To Sin No More
Franciscans and Conversion in the Hispanic World, 1683-1830
David Rex Galindo



On September 23, 2015, Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan missionary Fray Junípero Serra (1713–1784) in Washington, D.C. In the first canonization ceremony held on U.S. soil, the pope praised Serra’s missionary zeal to “[g]o out to people of every nation.”1 To Francis and many others, Serra embodied the true Christian who selflessly left his homeland, his relatives, and a life of comfort for the missionary hardships in America. The pope’s words confirmed that Serra reached the altars of sainthood in large part for his contributions to the expansion and consolidation of Christianity in America; however, he did not act alone. Instead, Serra was part of a comprehensive strategy of religious conversion in the Hispanic world and its frontiers. In 1769, Serra led a group of Franciscan missionaries from the order’s Colegio Apostólico de San Fernando de México to Alta California, a territory on the periphery of the Spanish North American empire. As members of one of the Franciscan colegios apostólicos de propaganda fide, Serra and his successors established a chain of missions aimed at converting California native people into Catholics. These colleges were created in the late seventeenth century by fellow Franciscan, Fray Antonio Llinás, to galvanize the Franciscan apostolic mandate through missionary preparation, a strict spiritual life, and a reinvigorated evangelical ministry in the Americas and Spain. While Serra’s missionary endeavors in California reached legendary proportions, little is known about the Franciscan colleges from which he and hundreds of other Franciscan missionaries developed a systematic evangelical program of conversion.2

This volume analyzes the Franciscan Colleges for the Propagation of the Faith, their friars, and their conversion agenda in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Spain and its empire. Through these colleges, Franciscan authorities developed an extensive, methodical missionary program to convert Catholics and non-Christians alike. Friars from the colleges preached sermons to reform peasant lives in rural Galicia, heard confessions in southern Bolivia, and administered the sacraments in frontier evangelical fields such as the Gran Chaco region in what is today Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, or the Chilean Araucanía. In the words of Pope Innocent XI, almost 330 years before Serra’s canonization, the goal of these Franciscans was to propagate “the Christian Religion, and the Catholic Faith, proper instruction of the Christian faithful, reformation of customs, and to secure the salvation of souls throughout the world.”3 In other words, Franciscan missionaries taught Catholicism to convert and save humankind. These newly established apostolic seminaries refurbished the Seraphic Order’s commitment to the Catholic Church’s global mission and accelerated the process of America’s Catholic conversion begun in the sixteenth century. Thus, To Sin No More puts the Franciscan colleges at the center of the evolving Church program to expand and consolidate Christianity in Spanish America and Spain. It shows that through the apostolic colleges of propaganda fide, Franciscans displayed a revitalized missionary strength that fueled Spanish imperial expansion to remote areas on the fringes of the empire while at the same time reinforcing a trans-Atlantic world of Spanish culture and institutions.

Franciscan colleges and their influence multiplied in the age of Enlightenment. Stemming from the first college in Querétaro, Mexico, founded in 1683 by the Majorcan missionary Fray Antonio Llinás (b. 1635–d. 1693), many more were established in the Americas and Iberian Peninsula, and missionaries spread widely on both sides of the Atlantic. Before his death in 1693, Llinás alone had launched five apostolic seminaries in Spain. By the 1820s, this Franciscan institution to propagate the Christian faith had founded seven seminaries in New Spain, ten in South America, and twelve in Spain (Table I.1 and Figures I.1–I.3). Their evangelical reach was impressive. From the colleges, friars ministered to parishioners throughout Spain, parts of Portugal, and southern France, in addition to all New Spain and South American dioceses. College missionaries also served in remote missions from Texas, California, and Arizona, through Central America and the Amazonian frontiers, to the South American cone. As discussed in Chapter 2, most of the friars who ministered on these frontiers came from Spain. A look at the trans-Atlantic flow of missionaries in the eighteenth century shows that American Franciscan colleges of propaganda fide became the largest recruiters of Spanish friars in that century. Because of this steady and constant immigration, the colleges became the sole religious institution in Spanish America dominated by peninsular friars—an important terrain to secure the Bourbon reformers’ endorsement. With such a far-reaching network of apostolic seminaries and missionary endeavors, Franciscan authorities created a trans-Atlantic evangelical program that promoted Catholicism in the Hispanic world.

TABLE I.1. List of Franciscan Colegios Apostólicos de Propaganda Fide

Notes from Table I.1

a First established in 1687 by the Provincia de Andalucía, but finally reorganized in Arcos de la Frontera in 1698.

b Royal cédula of January 27, 1704, but not erected until 1707.

c First established by the Discalced Provincia de San Diego in 1732, but officially recognized by Pope Clement XIV as an apostolic propaganda fide college on July 9, 1771.

d The convent had been established by propaganda fide missionaries in 1726, but the royal cédula was granted in 1757 and final papal approval in 1758.

e The royal cédula was granted in 1737, but establishment of apostolic college delayed until 1796.

Source: Saiz Díez, Los Colegios de Propaganda Fide, 32–33, 63–72.

