San Mateo CA— Christian Clifford was on a quest in 2015 to defend the reputation of the founder of the California missions, Saint Junípero Serra. His research led to writing a book. During his research for the book, to his surprise, he came across the writings of Pablo Tac and another passion blossomed.
He shared, “I came across the story of Pablo Tac and was deeply moved. He has the power to move hearts and minds, as it did mine. His words compelled me to share his story in hopes that it is never forgotten.”
Pablo Tac (1822-1841) was Luiseño Indian. He was born and raised at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, located in present-day Oceanside, California. At the age of ten, he left the Mission with Fr. Peyrí, OFM and another young neophyte boy, Agapito Amamix. Their destination was Rome. On September 23, 1834, Pablo and Agapito enrolled at the Urban College. There they learned how to be missionary priests, hoping to one day return home to California. While studying at Urban College, Pablo wrote a description of life as a mission Indian (“Conversion of the San Luiseños of Alta California”, c. 1835), gave a public recitation of a poem at the Polyglot Academy (c. January 1836), created a dictionary of the language of his people (“Prima Linguae Californiensis Rudimenta a P. Tak proposita”, c. February 1838), and an account of the native peoples in Southern California (“De Californiensibus”, c. after 1838). His writings are the earliest from a California Indian.
Clifford believes that Pablo Tac should be formally recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church. “My intention for writing Meet Pablo Tac was to weave the story of Pablo Tac into the narrative of the California missions. It is good news, but bittersweet. My hope is that the story of the native from what was considered by a classmate of Tac’s in Rome as the ‘far shores of California’ will inspire many to live holy lives. He is a great role model, especially for young people! He accomplished so much during his short life.”
On July 18, in Sharonville, Ohio, Clifford had the opportunity to share the good news of Pablo Tac at the 80th annual Tekakwitha Conference. The theme of the Conference this year was From All Directions: St. Kateri Leads Us to Holiness. According to the group’s website, its vision is to be “…the Voice, Presence, and Identity of Indigenous Catholics of North America under the protection and inspiration of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.” The title of Clifford’s workshop was “Pablo Tac: Indian from the Far Shores of California”. While there he also gathered signatures for the petition to nominate Pablo Tac, the Luiseño who went to Rome to study for the priesthood and whose writings are the earliest from a California Indian, for the cause of canonization. He has over two-hundred signatures since the campaign started on May 28, 2019.