. Later the missions of Upper California were founded. This increased the sore need of more missionaries. Frequent appeals were sent to the friars in Spain to come to the assistance of their brethren in America, and there were always found those that expressed willingness to sacrifice their beloved solitude for the privilege of toiling in the vineyard of the Lord. Life in the Indian missions at its best was wearisome and full of trials. Generally it taxed virtue as well as mind and body, and martyrdom could be expected even in California. Nevertheless a great many religious volunteered. From among these the most suitable and most solidly virtuous were selected to join their brethren in the Western Hemisphere; for, while no one, as Saint Francis himself had commanded, could be sent out who in the opinion of the superiors seemed unsuitable, no one was to be refused permission whose piety and fitness appeared evident.

Among the friars whom zeal for immortal souls prompted to apply for the American missions in 1786 were Fathers Jose de la Cruz Espi and Magin Catala, the latter but recently ordained. After receiving the blessing of the Father Guardian and the embrace of their brethren, both sailed from Cadiz in October, 1786. As soon as they reached the City of Mexico, probably at the close of the year, they were incorporated into the missionary college or Franciscan seminary of San Fernando, which institution trained and supplied the apostolic men that spent their lives in the midst of the California natives. Whilst Father Jose Espi was at once sent as chaplain with a ship in the Pacific ocean, Father Magin Catala, it seems, was employed in the seminary or in preaching missions to the Mexicans. At all events, we read nothing about him until six years later, and the reason is the same that prevents us from obtaining particulars regarding the early youth of the servant of God. As in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, so also in Mexico the monasteries and convents, raised and furnished through the abstemiousness of their inmates, at different periods were looted or confiscated by the respective anti-Christian governments that succeeded one another. Some officials, not satisfied with plundering the homes of peace, prayer, and charity, wantonly destroyed what they could not utilize. Thus in 1864 the rabid Juarez faction made bonfires of the archives of the famous San Fernando College, so that there are no records left to enlighten us with regard to the life of Father Magin in Mexico.

Fortunately the Archives of Santa Barbara, California, contain a letter addressed by Father Francisco Pangua, the guardian of San Fernando College, to Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, the superior of the California missions, which gives some information about Father Magin’s coming to the Pacific Coast. It seems that the servant of God urged his superiors to permit him to labor for the conversion of the savages, that his petition was at last granted, and that the Father Guardian only waited for an opportunity to transfer the zealous volunteer to California. The opportunity arrived in 1793.

At this period Spanish vessels plied between Mexico and the great Northwest Coast as far as Nootka Sound on the western shore of what is now Vancouver Island, in forty-nine and one-half degrees north. This bay had been discovered in the forepart of August, 1774, by Captain Juan Perez, who had sailed from Monterey on June llth, accompanied by the Franciscans Father Juan Crespi and Father Tomas de la Pefia. Spain, therefore, claimed the territory by right of discovery, and Spanish ships frequently visited Nootka Sound until the king abandoned the region in 1794. The Spanish government generally insisted that chaplains should accompany the sailors on these voyages. Religious Orders were unwilling to furnish priests for such expeditions, because this kind of employment was foreign to their objects and hazardous for the spiritual well-being of the individual religious. When secular priests, however, could not be secured, the government called upon some religious community which then found it advisable to yield. Such a demand brought Father Magin to the Pacific Coast.

In his communication Father Guardian Francisco Pangua under date of November 21st, 1792, notified Father Lasuen that two religious would soon set out for California, Father Jose de la Cruz Espi, a native of Valencia, who in years past had acted as chaplain on an expedition to Nootka, and Father Magin Catala. The Father Guardian made the additional remark that both were good and peaceful laborers. The two Fathers, it seems, arrived at Monterey in July, 1793. While Father Espi was at once assigned to Mission San Antonio, Father Magin, after an understanding with the Father Presidente and in compliance with the directions of the Father Guardian, accompanied the crew of the frigate Aranzazu to Nootka Sound. The vessel was in charge of Captain Juan Kendrick. Of the movements of the vessel we could discover nothing until June the following year. On the fifteenth of that month, 1794, Don Ramon A. Saavedra wrote from Nootka to Governor Jose Joaquin Arrillaga of California, that “the Rev. Father Magin Catala, who accompanies the frigate Aranzazu as chaplain, has orders to remain at one of the missions of California. Your Honor will therefore please take the necessary steps that the crew of that vessel be not without spiritual care and that, with the consent of the Father Presidente, one of the missionaries who are retiring to the motherhouse be appointed, or that Father Catala himself be bound to continue the voyage as chaplain.”

When on July 2d, 1794, the Aranzazu reached Monterey, Father Magin declined to act as chaplain any longer, inasmuch as he had been destined for the missions among the Indians. It appears that the governor requested him to make another voyage to Nootka. In reply the servant of God on July 12th, 1794, addressed the following letter to Arrillaga:

“Dear Governor: In response to what you say in your letter of yesterday, I must inform you that to my deep regret I am not able to comply with your request asking me to continue as chaplain of the frigate Aranzazii on her voyage to Nootka, as the captain of that ship desires; for, apart from the hardships of the voyages to that port where I spent thirteen months in the midst of no small difficulties, I have in the present circumstances the weighty reason that I must consider myself one of the missionaries of this New California, for which task I have been designated. In virtue of this appointment I can in no manner dispose of my person without previous orders from the Father Presidente of these missions, whose subject I am.