Growth of the Franciscan institution of propaganda fide and its influence is especially notable because the colleges coincided with opposition to further expansion of religious orders. The Franciscan order, which outnumbered other religious orders in the Hispanic world, was particularly concerning to the authorities. Demographic studies and contemporary sources reveal a large number of Franciscan friars in Spain and Spanish America by 1700. Pedro Borges estimates over 5,000 brothers of Saint Francis living in around 600 convents in Spanish America. Franciscans also comprised a larger share of all religious orders in Spain, where at least 15,000 Franciscans lived in 1700.4 When Llinás established the first apostolic college in Querétaro in 1683, Franciscan numbers were widely perceived as excessive. Meanwhile, royal cédulas had banned the foundation of new mendicant convents in eighteenth-century Spain and America. As discussed in Chapter 1, the propaganda fide colleges were established in existing convents that Franciscan provinces had to relinquish to bypass royal bans on establishing new ones. Scholars who have addressed the impact of political reforms on religious orders learned that in the latter half of the seventeenth century, the regulars (clerics who swear their commitment to follow a rule, i.e., Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Jesuits) were at the center of a debate aimed at redirecting Spanish imperial policies. These studies have shown that reformers in the mother country and Spanish America linked Spanish economic and imperial decadence to clergy excesses, indolence, and economic inefficiency.5 Thus, establishment of Franciscan colleges might seem to be an unlikely venture in the midst of anti-mendicant attitudes that targeted the Order of Saint Francis in particular.

Fig. I.1. Franciscan colegios de propaganda fide in Spain. (Map created by Iván López Nieto.)

Fig. I.2. Franciscan colegios de propaganda fide in New Spain. (Map created by Iván López Nieto.)

Multiple factors paved the way to establishing Franciscan colegios for missionaries. The demographic peak also coincided with the notion that Franciscan lax adherence to the rule needed to be addressed. Franciscans perceived that their order had lost momentum in the evangelical ministry vis-à-vis the secular clergy and other regular clerics, particularly the Jesuits. Some Franciscans viewed the conversion of Indian hunter-gatherers as a new challenge that had previously defied missionary advances. In particular, the magnitude of revolts in New Spain’s northern frontiers reminded religious authorities that changes were necessary. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 in New Mexico, which not only expelled the Spanish but left twenty-one Franciscans dead, was a catalyst for reform. The ubiquitous ethnic factionalism within the mendicant orders in America and the consequent endless litigation between a majority of American-born friars and a minority of Spanish-born religious further convinced Franciscan authorities of the need to modify their missionary program. Ideas of staffing Franciscan friaries with Spanish-born men also received attention. Equally important was a more welcoming sentiment in the Spanish court and in Rome—both always eager to further their control over the regular orders—spurred conformity and internal reorganization within the largest religious order in the Catholic world.6

Fig. I.3. Franciscan colegios de propaganda fide in South America. (Map created by Iván López Nieto.)

This story of Franciscan missionary endeavors and conversion begins with the preliminaries that led to the foundation of the first Franciscan college of propaganda fide in the Mexican town of Querétaro and ends beyond the wars for American independence but before their successive abolition and incorporation into the Franciscan provinces between 1901 and 1919. By 1830, the wars for independence had already placed a burden on the Franciscan colleges. Some American countries passed legislation to force Spaniards to leave, causing a personnel crisis in the colleges because they were staffed by Spanish-born friars. Such was the case of Mexico in 1827. Spanish friars left the Colegio del Cristo Crucificado de Guatemala in 1829. In Peru and Bolivia, the Franciscan colleges were closed during the violent years that led to independence and most Spanish friars left. Political independence also brought the elimination of friaries and expulsion of Spanish-born religious men from Gran Colombia. The 1830s thus denote the beginning of a new era that brought the colleges under the exclusive authority of American Franciscans and the young republics and marks a logical end to this study.7 Because a major goal of this book is to illustrate active Franciscan involvement in the spiritual guidance of nominal Catholics (including converted Indians) in Spain and Spanish America throughout the early modern period, I concentrated on a representative sample of colleges—the Colegio de la Santa Cruz in Querétaro (North America), Colegio de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Tarija (South America), and the Colegio de San Antonio in Herbón and the Colegio de San Miguel in Escornalbóu (Spain)—with some consideration of other colegios, particularly Guadalupe in Zacatecas and San Fernando in Mexico City. In my examination of archival sources from under-studied Franciscan repositories, I focused on the agents of conversion instead of the missionized. My goal has been to show how Franciscan propaganda fide colleges invigorated the Franciscan evangelical ministry through missionary instruction and a renovated commitment to their pastoral work among both Catholic and non-Christian flocks in Spain and in its American territories and peripheries.

Scholars have devoted most of their attention to this last facet. An abundance of scholarly works examine the majority of frontier missions of most American colleges from New Spain’s northern borderlands to Chile and Argentina. This literature recognizes the role played by college missionaries in the expansion of the Spanish empire in the eighteenth century. They touch upon a wide variety of topics that range from the economy, sexuality, daily life, and spirituality in missions to large questions of colonialism, acculturation, and science. Their approaches span the extremes of anti-missionary and hagiographic writings.8 The fascination with frontier missions, missionaries, and the conversion of indigenous peoples transcends the academic realm. Today many missions are under UNESCO’s World Heritage protection and are visited by millions every year. In the United States, missions in California, Arizona, and Texas are major tourist attractions and, as mentioned above, friars like Serra in California and Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús are legends.

