When we set out to do the Lord's work, who knows where that vineyard will be. He took a humble name and lived a humble life of study and academia but yearned for the mission fields.
A relatively recent addition to the Canon, he has long been admired and noted by both the religious and secular - all an interesting situation, considering his constant opposition to secular and political authority.
Still, he is a controversial figure and there are also some questions about the effects of his missionary efforts. Some disagree with his canonization.
But canonization is not a prize awarded by the Church. It is not about our judgement of his life, but of the state of his soul. Being Canonized, being added to the role of those we declare known to be in Heaven, requires some proof, from what we can determine from this side of the Kingdom, that you are in the presence of God and able to directly intercede for those of us on Earth. We rely upon their life on Earth to direct our understanding of the saint to sinner ratio in a person but it is not the only determining factor. Miracles also factor into the formula - the here and now activities of the individual who has the influence of the saints, of someone in the presence of God.
We are all of us sinners during life, there is no one who disputes that. As David McLaughlin, historian and executive director of the California Missions Resources Center, reminds us, Serra should be seen as a talented but flawed man who was a product of his time. He “lived an exemplary religious life by the terms of his day”, and the Franciscan missions of California could be perceived as a“modification” that tried to reform the Spanish strategies that had devastated Central America and Peru.
Serra devoted himself to the people he ministered to the best of his ability; he sought to give them dignity as children of God, aside from the political and secular understanding of them. Even if we fall short in such a goal, the Lord will bring it to fruition. Might the world still inject evil and chaos? Yes. Do we not try? No!
“...for I trust that God will give me the strength to reach San Diego, as He has given me the strength to come so far. In case He does not, I will conform myself to His most holy will. Even though I should die on the way, I shall not turn back. They can bury me wherever they wish and I shall gladly be left among the pagans, if it be the will of God.”
-- From his diary