“Notwithstanding all I have said just now, I am desirous, as far as I am concerned, of contributing to the relief of the necessity which Your Honor has explained to me. I have wished to show how much I am interested in the welfare of souls. When I therefore learned that the Rev. Father Presidente agreed to comply with the order of Don Ramon Saavedra, commander of the establishment at Nootka, to the extent that the Rev. Chaplain of the frigate Concepcion should go on board the Aranzazu, and that his place should be filled by one of the missionaries about to retire to Mexico, I have taken it upon myself to urge the Rev. Father Bartholome Gili (who had expressed his willingness to me of complying with the orders of Saavedra), to gladly exercise the duties of chaplain on the frigate Concepcion, although he has been informed that he would have, to make the voyage as far as Acapulco, and from there back to San Bias. I send Your Honor this information to the end that, if it pleases you, you might communicate it to the commander of the Aranzazu, and advise me of your good pleasure.”

The difficulty was amicably settled in accordance with Father Magin’s proposition. The Rev. Jose Gomez, a secular priest, who had come up from Mexico as chaplain in the Concepcion, took the place of the servant of God in the Aranzazu, which was to return to Nootka, and Father Bartholome Gili, one of the Fathers retiring to Mexico, on account of ill-health, filled Rev. Jose Gomez’s place on the Concepcion when she sailed for Mexico.

Whether Father Magin at once traveled to Santa Clara from Monterey by land or took ship for San Francisco and thence made his way to his destination, is not clear. Certain it is that, as the mission records show, he baptized a child at Mission Dolores, San Francisco, on August 25th, and that he officiated there at burials on August 20th and 30th, 1794. His name appears for the first time in the baptismal record of Santa Clara on Monday, September 1st, 1794, when he baptized a boy infant who holds number 2510 in the register. That many had been received into the Church of God there since January 12th, 1777, when Father Junipero Serra founded the mission.

From that day on Father Magin labored zealously and without interruption at Santa Clara for thirty-six years. Nor did he leave the boundaries of the mission except a few times in the first years of his ministry. He was present at the founding of Mission San Juan Bautista on June 24th, 1797, and on that occasion Father Lasuen took him along to San Carlos. This was the only time, as far as the records show, that he ever saw the headquarters of the California missions after his arrival at Santa Clara. Though the lands of Mission San Jose adjoined those of his own mission, Father Magin seems to have made but five visits there, and then only for the purpose of assisting the Fathers in administering baptism to the multitude of converts that applied for admission. After 1798 until his death, a period of thirty-two years, the holy man, as far as we know, never went beyond the limits of Mission Santa Clara, save for the purpose of winning converts among the pagans as far as the San Joaquin River.

Chapter III

State of the Mission. Father Magin’s Love of His Rules. His Mortification. His Illness. Asks to be Retired. His Zeal. Local Difficulties. Dullness of the Indians. Statistics.

When Father Magin arrived at Santa Clara he was made assistant to Father Francisco Miguel Sanchez, along with Father Manuel Fernandez, and from August, 1796, with Father Jose Viader, until Father Sanchez departed for San Gabriel in October, 1797. Thereafter his only companion for thirty-three years was Father Viader. The Indian population of the mission in 1794 consisted of fourteen hundred souls. The livestock numbered 4200 head of cattle, 1000 sheep, 628 horses, and sixteen mules. The harvest during that year amounted to 3300 bushels of wheat, 1100 bushels of corn, 95 bushels of beans, 26 bushels of lentils, etc. Twenty-four cattle were slaughtered every Saturday to furnish meat for the members of the Indian community. The converts and catechumens were employed in the fields, among the livestock, and at various kinds of mechanical labor. There were rooms in one part of the mission buildings for spinning wool, for weaving cloth, making clothes, shoes, candles and soap. In other parts carpenters, blacksmiths, saddlers, tanners, etc., plied their trade. Thus, for instance, in 1792 as many as 2000 hides were tanned. Almost everything used or consumed by the Indians and Fathers was produced or manufactured by the natives under the supervision of the missionaries.

Though the constant solicitude for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Indians, learning the language, preaching, instructing, administering the sacraments, visiting the sick, searching for converts in the mountains and plains, and bearing patiently with the dullness and rudeness of his wards, taken altogether required a spirit of self-sacrifice, Father Magin continued to observe the Rules of his Order and of his missionary college in every particular. To the prescribed fasts and abstinences and other penitential practices he added other austerities and long hours of prayer and contemplation. Very soon he contracted chronic inflammatory rheumatism, which afflicted him throughout his missionary life. At times his maladies hampered his work to such an extent that he felt in duty bound to ask to be retired as one unfit for the arduous task. Under the rules issued by the Spanish kings, a religious that volunteered for the Indian missions had to serve laudably at least ten years, or until he was disabled, before he could retire with the permission of the superior and the consent of the governor. The time of service was computed from the day of incorporation into the missionary college. Father Magin, having served more than ten years in America, though only six years in California, in 1800 applied for a permit on the ground of continuous ill-health. Father Lasuen, the Presidente or superior, granted the request. Whether his health somewhat improved, or whether some other potent consideration moved him to postpone his departure, we do not know; at all events he did not avail himself of the license to retire. Four years later, having completed the ten years’ service in California, and being withal more broken in health than ever, he again asked permission to leave for the mother college in Mexico. Father Estevan Tapis, the superior of the missions, reluctantly granted the request; but once more the zealous man allowed himself to be persuaded, and then resolved, come what might, to sacrifice himself for the good of his dusky wards, and to continue suffering for them, if perchance he should not be able to do more.