A major aim of this book is to show how Franciscans from the propaganda fide colleges advanced Catholic practices and popular religious beliefs to the centers as much as to the peripheries of the Spanish empire. Beyond the material culture left for posterity, such as mission compounds and the religious art inside them, missionaries who studied at the Franciscan propaganda fide colleges also left less tangible elements interwoven within local religious fabrics. As seen in Chapter 4, they brought religious devotions such as the via crucis (way of the cross), a procession that mimics the passion of Jesus Christ, and sacred songs such as the alabados (songs to praise the Virgin Mary) that Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús popularized in New Spain’s northern frontier missions. Still, these rituals are intricate rudiments of the local religiosity of many communities throughout the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, and many other parts of Latin America and southwestern Europe.9

Fascination with the frontier missions has eclipsed interest in the colleges and their crucial evangelical influence in the Spanish Atlantic world. In my own historiographical research, I found that an early trail of studies on the colleges begun by Franciscan historians did not leave a strong scholarly imprint on secular writers.10 A starting point is the multivolume project titled “Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo,” published by the Spanish journal Archivo Ibero-Americano between 1987 and 1996.11 In this sense, I have found the scholarly work produced under the auspices of the Academy of American Franciscan History paramount to understanding the Franciscan institution of propaganda fide in Spain and America. In recent years, the Academy sponsored a series of conferences and the publication of the papers that address the Franciscan missiology in America and its connections to Europe. Some of the articles and book projects (including To Sin No More) focus on the apostolic colleges for propagation of the faith and their missionary agendas.12

Other recent works on religious orders are uncovering negotiations, tensions, and conflict within male and female orders. By emphasizing the complexities of religious life, these studies illustrate instances of dissent and individualism that contradict a more traditional image of monastic harmony. Indeed, community and individualism coalesced when it came to the personal interpretation of what it meant to be a Franciscan and a missionary. These studies show that clerical voices were not monotonic but polyphonic. The personal Catholicism (and culture) of each member of the Church, seasoned with official doctrine, produced a diverse and less cohesive version of Catholicism ecclesiastics preached to parishioners and frontier mission neophytes.13 Hence, instead of encapsulating Franciscans as a homogeneous group, this book is sensitive to diversity within the Order of Saint Francis.

Mimicking the location of frontier missions within the empire, the Franciscan colleges of propaganda fide are still marginal to the Latin American and Spanish historiographies. In a survey of the history of religion in Latin America, historian John Lynch points out that in the eighteenth century, “the Spanish empire underwent a new phase of expansion, mainly political in inspiration, but with religious implications.” Charles III, Lynch acknowledges, made the conversion of non-Christian Indians a priority and relied on Franciscan missionaries in this endeavor. To describe missionary expansion in the age of Enlightenment, Lynch dedicates four pages to Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis, a Majorcan friar who moved from the Franciscan Colegio de San Buenaventura in Baeza, Spain to minister to the missions of the Franciscan Colegio de Popayán in current Colombia. The author praises Fray Juan as “one of the great, yet forgotten, chroniclers of the colonial period,” overlooking his belonging to the colleges of propaganda fide—one of the great, yet forgotten, missionary institutions of the colonial period, using Lynch’s own words.14 John Frederick Schwaller, on the other hand, underpins the relevance of propaganda fide in his study of Catholicism in Latin America. He relies on Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús—a missionary who served in the colleges of Querétaro, Guatemala, and Zacatecas—to describe the shift from sixteenth-century evangelization independent of military power to an eighteenth-century colonizing project that rested on missionary and military might.15 Treatment of Spanish propaganda fide seminaries is also lacking in the general religious historiography in Spain. José García Oro’s synthesis of Franciscan history in Spain surprisingly neglects the Spanish seminaries, although he mentions their American counterparts.16

This pattern of scholarly indifference is owed in part to epistemological shifts in the study of colonial encounters and colonialism. In recent decades, studies on missions and frontiers underwent a long-needed intellectual revolution that centered on indigenous populations. By focusing so closely on native peoples, this new scholarship on frontier studies has enriched our understanding of the complexities of native cultures and revealed the nuances surrounding the encounters between Spaniards and Indians on the fringes of empire. They have shown not only that Indians had agency in their relations with the invaders, but in many cases they controlled the terms of such relations. For instance, recent works contend that in the Texas borderlands Spanish conquerors became the conquered and Indians the dominant groups. While these works underscore the leading role Franciscan agents played in these frontier encounters and Spanish expansion, the sophistication in the analysis has not matured evenly for the missionaries as for the missionized.17 In other words, we need to study missionaries with the same sensibilities as we now devote to Indians.

There have also been methodological limitations in approaching the conversion of the Hispanic world. Scholars who study colonial encounters in the Americas or how Catholic missionaries advanced their religion in frontier missions identify religious conversion with the cultural shift from indigenous systems of belief to Catholicism and Hispanic culture. Religious conversion in these studies refers more broadly to the transformation from one religious practice into a different one. That was the goal of the Catholic missionaries who attempted to inculcate their Christian rituals and ideas as well as their European ways of life in American peoples throughout the colonial period. Most of these studies describe religious conversion as a more or less prolonged process that includes rituals such as baptism as well as certain amounts of indoctrination and acculturation. Within this framework, conversion for some scholars means a series of drastic events that provoke Indians to abandon, even if unevenly, their old beliefs for new ones. More problematic is the association of baptism with conversion to argue that American indigenous groups retain pre-Catholic practices after their “conversion,” meaning their baptism. While people may be seduced into interpreting conversions as individual, sudden acts of change—in many Christian Churches neophytes speak of instantaneous epiphanies that brought their conversion to a purer relationship with Jesus Christ and their God—most conversions are temporally prolonged. In any case, there is a consensus that conversion to Catholicism requires the rejection of old views, especially those that missionaries considered idolatrous and superstitious, in favor of the Spaniards’ religion. They also agree that native peoples incorporated certain elements of Christianity into their own religious practices and cosmovisions while rejecting others.18

