Servant of God Juan de Padilla
Another Saint of the Day for January 21
Servant of God Juan de Padilla’s Story
Juan didn’t know where preaching the Gospel of Jesus would lead him, but he trusted God to give him strength to match the missionary vocation. Juan’s vocation led to his martyrdom in Kansas, part of the New World discovered the year he was born.
Juan came from southern Spain where he became a Franciscan. In 1526, he left for Mexico where he worked as a missionary in the states of Hidalgo and Jalisco. In 1540, he accompanied Coronado’s expedition to New Mexico. The next year Juan went with the expedition to Kansas; there he met the Quivira Indians. Juan remained to work among them after the explorers returned to Mexico. Juan was killed by several Quivira Indians as he made his way to the Kaws, traditional enemies of the Quiviras. He was the first of at least 79 Franciscans martyred in the United States.
Thinking about people who are martyrs for the faith sometimes makes us uncomfortable. How could people do that? Are they mentally stable? Juan de Padilla was motivated more by a desire to spread the gospel than by fear for his own life. He reminds us that we do not have much choice about how we will die; however, we have a lot of choice about how we shall live.