Thus it was that Father Magin limped along for twenty-six years more, bereft of all comforts or conveniences. In addition he mortified his poor, ailing body by various means which only a most penitential spirit could suggest. From a letter of his companion, Father Jose Viader, dated April 6th, 1812, and addressed to Father Presidente Tapis, we learn that another malady afflicted Father Magin. “I am well,” he writes, “but Father Magin is troubled with catarrh, though it is nothing alarming, thanks be to God. He is in bed He is infirm and disabled.” Though his afflictions increased with the years, the venerable Father would insist on preaching to the people and visiting the sick. During the last four years of his life he found it impossible to administer baptism or attend funerals, as he could not stand on his feet. Hence it is that no baptisms were entered in the records by him after October 27th, 1827. Father Viader had managed the temporal affairs for many years, though not without consulting his senior companion, as he states in a letter to the governor; after October, 1827, he alone had also to administer the sacraments. Though Father Magin could neither walk nor stand in the last two years of his life, he would instruct the Indians and preach to the people in general. For this purpose he would sit before the Communion railing in the sanctuary, and from there address the faithful in his usual forcible and fervent manner. He appeared so weak at times that the audience would shed tears of sympathy for their pastor. More frequently, however, they were moved to tears by his vivid descriptions of the truths of religion.

The flock of Fathers Magin and Viader consisted of the Santa Clara Mission Indians and of the settlers of San Jose, three miles distant. After 1804 the town of San Jose had a chapel of its own. On Sundays and holy days of obligation one of the two Fathers had therefore to celebrate holy Mass among the settlers. However, the main work of the missionaries lay among the natives. The management of the California Indians was fraught with peculiar difficulties, as we can see from a report which Fathers Catala and Viader drew up in reply to a number of questions forwarded by the viceroy in 1814. The Fathers explained that three Indian languages were spoken at Mission Santa Clara; two of these were similar to each other, but the third was altogether different from the other two. There was no inclination on the part of the natives to learn reading or writing, wherefore both arts were taught to those only that showed any desire and capacity for them. The virtues especially noticeable among the Indians were love for their relatives, submissiveness, and modesty in dress among the women. Their vices, on the other hand, were lying, stealing, gambling, immoralities, and infant murder. Superstitions also prevailed, inasmuch as offerings were made to demons and sorcerers were consulted.

The existence of vices and superstitions among the neophytes must have been a source of much grief especially to good Father Magin. Hence we need not wonder to find him so insistent on teaching the truths of religion to the natives. He also insisted that all receive the Sacraments at least during Easter time; yet with all his fatherly solicitude, and despite the simplicity and clearness of his instructions, not even he could overcome the dullness of the poor converts with regard to some mysteries of faith, as for instance the Blessed Sacrament. Comparatively few grasped the significance of this center of Catholic worship. For this reason all missionaries spoke of the California Indians in terms of pity, calling them Los Pobres, or Los Miserables. Nevertheless, Father Magin seemed to take special delight in sitting among a number of these poor natives and explaining the several points of faith, the keeping of the Commandments of God and the Church, what reward was in store for the good and what punishment awaited the wicked.

According to the records of the mission, during the thirty-six years of Father Magin’s administration five thousand persons were baptized, of whom comparatively few were white people. For instance, of the 1628 persons baptized at Santa Clara from 1777 to 1803, only sixty-one are classed as Spaniards. For the same period of thirty-six years the records show 1905 marriages and 5200 burials. Outside the Indian community settled around the mission of Santa Clara there were ten Indian rancherias which lay scattered over the valley.

Chapter IV

Father Magin’s Inner Life. Shadows of Mission Destruction. The Mexican Government Demands Oath of Allegiance. Father Magin’s Reply. His Last Years. His Precious Death. Grief of the People. Burial. Father Jose Viader’s Entry In the Records of Santa Clara.

From the records and reports still extant we can glean very little or nothing concerning Father Magin’s private or inner life. This portion of our narrative will, however, be treated on the testimony of eye-witnesses in Part II of this book. The servant of God wrote no letters. He devoted himself solely to instructing the Indians and to watching over their moral conduct. Father Jose Viader attended to all temporal affairs, and wrote all official reports and communications. Father Magin would merely countersign the papers after ascertaining their contents. There are a great many letters in the Archives of the Archbishop of San Francisco, in the Archives of Mission Santa Barbara, and some in the Archives of the City of San Jose written by Father Magin’s companion, but not one from the hand of Father Catala. Nor does Father Viader say anything about his venerable friend, save that he occasionally remarks that Father Magin is ill or sends regards. Not till he had the sad duty of entering the death of the servant of God in the burial record, did Father Jose Viader express himself regarding the virtues of his brother in religion. Even then, as we shall see presently, he said very little; yet no one could have drawn a clearer picture of Father Magin than his associate in the same house and work for nearly a generation.

Father Magin was spared the pain of having to witness the ultimate ruin of the mission, which was brought about by the confiscation of the California missionary establishments through the so-called Act of Secularization of 1834; but the shadows of that most unfortunate event had been gathering about the unhappy neophytes ever since the arrival in 1826 of the first Mexican governor, Jose M. Echeandia. From his first appearance in Lower California this official showed himself an enemy to the religious as missionaries and managers of mission temporalities. He was the chief cause of the insubordination of the Indians and of the disregard displayed by the colonists and the soldiers towards the friars in charge of the missions.