My approach to religious conversion is broader. I examine conversion from the same angle that a Franciscan friar (and for that matter, a Catholic cleric) would have understood it. For the missionaries and their contemporaries, conversion had two meanings. It implied turning non-Christians into Catholics as much as revitalizing the faith of Catholics. Thus, religious conversion also entails an internal metamorphosis within one’s own religion. The genesis of the Franciscan colleges of propaganda fide, as described by one of their chroniclers, illustrates this point. Fray Isidro Félix de Espinosa, in his monumental history of the colleges, points out that Fray Antonio Llinás’s idea of erecting Franciscan apostolic seminaries was the result of one of these conversion processes. Sometime in 1675, Llinás, a Franciscan professor at the order’s university in Celaya, Mexico, underwent a mystical conversion. Born in Mallorca, Fray Antonio left his homeland in 1664 for a teaching post in the Provincia Franciscana de San Pedro y San Pablo de Michoacán in New Spain. In the following eleven years, he resided in Querétaro, Valladolid (now Morelia), and Celaya, where he taught at the Franciscan university. According to Espinosa, in those years Llinás indulged himself in worldly pleasures rather than Franciscan asceticism. Llinás engaged in material excesses, indulged in servile flattery, and less than rigorously followed the spiritual exercises of his convent. He is described as a friar more interested in spending his time on “musical delights” with other religious men and women as well as laypeople than in prayers, meditation, or evangelical ministry. As a prelude to Llinás’s catharsis and to justify it, Espinosa juxtaposed the friar’s preferences for the mundane to a life of seclusion and search for the divine.19

What follows in Espinosa’s narrative fits the script of a horror tale. One night while falling asleep, Fray Antonio noticed footsteps that frightened him. Still drowsy, Llinás heard someone violently open the curtains of his cell. He opened his eyes to see, behind a thin light coming from a candle held by the apparition, a skeleton whose “face was a scrawny skull, his shroud . . . a robe with the ash-gray cloth used by the Franciscan friars from the Province of Mallorca.” The skeletal shape remained quiet for a few seconds, then closed the curtains and disappeared. The friar could not sleep for the rest of the night. The next morning Llinás began to regret his libertine way of life. He asked his guardian to empty his cell. He dressed in “a robe of sayal [crude cloth], and some underwear and sandals,” so he could “henceforth live poor, naked, humble, and a true son of Saint Francis.” After a tearful confession, Llinás practiced harsh penitence by “tightening his flesh with rough cilices, injuring his face with slaps, and pouring plentiful blood . . . with his merciless lashes.” In the following weeks, Llinás repeatedly sought physical punishment delivered by a servant in his Franciscan community in Celaya. He cautiously filled his time with spiritual meditation, serving his fellow friars, and active preaching.20

In Espinosa’s story, Llinás’s transformation is initiated by a traumatic event inspired not from a natural process or misfortune but through divine intervention. The mystical mutation is never described as an easy one. As Llinás lucidly confessed in a draft written in Madrid in 1681 later presented to King Charles II (and Espinosa’s source for the story), he actively engaged in a pursuit to find meaning. Following Saint Francis and Saint Augustine, Llinás read the gospels. He found inspiration in John 1:23: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert; make straight the way of the Lord.” Matthew 10:16 clarified his path: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” When he asked a friar and a nun for interpretation, they unsurprisingly predicted his evangelical career and his “preaching to a multitude of Peoples.” To accentuate the symbolic value of Llinás’s conversion, Espinosa sweetened the episode with references to other well-known conversion experiences. Particularly relevant is Llinás’s comparison to Paul of Tarsus, the quintessential missionary in the New Testament. In Espinosa’s hagiography, Llinás turned into a new Saint Paul who ultimately shone to spread God’s “rays throughout America and much of Europe.” Paul of Tarsus’s biblical conversion from a Christian persecutor to a Christian proselytizer after his own encounter with a resurrected Jesus Christ certainly underpins not only Llinás’s spiritual conversion but also his transformation to lead a rejuvenated Franciscan missionary enterprise. Llinás’s shift is not atypical of others who have also described their own epiphanies and spiritual regenerations in similar terms.21

His grotesque epiphany, which certainly fits with the Baroque atmosphere of the time, his remorse, the corporal chastisements, and his later quest also unveil certain elements of the conversion typology. It bounds a transformation that originated in a mystical, sudden conversion that leads to an intensification or revitalized commitment to the meaning of being not only a Catholic, but a Franciscan. It explicitly reveals the desires to convert and save humankind while at the same time calls for a reformation within the Catholic Church to redress its evangelical purpose through a renaissance of the Franciscan ministry in Spain and America. In essence, the plan substantiates Llinás’s duality of conversion: to convert the world, the Order had to revitalize itself through a new evangelical project. And thus, Llinás’s own conversion embodies the Franciscans’ internal renewal pact.

From the fields of anthropology, psychology, and religious studies, scholars offer a more polyhedric approach to religious conversion that embraces elements of Llinás’s metamorphosis. They understand religious conversion as a protracted process from one stage into another within and without the same system of beliefs. Hence, it implies a transformational period in which subjects alter their life and behavioral conduct into new patterns that follow certain norms imposed by those who claim the spiritual and/or religious knowledge of orthodoxy. I have found professor of pastoral psychology, Lewis R. Rambo’s work particularly inspiring in understanding the Franciscan notions of religious conversion. Rambo insists on avoiding prescribed definitions of conversion, as it is “malleable.” Rambo nonetheless elucidates conversion as sequences that result in “turning from and to new religious groups, ways of life, systems of belief, and modes of relating to a deity or the nature of reality.” Conversion implies changes over time, not necessarily linear or progressive but spiral (or cyclical), as relapse is present in conversion experiences: self-doubts, resistance, rejections, crises, desires, or reaffirmations occur throughout the processes of change.22

