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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

FRAY ANTONIO MARGIL DE JESUS:
MISSIONARY

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD
Some years ago the Israeli consul stationed in Houston came to Nacogdoches for a talk. As a courtesy to this distinguished visitor, a tour featuring historical sites was arranged. The guide took the consul to a crossing of Lanana Creek near where the miracle of "The Eyes of Father Margil" was believed to have occurred.

"The Eyes" refers to an incident in which Margil, the ecclesiastical leader of six Spanish missions in East Texas, struck a rock twice in the dry creek bed during a time of drought and water poured from the places his rod had touched to sustain the mission until rains restored the creek.

"Moses did this!" said the consul. The guide could only reply, "I didn't say he was original, only miraculous."

This miracle worker was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1657. Margil gave evidence at an early age of devotion to the church and an intention to make it his life's work. He became a Franciscan in 1673 and emulated the order's founder by refusing to ride horseback or in a cart, always choosing to walk to punish the body. When one considers that he walked from Central America to East Texas and back fulfilling his duties, appreciation of the commitment grows large.

Margil received holy orders and accepted assignment to missionary work in New Spain in 1683. He first served the missionary College of Santa Cruz de Queratero in Yucatan, Costa Rico, and Guatemala, then founded the missionary College of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas in 1706.

Margil traveled to East Texas after the expedition of Domingo Ramon had established four missions in the area in 1716, including one in Nacogdoches. The following year he assisted with the founding of two more, Nuestra Senora de los Dolores and San Miguel de los Adaes. Later he established the most successful mission in Texas, San Antonio de Aguayo, in San Antonio.

None of the East Texas missions succeeded in converting a great many Indians to Christianity, but they played a significant role in holding on to the area for Spain.

Margil died in 1726, and has been considered for sanctification by the Roman Catholic Church. His work in East Texas was but the beginning of the work of the Franciscans in all of Texas


All Things Historical
September 2-8 , 2001
Published by permission.

Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas
 
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