On October 4th, 1824, the new government of Mexico adopted the so-called Acta Constitutiva y Constitucion Federal, and decreed that all male inhabitants should swear allegiance to Mexico and to this Constitucion Federal. The missionaries were at liberty to act as they thought proper. Being Spaniards, most of the Fathers declared that they judged it wrong to take the required oath until the king of Spain should acknowledge the sovereignty of Mexico. The two Fathers Catala and Viader held this opinion. When, therefore, Governor Echeandia in June, 1826, published the edict in California, and Commandante Ignacio Martinez of the San Francisco Presidio, to whose military jurisdiction Santa Clara belonged, demanded that each missionary should swear allegiance to the Constitution framed in Mexico, Father Magin on July 6th replied as follows: “To your communication of the 28th of last month, in which General Jose Maria Echeandia demands in writing my formal decision concerning the oath to observe the Acta Constitutiva y Constitucion Federal of the United Mexican States, I reply that I cannot, and consequently will not, take said oath. In the thirty-three years which I have passed in this mission I have never meddled with politics, and if now they want to distrust me, who burdened with the age of sixty-six years and infirmities hopes or believes to be near his end, I swear to observe fidelity and obedience to the government and appointed authorities. God keep Your Honor many years, which Your Honor’s very true chaplain wishes you. Father Magin Catala.”

Thereupon the good Father and his worthy companion were allowed to continue eschewing politics and to attend to their missionary duties as of yore. It was the first and last time that the servant of God came into conflict with the government.

The last two years of his life were a period of intense sufferings to Father Magin. As early as February, 1830, he was thought to be in a dying condition, for Father Vincente de Sarria from Soledad reported to the governor that the senior missionary of Santa Clara was about to receive or had received Extreme Unction. The holy man rallied, however, and lingered on, preaching every Sunday and holy day and giving the usual instructions until within a day of his death, nine months later. He could not celebrate holy Mass, but frequently received holy Communion with the greatest fervor. Finally on Monday, November 22nd, 1830, at daybreak, the servant of God quietly passed to his eternal reward in the presence of Father Jose Viader and two men who at his request had watched with him through the night.

When the tolling of the bells announced the death of Father Magin, immense crowds of people hastened to the mission from every quarter in order to venerate the body of the holy missionary. Every one wept as at the death of a father or a mother. The remains were placed in an ordinary coffin made of redwood, borne to the church amid the sobs of the inconsolable multitude, and placed on a bier in front of the sanctuary. Inside and outside the building surging crowds of Indians and Spaniards wept and lamented. Nothing could be heard above the expressions of grief but the exclamation, “The saint has left us.” The most vehement sorrow prevailed among the neophytes of the mission to whom the deceased had been a father, nurse, protector, teacher, and provider in every need.

On the following morning, November 23d, a Requiem High Mass was to be offered up for the soul of the holy man, though every one felt that the soul of Father Magin had not gone to purgatory at all, but that it was then enjoying heavenly bliss. Father Narciso Duran of Mission San Jose, it appears, was to be the celebrant of the Requiem Mass; but there was no Requiem High Mass. Whether or not Father Duran had been misinformed, or whatever the reason was, when he arrived at Santa Clara he had broken the fast, so that he could not celebrate. The usual funeral ceremonies were performed, however, and then Father Duran preached the sermon for his departed friend. He could scarcely overcome his emotion, and the tears streamed unchecked down his cheeks. When he could make himself understood above the sobs of the grief-stricken people, Father Duran told his hearers to remember the teachings, counsels, and the good example which they had received from the holy priest, and to carry out what they had learned from Father Magin so that they might deserve to share his company among the blessed in heaven.

Preparations were then made to inter the remains of the dead missionary in the grave opened for them just outside the railing on the Gospel side of the church. The crush of the people, however, was frightful. The Indians loudly protested against the burial of their Father. Everybody rushed to the bier to obtain some relic or memento. With knives and scissors the throng went to work cutting pieces from the habit until the body was almost nude. Nor could the two Fathers prevent the pious vandalism. Another habit was procured, but after awhile nothing was left but shreds. Not content with this, one man took from the hands of the dead priest the crucifix which during life Father Magin had generally worn on his breast. Others appropriated the sandals. Soldier guards were called into the church, and Father Viader begged the people to allow the burial to proceed. He promised that every one should receive some token of the holy man. The coffin was then closed and lowered into the tomb prepared for it.

The entry of Father Magin Catala’s burial in the Santa Clara records reads as follows: “On the 22d of November, 1830, at seven in the morning, my companion, the Rev. Magin Catala, preacher apostolic of the College of San Fernando, Mexico, returned his soul to the Creator. He was a missionary of this mission from July, 1794, until the present time without any interruption, that is to say, for thirty-six years, and, excepting the first two years, during the thirty-four years always in my company. He received the holy Sacraments in due time; he made his confession and received Communion frequently during his long and painful sickness. His whole life was exemplary, industrious, and edifying, and much more so his death. On the 23d of said month and year the burial took place in the presence of the Rev. Father Ex-Presidente, Father Narciso Duran, who delivered the funeral sermon, but could not celebrate Mass, because by accident he had broken the fast. The concourse of the people since his death was great, and the lamentation until after the interment was general. The entire population of the mission and of the town of San Jose showed plainly how much they loved and venerated him. On said day, in fine, in the presence of all, he was interred by me in the tomb which had been prepared very near the presbytery, or the first step, on the Gospel side. He was sixty-nine years of age, and a native of Montblanch, Catalonia. May he rest in peace. Amen. In testimony whereof I sign my name, Father Jose Viader.”