Lewis Rambo’s helicoidal model fits with the Catholic understanding of conversion. Consistent with earlier works by Christian scholars such as Paul of Tarsus, Tertullian, and Augustine of Hippo, Catholic theologians underscore that humans are prone to sin. In other words, they tend to deviate from an orthodox path, commonly sponsored by the ecclesiastical establishment, to attain salvation. The breadth of the deviation signals the level of rupture with orthodox mandates, as diffuse as this might be. Relapse is pivotal to the Catholic theology of sin and to this model of conversion. The aim at launching the Franciscan missionary program of propaganda fide in the eighteenth-century Hispanic world was to address the problem of recidivism in a new and systematic, larger way. Chapters 4 and 5 of this book are replete with examples from missionary writings that pinpoint the recurring essence of sin. Missionary advice towards redemption in the midst of repeated failure was in tune with the canonical laws approved in the Council of Trent (1545–1563) that regulated the sacrament of penance. According to the Council, the sacrament of penance, consisting of the acts of contrition, confession, and satisfaction (making amends), established the journey’s beginning toward salvation. Through truthful confession and sincere repentance, the Catholic would abhor sin, theologians asserted. It was in the intimate moment of remorse when, according to the Council, parishioners expressed their “detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future.” In tune with Catholic dogma, missionaries (like other clerics) hence insisted on the importance of confession and contrition as well as public penitence to overcome sin and its repetitious essence and to set a secure path towards conversion and salvation.23

A key moment is the act of contrition. While reciting this prayer during penance, Catholics commit themselves “to sin no more.” This motto is ubiquitous, and its implicit acknowledgement of relapse reveals the difficulties Catholic believers faced then and now to overcome sin. This was the raison d’être of the Franciscan missionary colleges, and therefore the title of this book. As a Franciscan preacher from the colegio de propaganda fide de Herbón in Spain pointed out at the turn of the nineteenth century, parishioners should submit themselves to a “firm resolution to sin no more.”24 The relevance of contrition filled the contemporary religious literature. For example, one prisoner’s Act of Contrition composed in a ten-line stanza to honor the crowning of Ferdinand VI in 1746 appealed to the power of confession, regret, and redemption to secure his salvation. His proposal to mend his ways (alter his behavior) and his commitment “to sin no more” was firm and apparently sincere, as would have been expected. In his prayer, he maintained his pledge to confess his iniquities and to restrain his passions with “Holy Contrition”:

I firmly propose to mend my ways,
to sin no more
I offer to confess
my iniquity, so it is known:
I will put a brake on, I will put reins on
at all times,
and I will bind up my passions
with Holy Contrition,
moderating with reason
the evil of my wrongdoings.25

This remorseful proposition acknowledges the sinful nature of man and reveals the struggle to convert to an institutional Catholicism preached and taught by the clerics. Iniquity and relapse form the core of soteriological theology and substantiate the priests’ leitmotif. In the words of the friars, if society tends to sin, the missionary offers the cure; as disease warrants the physician, sin validates the spiritual healer.

Thus, even in places with a long Catholic tradition such as the Iberian Peninsula, complete conversion is never entirely guaranteed. This book exposes the volatility of Christianity in not only a colonial setting, but also in places deemed “old” Christian, like Spain. As historian Scott Hendrix points out, “Christianity has to be rooted and rerooted in every society it enters.”26 Within this context, he claims that the sixteenth-century Catholic reformation revitalized the Church’s evangelical objective as never before. Religious male orders undertook a widespread mission that encompassed local ministry as much as foreign missions. The aim of these missionaries was, using their own parlance, “to plant and replant Christianity wherever they served.” As the argument goes, Christianity is historical and needs to be nurtured, guided, and preserved.27 Consequently, conversion encompasses interchangeably the religious transformation of a non-Catholic Native American as well as the spiritual regeneration of a Catholic sinner. Propaganda fide missionaries sought to eradicate bad customs and heterodox beliefs among Catholics as much as giving a new impetus to the missionary enterprise on the fringes of the Spanish empire. Thus, because conversion is always incomplete at best, overall one could argue that the evangelization of America was and still is a complex phenomenon with no linear, teleological evolution.

Religious conversion took many shapes. Internal conversion within a religious order exemplified by Fray Antonio Llinás is one instance. In this book, missionary work among Catholics is another. Propaganda fide missionaries actively proselytized with the goal of purging Catholicism of deviant acts and preparing the flock for the redeeming moment of penance, and ultimately salvation. They did so through a systematic itinerant evangelical program, also known in the literature as misiones populares or popular missions, that targeted Catholics. Historians of European religious history have taken the lead in studying these missions to reveal their impact on early modern European Catholicism. Historians such as Louis Châtellier have shown that in the eighteenth century, massive campaigns of indoctrination “took the form of systematic covering of entire regions, where the towns and villages, without exception, were visited one after another” and turned Europe into a “great missionary land.”28 These studies have provided further insights on the contribution of popular missions to the development of popular religion in European rural and urban settings. Studies of European popular missions describe the interactions and fusion between the missionaries’ Catholicism and the parishioners’ religion and reveal as much about missionary religiosity as they do of local religious devotions.29 Chapters 4 and 5 of this book focus on this type of evangelical ministry through the lenses of propaganda fide popular missions—omnipresent in eighteenth-century Spain and Spanish America. It shows that Franciscan missionary colleges were systematic promoters of this type of ministry. Hence, this book complements recent scholarship that uncovers Franciscan pastoral work in urban and rural spaces in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, debunking long-held assumptions in Mexican historiography that after the arrival of the Jesuits and the consolidation of a diocesan clergy in the 1570s, mendicant orders had given up their evangelical ministry to cloister in their convents or move to frontier missions. Instead of languishing, mendicant orders continued their ministry throughout Mexico and other parts of the Hispanic world.30

