Feast Or Famine Essay

2645 words - 11 pages

The issue of abundance within the mission became one which Duran struggled with. While the friars were concerned with the issue of poverty among themselves, they were also quite cognizant of how necessary the issue of abundance was to the natives, since abundance was one of the means by which the Missionary Fathers could attract the natives to the missions. This recruitment of neophytes to the missions was vital to the survival of the missions as Duran knew. No food (abundance), no Indians, no missions. One of the ways this can be seen is in a letter Duran sent to the procurator of the College of San Fernando in 1808:
We have just received your Reverence’s letter, dated August 24, in which you inform us that the antependia , etc. which we had asked for will not come, nor will the ladles for the Indians. This last (item) we regret extremely because we prefer the Indians to what is least necessary for the church. And so the said one hundred ladles must be of first priority in the next list of supplies. Your Reverence well says that it is not possible to provide everything because of a lack of money; but from now on we are warned against asking for articles of wood because of their exorbitant cost. We will appreciate it if you do not send the side altar, the painting of the Judgment, and everything else which, it seems, they have included among the items which have risen in price because of the war—unless of course, your Reverence finds himself under obligations. We intend henceforth to lighten you work by asking only for what is of prime necessity.
The friars in the mission system of California were well aware of the need to keep the natives in and around the missions. If their neophytes were allowed to go off foraging into the surrounding area they might fall back into their former pagan lives or they might pick up the bad habits of the Spanish soldiers and villagers. Either one of these were unacceptable alternatives for the friars placed in charge of the well being of the newly evangelized Indians. The easiest way to do that was to attract them to the mission with the promise of better food. There is a practical aspect as well as a theological aspect to this for the friars. In order to attract and keep the natives in and around the missions, the friars had to demonstrate that they had the food and supplies there to provide for them. This abundance could also be seen as being favor for the divine being of the friars over the divine beings of the natives.
One of the ways that this can be seen, is how often Duran makes amendments to his letters to the procurator at the College of San Fernando in Mexico. Duran frequently limits the requests for liturgical items in order to replace them with cookware and other essential (versus superfluous) items for the missions and the neophytes. In this sense, Duran is able to maintain Franciscan notions regarding poverty, while at same time remaining sensitive to the needs of the Indians for...

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