Chapter V

Father Magin’s Fame for Sanctity. Practices of the People. Father Magin’s Relics. Opinion of His Superiors, Fathers Lasuen, Sarria, and Payeras. Father Jose Viader’s Respect.

The universal sorrow of the people, the cry of all “The saint has left us,” their confidence in his supernatural powers and in his guidance while alive, demonstrate what was the opinion of the multitude concerning the virtues of Father Magin Catala. Indians and whites alike, without a dissenting voice, regarded him as a saint long before he passed out of the world.

For many years after the death of the servant of God, even in distant localities, such as San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz, the people would ask the priests to celebrate holy Mass in honor of the soul of Father Magin, “a la alma del Padre Santo,” as they expressed it; but never for the soul of the holy man. Such is the testimony of the Very Rev. Joachim Adam, Vicar-general of Los Angeles, who for years was stationed at Santa Cruz, and of the late Bishop Francis Mora of Los Angeles, who in the early days had charge of San Juan Bautista. Over-zealous people would frequently go so far as to place burning candles on the grave of Father Magin to show their love for the dead priest. This was not tolerated by the respective pastor, because it violated the Decree of Pope Urban VIII, which forbids paying such extraordinary respect as is accorded only to those whom Mother Church declared worthy of such exterior marks of veneration. “We all invoke the soul of Father Magin in every necessity, and we are always relieved,” the people would say in reply for an explanation of their devotion to the holy missionary. Things he did and his virtues were topics of conversation in every household. “We look upon him as upon a saint,” they answered when they were warned not to anticipate the action of Mother Church. “If any one has any trouble whatsoever,” another would say, “at once there comes to our mind ‘Jesus, Mary, and the soul of Father Magin assist me.'”

Anything that had been used by the servant of God was confidently applied in sickness, particularly in desperate cases of childbirth, and always with good results. Generally the people would, at the same time, make a promise to recite the Rosary, offer a candle, receive the Sacraments, or go on foot to the mission, etc. This devotion to the memory of the holy man was by no means confined to the Indians. It appeared most pronounced among the Spaniards and the better class of Californians all over Central California. To this day, after nearly a century, they speak of him as El Santo or El Prof eta. The people were formerly so sensitive with regard to the servant of God that, as one expressed himself, “It was enough to make the blood rise in a Californian, if any one said aught, even in jest,” against Father Magin.”

Long before the people became aware of the extraordinary virtues of Father Magin, his own superiors had recognized his worth. As early as October 15th, 1799, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, the superior of the missions, in a letter to Governor Borica spoke of the missionary of Santa Clara as “Bendito Padre Magin,” “Blessed or saintly Father Magin.” Father Vincente de Sarria, comisario prefecto of the California friars, on November 5th, 1817, when reporting the characteristics of all the missionaries to the College of San Fernando, Mexico, writes of Father Magin as follows: “His prudent conduct together with a tender and religious zeal, which seems to constitute his character, gain for him the merit of a commendable and evangelical missionary in his ministry, which, besides his populous mission, comprises also the spiritual charge of the town of San Jose, one league distant from the mission. I do not doubt that this good Father could fill other charges and offices of some similarity to the one he occupies, if the present state of his health did not embarrass him, which very much prevents him from undertaking journeys.”

Father Mariano Payeras, who succeeded Father Sarria in the office of comisario prefecto, reporting on December 31st, 1820, says, “Father Magin Catala is the senior missionary of Santa Clara. He is fifty-nine years of age . . . His merit is great; bin services merit recommendation for the offices of the Order, but he already feels very much the weight of his years. The rheumatism torments him, and he is almost incapacitated for travel on horseback.”

Father Jose Viader might have told us most about Father Magin’s virtues and general holiness of life: but either his lips were sealed by a command of his late brother in religion, or he regarded what he knew too sacred to be divulged. As we have seen, Father Viader, in entering the burial into the records, merely remarks that Father Magin’s “whole life was exemplary, industrious, and edifying, and much more so his death.” In a letter to the governor, dated May llth, 1816, Father Viader shows his esteem in these words: “If my companion has not signed my last report, it is certain that he saw it and approved it; for in mission matters nothing is done which is not according to his pleasure and approbation, as is proper, inasmuch as he is older, experienced, and more worthy.”

Chapter VI

Opening of Father Magin’s Tomb. Identification. Archbishop Alemany Interested. Petition of the Jesuit Fathers. Decision of the Archbishop’s Council. Notary and Vice-Postulator Appointed. Archbishop Alemany the Moving Spirit.

On Monday of Holy Week, April 2d, 1860, thirty years after the holy man had passed to his eternal reward, the tomb was opened in order to receive the body of the Rev. Peter De-Vos, S.J., who had died on Palm Sunday. A great multitude of people flocked to the church in the hope of obtaining some relic of Father Magin Catala. Among the many survivors, who had known the servant of God personally, was Juan Crisostomo Galindo, for several years majordomo of Mission Santa Clara and an intimate friend of the late missionary. When the coffin had been raised and opened, Indians and Spaniards, and especially Juan Galindo, identified the body as that of the servant of God, Father Magin, though only the skeleton and the Franciscan habit remained. Back of the skull and around the chin lay bunches of gray hair. The jaws still held their set of fine, white teeth which the youthful John Alonzo Forbes, now Justice of the Peace at Jolon, undertook to touch with his fingers. His grandfather Juan Galindo, however, appeared so scandalized at this bit of irreverence for the remains of the priestly friend, whom he had regarded as a saint, that the boy hastily withdrew. The coffin lid showed breaks through which some of the earth had entered. Judging from the size of the skeleton, Father Magin must have measured about five feet eight inches in height.