To Sin No More also enters the debate over the aesthetics of Catholic practice in the eighteenth century. Through itinerant ministry, the missionary religion blended a communal, theatrical piety that scholars have related to Baroque Catholicism with a theology of individual salvation commonly associated with late-eighteenth–century reforms. The goal of Franciscan missionaries was to extend and consolidate the sacramentalization of Spain and the Americas begun in the sixteenth century. At the core was the administration of penance and redemption through contrition.31 The collegiate missionary program therefore continued the process launched by the Council of Trent to sacramentalize the daily life of Catholics in addition to the more known sacramental broadening to frontier regions. Salvation, as Trent theology underscored, could only be achieved through a good confession, the administration of penance, and the final symbiosis of the remorseful penitents with the body and blood of their God in the general Holy Communion. That is, the believers’ conversion occurred after a sincere confession and a hasty penitence fueled by the rejection of sin and contrition.32

Studying conversion to Catholicism, however, posits ontological and epistemological problems to delineate the process and more so to measure its ends, which in Catholic theology is post-mortem salvation. Since members of the Church dictate the norms to convert—intimately linked to time and space—conversion can be historicized. In other words, the set of norms that encompasses the path towards salvation has constantly changed. Yet, as internal processes, conversions of lay Catholic individuals are difficult to track in the Franciscan documentation. The soteriological conundrum to gauge the end of the process also makes it futile to seek success or failure—who is and is not saved—due to the impossibility to survey hell and heaven or interview the decision maker. I am prevented from seeking results and interpretations beyond the examination of the abundant archival and printed contemporary sources.

The book is organized into five thematical chapters and an epilogue. First, it explores the institutional history, recruitment process, and daily life in the colleges. Chapter 1 establishes the historical context under which the colleges developed and evolved, drawing special attention to their internal organization and how they fit within the broader hierarchical structure of the Franciscan Order. The following chapter explores the recruitment of novices and friars. In part, it describes the selection process, paying special attention to motivations of the young men as well as the requirements set by the colleges. It further explores the level of education of novices and friars before admission to a college. Chapter 3 assesses the missionary training program in the colleges for the propagation of the faith. It underscores the collegial curriculum, especially instruction in moral theology and languages. This chapter further opens a window through which we look into quotidian life in the college—both the spiritual environment as well as the material elements—which became an intrinsic part of the missionary program and a physical and intellectual challenge to the convent residents. In a Franciscan convent, laymen sought a life detached from sin, spiritual renewal, and a refreshed commitment to their Christian God. In this line of thought, Franciscan apostolic colleges, considered centers of holiness, offered conversion within a religious order.33

The rest of the book focuses on conversion and salvation outside the walls of the Franciscan colleges. Chapter 4 examines the misiones populares, which were temporary missions to communities aimed at extirpating what the missionaries viewed as deviant practices and to reform the customs of Catholics. The chapter describes the techniques and methods of these missions and the religious culture that stemmed from Franciscan missionary activities within the frame of global salvation. Chapter 5 explores the contents of sermons and pláticas preached in the popular missions. It offers a glimpse of how missionaries viewed colonial society while also providing an idea of the intellectual background of sermon authors. The epilogue briefly covers how the missionaries put their knowledge into effect in the missions to convert frontier native peoples. It draws on the previous chapters as well as manuscript guides for missionaries left by veterans for their successors. These chapters thus approach conversion from a broad perspective. For the Franciscan missionaries, conversion implied not only recruiting non-Catholics for their eternal salvation under the umbrella of the Church but also, from a soteriological perspective, the salvation of the sinners who were otherwise condemned to hell. In this respect, conversion encompasses indistinctly the spiritual regeneration of a fallen “soul” and the salvation of a non-Christian. Focusing on the friars of propaganda fide, To Sin No More ultimately reveals their pivotal role in expanding and consolidating Catholicism in the eighteenth-century Hispanic world.


1. Pope Francis’s homily to canonize Serra in Washington, D.C., available at (accessed January 21, 2016). Recent biographies of Fray Junípero Serra are Steven W. Hackel, Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father (New York: Hill and Wang, 2013); and Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, Before Gold: California under Spain and Mexico Series (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, published in cooperation with the Academy of American Franciscan History, 2015). See also the work of Maynard J. Geiger, O.F.M., especially The Life and Times of Fray Junípero Serra, O.F.M., or The Man Who Never Turned Back, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1959).

2. To the present the only comprehensive study of the colegios in Latin America is Félix Saiz Díez, Los Colegios de Propaganda Fide en Hispanoamérica, 2nd ed. (Lima: CETA, 1992). For New Spain, see Jorge René González Marmolejo, Misioneros del desierto: Estructura, organización y vida cotidiana de los Colegios Apostólicos de Propaganda Fide de la Nueva España, siglo XVIII (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2009). No general study of the colegios in Spain has been written since Domingo Parrondo, Historia de los Colegios-Seminarios de Misiones de la Regular Observancia de N. S. P. S. Francisco, exîstentes en esta Península de España (Madrid: Oficina de Don Francisco Martinez Dávila, impresor de cámara de S. M., 1818).

