Fray Margil de Jesus: Apostol de America
Publisher: Antigua Libreria Robredo de Jose Porrua e Hijos
Place: Mexico City
224 pages with 14 plates, 3 folding maps and index. Royal octavo (9 1/2" x 7") bound in 1/2 green leather with gilt lettering to spine. Prologue by Rafael Heliodoro Valle, maps by Justino Fernandez. First edition.
The life of Fr. Antonio Margil of Jesus is an epic story of a man who seems larger than life. Barefoot, carrying only a staff, breviary, and the materials he needed to say Mass, he established hundreds of missions in a territory extending from the jungles of Costa Rica to east Texas and the borders of Louisiana. Countless Indians of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Texas received the divine gift of faith from him and revered him a saint. For this, he is called the Apostle of New Spain and Texas. A quarter century before Fr Junepero Serra began his California adventure, there was an extraordinary Franciscan carrying out a great work of generalization across Central America, Mexico, and finally, Texas. In his zeal to spread the Catholic faith, he faced inclement weather, hostile animals, forest insects and reptiles, lack of food and water, and cruel treatment from hostile Indian tribes. The barefoot friar who walked on water in his extraordinary missionary work More than once he was tortured, beaten, or left for dead. His name, which deserves to be known and his fame spread is Venerable Antonio Margil de Jesus, who titled himself and signed every letter as El Nada Mismo-Nothingness Itself. What is most interesting about the Texas missions is that one could say that this was the only assignment Fr. Margil chose himself. All his life, he lived under holy obedience. He wrote that he had "never undertaken any enterprise, not even a step, without permission." Often poorly considered orders compelled him to leave his missions when the missionaries were on the very brink of reaping the harvest of their preaching and labors. But Fr. Margil never hesitated to abandon enterprises and every hope of success, and travel hundreds of miles through the roughest and most dangerous country, to obey the order of his superiors. Threatened by French encroachments from Louisiana onto Spanish territories, Spain had stepped up its colonization and the Franciscans had established a mission in Texas in 1690. But it had lasted only three years. Because the conditions for colonizers were bleak and difficult, the government was not concerned about its colonization and progress. The friars had to contend with so many difficulties, exorbitant costs, and losses that Fr. Isidro Felix de Espinosa reported in his chronicle, Nuevas Empresas, "The very name of Texas had become odious to the religious." Fr. Margil faced a first major obstacle standing in the way of an expedition. A presidio, or military post, had to be established at the entrance to the provinces to afford escorts to the missionaries and render assistance in case of uprisings or attacks. Funds were needed for this purpose, and the royal treasury was exhausted from wars. As usual, Fr. Margil relied on Providence, which supplied in a remarkable way. Because of his reputation and popularity among the soldiers, each member of the garrison voluntarily offered him out of his pay $25 a year for life, and with this money he financed the presidio of St. John the Baptist on the Rio Grande. The way to Texas was opened. At the beginning of 1716, an expedition party of 25 soldiers with their families set out set out for the 2,000 mile trek from Nicaragua to Texas. They were accompanied by friars from the Colleges of Queretaro and Zacatecas. Fr. Margil led the party from the Zacatecas College, and Fr. Espinosa was appointed head of the Queretaro College missionaries. Each of the colleges was to establish three missions. 1717, Fr. Margil established the second, Mission San Miguel, near present-day Robeline. Thus he had the honor to erect the first church building in what is now the State of Louisiana. Shortly afterward, he also established Mission Nuestra Senora de los Dolores near San Augustine, Texas, halfway between the two, and resided there.
Slight extremity wear, rebound else a very good copy.
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