A Latin record of the proceedings was drawn up and later on report was made to the Archbishop of San Francisco as follows:

“Most Rev. Joseph Sadoc Alemany, O.P.,

“Archbishop of San Francisco, California.

“Most Rev. Father in Christ: I, the undersigned, having celebrated the Holy Sacrifice and fervently prayed to God, at Your request and for the greater honor and glory of God and the Immaculate Virgin Mary, bear witness to the following facts, to wit:

“1. That the body of the Rev. Father Magin Catala, of the Order of Saint Francis, rests in the parish church at Santa Clara, in the State of California, near the Communion railing, but outside the sanctuary, on the Gospel side. The grave was opened A. D. 1860, in order to place the body of Father Peter De-Vos, S.J., who had died on Palm Sunday, April 1, 1860, in the same tomb. The coffin, which contained the remains of Father Magin, had suffered somewhat owing to the length of time and the dampness. The body was seen and recognized by many Indians, Mexicans, Spaniards, and others who had known the Father.

“2. There was nothing left save the bones, shreds of his garments, a little hair about the jaws, and some of the ground that had fallen through the cracks into the coffin. I have seen all this with my own eyes. Thereupon, towards evening (April 2, 1860) the remains were again placed into the same tomb. Upon this same coffin the other containing the body of Father Peter De-Vos, S.J., was placed.

“3. Father Aloysius Bosco, then Assistant Pastor, was present during the whole time that all this took place, in order that no doubt might arise as to the identity of the body of said Father Magin.

“Your most humble Servant in Christ,
“FRANCIS IGNATIUS PRELATO, S.J.
“August 12th, 1884, The Feast of Saint Clare.
“Saint Ignatius College, S.J., in the City of San Francisco, California.”

Devotion to the servant of God continued among the Spaniards, Indians, and Mexicans, and so many wonderful things were said to have occurred through his intercession that the Jesuit Fathers, to whom the Very Rev. Jose Gonzalez Rubio, O.F.M., administrator of the diocese, had given charge of Santa Clara in 1851, communicated their observations to Archbishop Alemany early in 1882. From letters preserved in the archives of the archdiocese we learn that His Grace on July 26th and August 4th, 1882, made inquiries at Santa Clara with regard to the formalities that must be observed in the process of beatification. In obedience to the Archbishop’s request Father Dominic Joseph Lentz, O.P., of Benicia, on September 12th and October 7th, 1882, reported on the Cultus Prohibitus. Early in October of the same year His Grace went a step further, and asked the Rev. Doroteo Ambris of Mission San Antonio to write a Life of Father Magin Catala. Father Ambris replied on October 15th that he did not consider himself equal to the task and therefore begged to be excused. From a letter of Father Jose Maria Romo, O.F.M., Guardian of the Franciscan monastery at Santa Barbara, dated October 21st, 1882, it Is evident that Archbishop Alemany was calling for information as far down as Santa Barbara with regard to the rumors of sanctity circulating about Father Magin.

When the Jesuit Fathers of Santa Clara discovered that the Archbishop of San Francisco looked with favor upon the matter, they took a decided step and in a joint letter petitioned His Grace to institute the canonical investigation. The document written in Latin reads as follows:

“Most Rev. and Most Illustrious Lord:

“Among the saintly apostolic men, who first brought the light of the Gospel to the inhabitants of these regions of California Father Magin Catala, a member of the Order of the Friars Minor of Saint Francis, was renowned. For thirty-six years in succession, from 1794 to 1830, he stood at the head of this Mission of Santa Clara, and he was known far and wide on account of his labors for the glory of God and the salvation of souls and because of his virtues. Inasmuch as more than fifty years have already passed by since his blessed death, it is to be feared that the memory of his virtues and labors may be lost and his fame decline, unless everything relating to the servant of God be at once diligently collected from those that still survive and may remember them, and ordered to be preserved in writing.

“If God be pleased to glorify him on earth also, the necessary proofs to justify instituting the process are not wanting. Hence the undersigned Father John Pinasco of the Society of Jesus, Rector of the parish of Santa Clara, and his Assistants, Father Aloysius Masnato and Joseph Bixio, likewise of the Society of Jesus, hereby humbly petition Your Grace that, if You should judge it conducive to increase the glory of God, Your Grace in Your wisdom would deign to decree that information concerning the virtues and reputation for sanctity, which the said servant of God enjoyed, be canonically collected.

“Meanwhile, wishing Your Grace everything good from their whole heart, they humbly ask Your blessing.

“Your Grace’s Servants in Christ,

“JOHN PINASCO, S.J.
“ALOYSIUS MASNATO, S.J.
“JOSEPH BIXIO, S.J.
“Santa Clara, November 20th, 1882.
“To the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Father in the Lord, Joseph Sadoc Alemany, O. P., Archbishop of San Francisco.”