3. Innocent XI, Bull Ecclesiae Catholicae, October 16, 1686, printed in Joaquín Ibarra, Breve apostólico de Pio Sexto, y Estatutos Generales para la erección y gobierno de las custodias de misioneros observantes de Propaganda Fide en las Provincias Internas de Nueva España (Madrid: D. Joachín Ibarra, Impresor de Cámara de S. M., 1781), 38: “[L]a Religion Christiana, y de la Fé Católica, recta instruccion de los Fieles Christianos, reformacion de las costumbres, y para procurar la salvacion de las almas en todas partes.”

4. Demographic data from Pedro Borges, “Las órdenes religiosas,” in Historia de la Iglesia, Borges, ed., vol. 1, 215; and Martínez Ruiz, El peso de la Iglesia, 203–223, who also deals with the perception of excessive regular religious men and women in early modern Spain. Karen Melvin, Building Colonial Cities of God: Mendicant Orders and Urban Culture in New Spain (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2012), 25, 52. Maximiliano Barrio Gozalo, El Clero en la España Moderna (Córdoba: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Caja Sur Obra Social, 2010), 47–55; José García Oro, Los Franciscanos en España: Historia de un Itinerario Religioso (Santiago de Compostela: Editorial El Eco Franciscano, 2006), 245–248.

5. See Ángela Atienza, Tiempos de conventos: Una historia social de las fundaciones en la España moderna (Madrid: Marcial Pons Historia, Universidad de la Rioja, 2008), 53, 63–69; Ángela Atienza López, “Fundaciones frustradas y efímeras en la España moderna: Memoria de los conventos franciscanos que no pudieron ser,” Cuadernos de Historia Moderna 39 (2014): 189–209; Pedro Borges, “Las órdenes religiosas,” in Historia de la Iglesia en América y Filipinas, Pedro Borges, ed. (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos; Estudio Teológico de San Ildefonso de Toledo; Quinto Centenario (España), 1992), vol. 1: 209–244; Patricia Escandón, “La alianza de altar y trono: El imperio español y los colegios franciscanos de América,” in De la Iglesia Indiana: Homenaje a Elsa Cecilia Frost, Patricia Escandón, ed. (Mexico City: UNAM, 2006): 131–161; Patricia Escandón, “La geopolítica, el imperio español y los colegios franciscanos apostólicos de América” in Calafia 2, no. 3 (2007), (accessed September 11, 2016); Enrique Martínez Ruiz, ed., El peso de la Iglesia: Cuatro siglos de órdenes religiosas en España (Madrid: Actas, 2004), esp. chaps. 4 and 5; Melvin, Building Colonial Cities of God, 41; Antonine Tibesar, Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1953); Antonine Tibesar, “The Franciscan Doctrinero versus the Franciscan Misionero in Seventeenth-century Peru,” The Americas (1957): 115–124; and Ramón María Serrera, “La saturación de eclesiásticos en la Lima barroca,” Caravelle 76–77 (2001): 255–263.

6. Some scholars have already pointed toward these hypotheses as grounds for the establishment of new missionary institutions, including, for instance, Patricia Escandón, “La alianza de altar y trono” and “La geopolítica, el imperio español y los colegios franciscanos apostólicos de América”; and Michael B. McCloskey, O.F.M., The Formative Years of the Missionary College of Santa Cruz of Querétaro, 1683–1733 (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955). The internal conflict between Spanish and Creole friars in the Franciscan Provincia del Santo Evangelio de México reverberated across all levels of ecclesiastical and secular governments. The conflict lingered until the end of the colonial period. See the documents that extend from 1615 until 1799 in the Biblioteca Nacional de México, Archivo Franciscano, Fondo Reservado, Box 136. A similar conflict perpetuated in the Franciscan Province of Peru throughout the colonial period has been studied by Antonine Tibesar, “The ‘Alternativa’: A Study in Spanish–Creole Relations in Seventeenth-century Peru,” The Americas (1955): 229–283. For a thorough analysis of the ethnic conflict within the Augustinian Order, see Antonio Rubial García, Una monarquía criolla: la provincia agustina de México en el siglo XVII (Mexico City: CONACULTA, 1990). I must remark that religious men from the Catholic orders continued their evangelical work among Catholics and maintained a missionary profile among non-Christians throughout the Hispanic world. However, the Franciscan colegios de propaganda fide, the focus of this book, brought a level of missionary specialization and reach unmatched by any other friaries or seminaries.

7. For the suppression of the Franciscan order in Peru, see Antonine Tibesar, “The Suppression of the Religious Order in Peru, 1826–1830 or the King versus the Peruvian Friars: The King Won,” The Americas (1982): 205–239. For the situation of the Franciscan colleges during and in the immediate aftermath of the wars for independence, see Saiz Díez, Los colegios de propaganda fide, 72–80.

8. The literature on frontier missions in the Americas is vast. A starting point for the new trends is The New Latin American Mission History, Erick Langer and Robert H. Jackson, eds. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995). An illustrative pool of recent works in English follows: Barbara Ganson, The Guaraní under Spanish Rule in the Río de la Plata (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003); Steven W. Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian–Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769–1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press and Omohundro Institute, 2005); Kristin Mann, The Power of Song: Music and Dance in Mission Communities of Northern New Spain (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press; Berkeley, Calif.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2010); Cynthia Radding, Landscapes of Power and Identity: Comparative History in the Sonoran Desert and the Forests of Amazonia from Colony to Republic (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005); James Schofield Saeger, The Chaco Mission Frontier: The Guaycuruan Experience (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000); James A. Sandos, Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004); José Refugio de la Torre Curiel, Twilight of the Mission Frontier: Shifting Interethnic Alliances and Social Organization in Sonora, 1768–1855 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press; Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2012); Maria F. Wade, Missions, Missionaries, and Native Americans: Long-Term Processes and Daily Practices (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008); and David J. Weber, Bárbaros: Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment (New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press, 2005).