The Archbishop brought the petition to the attention of his Council with the result set forth in the following document:

“The Ecclesiastical Council of His Grace the Most Rev. J. S. Alemany, D. D., Archbishop of San Francisco, having laid before it a petition forwarded by the Rev. Rector and Assistant Rectors of the Mission of Santa Clara, California, requesting that steps be taken to determine the truth of the popular belief and tradition regarding the reputed pre-eminent sanctity of the Reverend Padre Magin Catala, who departed this life at the mission of Santa Clara in the year of Our Lord 1830, the members of said Council are unanimously of the opinion, from the statements set forth in the document referred to, that ample evidence exists to warrant the Most Rev. Archbishop to permit an investigation into the life and virtues of the Rev. Missionary with the view of taking the necessary measures for having his name ultimately placed on the Catalogue of the Saints, in case the inquiry should result in establishing his pre-eminent holiness of life. Saint Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, November 24th, 1882. W. Gleeson, Secretary.”

The Archbishop acceded to the wishes of the Fathers of Santa Clara and of his Council. On December 5th, 1882, with the consent of the Jesuit Superiors, he appointed the Rev. Benedict Picardo, S.J., Notary of the Process to be instituted. The Rev. Father took oath on the same day before the Archbishop in the presence of the witnesses, the Rev. George Montgomery and the Rev. Joseph Bixio, S.J. Father Picardo took great pains to find trustworthy persons who had known Father Magin, and others who might tell the facts as learned from eye-witnesses. He traveled all over the country from San Rafael to Mission San Antonio, took the depositions on the spot in the presence of priests or other creditable persons, and succeeded in discovering a large number of surviving men and women, who had been more or less acquainted with the servant of God. These witnesses and others were called to Santa Clara, where the sessions began about the middle of August, 1884, as we know from a letter which the Archbishop on August llth wrote to Rev. Joseph Bixio, S. J., who had been appointed Vice-Postulator in the case. “The main thing now is to organize,” His Grace says, “and to secure the testimony of the old witnesses. I will take along with me plenty of suitable paper, Spanish wax, seals, a tin box and key in which to lock the work when adjourning, as prescribed. I have made all necessary appointments, and will notify the officers again. Please tell Father Congiato that, probably, I may be with him Saturday evening or Sunday morning so as to confer with him.”

All this shows that Archbishop Alemany was deeply interested. In truth, he was the moving spirit in the whole proceeding. It was he that wrote to different localities in Spain for information about the antecedents and early youth of Father Magin Catala. He also, though in vain, applied for particulars concerning the holy man’s sojourn in Mexico, and saw to it that every formality prescribed by Rome was carried out. More than that, Archbishop Alemany himself approached various pious and wealthy persons in order to procure means wherewith to meet the expenses which must have been heavy.

Chapter VII

The Members of the Ecclesiastical Court. The Witnesses. Demand for Corroborative Evidence. A Life of Father Magin. Removal of Father Magin’s Remains. The New Process de Non-Cultu. The Proceedings. Ridiculous Non-Catholic Notions About the Canonization of Saints.

The Court which finally convened at Santa Clara to take the evidence was constituted as follows: Judge, the Most Rev. J. S. Alemany, O.P., Archbishop of San Francisco; Vice-Postulator or Defender of the Cause, the Rev. Joseph Bixio, S.J.; Notary, who had to take down the testimony literally, the Rev. Benedict Picardo, S.J.; Promoter Fiscalis, popularly known as “Devil’s Advocate,” the Rev. Aloysius Masnato, S.J.; Notarius in Actuarium Deputatus, whose duty it was to compare the copy of the amanuenses with the original of the Notary, the Rev. Vincent Vinyes, O.P. After the testimony had been taken the manuscript of the Notary was parceled out to three scribes or amanuenses, who had to make a copy for the Sacred Congregation of Rites at Rome. The three copyists in this case were the Reverends Lorenzo Serda, of Oakland, California, Emanuel Estragues, and Andres Garriga. The last named at present is Rector of the parish at San Luis Obispo. The copyists were sworn to secrecy until the promulgation of the acts.

Sixty-two witnesses were called and examined under oath. Of this number, twelve laymen and twenty-four women were eye-witnesses to the facts which they related. Six Jesuits, two secular priests, one Franciscan, eight laymen, and nine women had their knowledge from near relatives or other trustworthy persons who had been eye-witnesses. The main object of the investigation was to obtain proof that the servant of God had practiced the theological, cardinal and other virtues in an heroic degree. The alleged miracles merely served as incentives to the process. The result was taken to Rome apparently by Archbishop Alemany himself and there ordered printed.

The Archbishop, soon after the close of the canonical process in behalf of Father Magin, resigned and went to Rome. From there he informed his successor, Most Rev. Patrick William Riordan, D.D., that the Sacred Congregation had examined the Acts of the Court, found the evidence to be good, but desired corroborative testimony. The Very Rev. John Prendergast, Vicar-General, was thereupon directed to act as Judge during the subsequent investigation. The Court held one session at Santa Clara, but as nothing could be done until new evidence had been procured, the Rev. Benedict Picardo, S.J., of San Jose, was directed to present trustworthy witnesses, and to report whenever he was ready. No report was ever made and no other session of the Court took place.

In 1890, the Postulator-General at Rome took steps to further the cause of Father Magin. Through the Very Rev. Anselmus Mueller, O.F.M., Definitor-General, now Rector of Saint Francis’ College, Quincy, Illinois, he urged the late Father Clementine Deymann, O.F.M., of Watsonville, California, to publish a life of the servant of God. In the absence of all historical material, this was an exceedingly difficult task. Fortunately, the Rev. Andrew Garriga, one of the three amanuenses of the proceedings in 1884, had collected most of the testimony given by the witnesses with a view to perpetuate the memory of the holy man of Santa Clara. He readily turned the manuscript over to Father Clementine, who re-arranged and rewrote the story. For some reason or the other it was never published, and so the cause of good Father Magin was again left in abeyance.

In 1904, the writer published a lengthy sketch of Father Magin’s life, which was based chiefly upon the notes of Rev. Andrew Garriga. It ran through six numbers of the now extinct “Dominicana,” a monthly magazine edited by the Dominican Fathers of San Francisco. It was the first time that the holy man’s life came to the notice of the general public.

Interest was revived in 1907, when the Jesuit Fathers of Santa Clara resolved to transfer the remains of Father Magin from the unmarked grave to the foot of the Altar of the Crucifix, where he had passed so many hours in contemplation and prayer for his people. On digging for the body of the former .missionary, it was found that the old coffin had entirely decayed. Only a few bones, some hair, and pieces of habit were left. The pieces of habit were best preserved. The fabric was a coarse woolen cloth and of distinctly brown color. The Fathers and Brothers reverently, though privately, gathered the relics and placed them in a tin box. The lid, which bore a suitable inscription, was fastened down hermetically and then lowered into the tomb on the Gospel side of the little altar. Over the whole was placed a magnificent marble slab with gold lettering, which recites the various dates in the life of the servant of God. At the head of the slab are the Franciscan coat-of-arms, and at the foot are the words from Ecclesiasticus 45:1 – “His memory is in benediction.”

In 1908, at the request of the new Postulator-General, Very Rev. Father Francisco Maria Paolini, O.F.M., the Sacred Congregation of Rites, after examining the testimony obtained in the former process, decided to advance the cause of Father Magin by ordering the process de non Cultu. This was merely to prove that no public cult had been accorded the servant of God contrary to the Decree of Pope Urban VIII. A sealed list of questions to that effect was sent to the Archbishop of San Francisco, and by him turned over to the Promotor Fiscalis. The Sacred Congregation of Rites also directed His Grace, Most Rev. Patrick William Riordan, D. D., to issue a decree calling for the writings of Father Magin Catala. This decree was issued on November 6th, 1908, and read from the pulpit of every parish church in the Archdiocese.

With the consent of the Commissary Provincial, Very Rev. Theodore Arentz, O. F. M., the Postulator-General, on September 19th, 1908, appointed the writer Vice-Postulator in the case. This made it incumbent upon him to procure the witnesses and to press the case before the Ecclesiastical Court to be organized by His Grace, the Archbishop of San Francisco. The members of the Court established by the Archbishop on November 6th, 1908, were: Very Rev. Richard A. Gleeson, S.J., President of Santa Clara College, Judge; Rev. Reginald Newell, O.P., Prior of the Dominican Monastery, San Francisco, Promotor Fidei; Rev. Engelbert Gey, O.F.M., Guardian of the Franciscan Monastery, Fruitvale, California, Notary; Rev. Maximilian Neumann, O.F.M., Definitor and Guardian of the Franciscan Monastery, San Francisco, Reviewing Notary; Rev. Bonaventure Oblasser, O.F.M., Cursor or Messenger; Rev. William J. McMillan, S.J., and Rev. William Lonergan, S.J., scribes or copyists. All the members of the Court had to take oath and were pledged to secrecy until the promulgation of the Process, which took place at the review of the case in the latter part of February, 1909.

The sessions began at Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, November 18th. Eight well-informed witnesses testified under oath. The last testimony was received at the last secret session on Wednesday, January 27th, 1909. The last open session was held Saturday, February 20th, under the presidency of His Grace, the Archbishop himself. The documents were sealed and a messenger chosen in the person of the writer, whose business it was to take the papers, together with the few writings of Father Magin, to Rome. The cause of Father Magin Catala now rests with the Sacred Congregation of Rites. If everything is found to have been transacted in keeping with the numerous formalities prescribed, and if, after a rigid examination, it is shown beyond a doubt that the servant of God has indeed practiced the theological, cardinal, and other virtues in an heroic degree, then the Holy Father, the Pope, may confer upon Father Magin Catala the title of “Venerable,” which, however, entitles to no such veneration as is accorded the Blessed or Saints. When, after that, two first-class miracles have been proved to have occurred through his intercession, then Father Magin may receive beatification, which permits public cult to a limited degree, but is still far from canonization. We have somewhat minutely stated all that has transpired in the case of Father Magin, in order that those interested may understand that the “making of a Saint” is not such a simple and superficial matter as is generally supposed. Ordinary Catholics not infrequently lack knowledge and appreciation of the scrupulous care employed at Rome before as much as the title “Venerable” is conceded to a servant of God. As to non-Catholics, the dense ignorance and the flippant tone that prevail even among reputable historians and writers, when they touch this subject, are remarkable. One instance will suffice for illustration.

Cabeza de Vaca and his few companions, whilst held prisoners by the Texas Indians from about 1529 to 1536, performed some remarkable cures which at least procured better treatment for themselves. “Our method,” he writes, “was to ‘bless the sick, breathing upon them, and to recite a Pater-Noster and an Ave-Maria, praying with all earnestness to God, Our Savior, that He would give health and influence to make us some good return. In His clemency He willed that all those for whom we supplicated should tell the others that they were sound and in good health, directly after we had made the sign of the Blessed Cross over them.” In connection with this incident, the apparently honest historian, Woodbury Lowery, in “The Spanish Settlements in the United States, 1513-1561,” New York, 1901, sees proper to remark: “Perhaps when the storm of controversy aroused by this first of miracles performed upon our soil shall have been quite forgotten, another saint shall be added to the Calendar worthy to become the patron of the present State of Texas.”