9. Thus, I am indebted to scholars who examined the development of popular religious beliefs in early modern society and local interpretations of Catholicism to which the missionaries contributed. For popular religion in the Hispanic world, see William A. Christian’s seminal work, Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989). For colonial Mexico, see the essays in Local Religion in Colonial Mexico, Martin Nesvig, ed. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006).

10. Among them, I emphasize Saiz Díez, Los Colegios de Propaganda Fide; Fidel de Jesús Chauvet, La iglesia de San Fernando y su extinto colegio apostólico (Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Bernardino de Sahagún, 1980); McCloskey, The Formative Years; Alberto María Carreno, “The Missionary Influence of the College of Zacatecas,” The Americas 7 (1951); Maynard Geiger, “The Internal Organization and Activities of San Fernando College, Mexico (1734–1858),” The Americas 6, no. 1 (1949); Kieran McCarty, “Apostolic Colleges of the Propagation of the Faith—Old and New World Background,” The Americas 19 (1962): 51–52; Ferdy Langenbacher Jiménez, OFM, Origen, desarrollo e influjo de los colegios de propaganda fide en la Iglesia y sociedad de la recién fundada república boliviana (1834–1877), vol. 15, Analecta Franciscana, V. 15, Nova Series: Documenta et Studia 3 (Grottaferrata: Frati Editori di Quaracchi, 2005); selected articles published in Pedro Borges, ed., Historia de la Iglesia en América y Filipinas, 2 vols. (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos; Estudio Teológico de San Ildefonso de Toledo; Quinto Centenario (España), 1992); and selected essays in Gómez Canedo, Evangelización, cultura y promoción social. Though not a Franciscan, for the Colegio de Querétaro, see Charles R. Porter, “Querétaro in Focus: The Franciscan Missionary Colleges and the Texas Missions,” Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture 19 (2008). For the case of Spain, see Parrondo, Historia de los Colegios-Seminarios; and José Martí Mayor, “Escornalbou: Colegio-seminario de misiones de propaganda fide (1686–1835),” Archivo Ibero-Americano 42, nos. 165–168 (1982).

11. The papers were published in Madrid by Editorial Deimos and the Spanish Franciscan journal Archivo Ibero-Americano. See Actas del I Congreso sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo (Madrid: Editorial Deimos, 1987); Actas del II Congreso sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo: Siglo XVI (Madrid: Editorial Deimos, 1988); Actas del III Congreso sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo: Siglo XVII (Madrid: Editorial Deimos, 1991); Actas del IV Congreso sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo: Siglo XVIII (Madrid: Editorial Deimos, 1993); Actas del V Congreso sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo: Siglos XIX–XX (Madrid: Editorial Deimos, 1997).

12. See, for instance, contributions in John F. Schwaller, ed., Francis in the Americas: Essays on the Franciscan Family in North and South America (Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2005), and Timothy J. Johnson and Gert Melville, eds., From La Florida to La California: Franciscan Evangelization in the Spanish Borderlands (Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2013). The Academy also supports dissertation research and the publication of the resulting doctoral theses, as was the case for the current book. Recent works by Mann, The Power of Song; De la Torre Curiel, Twilight of the Mission Frontier; and dissertations by Jay Harrison, “Franciscan Missionary Theory and Practice in Eighteenth-Century New Spain: The Propaganda Fide Friars in the Texas Missions, 1690–1821” (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 2012), Cameron Jones, “In Service of God and King: Conflicts between Bourbon Reformers and the Missionaries of Santa Rosa de Ocopa in Peru, 1709–1824” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 2013), to be published as In Service of Two Masters: The Missionaries of Ocopa, Indigenous Resistance, and Spanish Governance in Bourbon Peru (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press; Oceanside, Calif.: Academy of American Franciscan History, Forthcoming), shed new light on the Franciscan colleges’ evangelical agendas in New Spain and Peru.

13. Scholarship on male and female religious orders is growing. Recent studies that focus on Franciscans and mendicant orders are William B. Taylor, “Between Nativitas and Mexico City: An Eighteenth-Century Pastor’s Local Religion,” in Nesvig, ed., Local Religion in Colonial Mexico, 90–117; Asunción Lavrin’s recent essays on the mendicants, “Frailes mendicantes en México: Aproximación al estudio de la masculinidad en Nueva España. Discurso de Ingreso de Asunción Lavrin,” Memorias de la Academia Mexicana de la Historia, 55 (2014): 131–164, and “Lay Brothers: The Other Men in the Mendicant Orders of New Spain,” The Americas 72, no. 3 (July 2015): 411–438; Rubial García, Monarquía criolla; Antonio Rubial García, “Votos pactados: Las prácticas políticas entre los mendicantes novohispanos,” Estudios de Historia Novohispana 26 (2002); Mark Z. Christensen, Nahua and Maya Catholicisms: Texts and Religion in Colonial Central Mexico and Yucatan (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press; Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2013); and Steven E. Turley, Franciscan Spirituality and Mission in New Spain, 1524–1599: Conflict beneath the Sycamore Tree (Luke 19:1–10) (Farnham, UK and Burlington, Vt: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2014). Recent works on nuns delve into the complexities of daily life in nunneries: Margaret Chowning, Rebellious Nuns: The Troubled History of a Mexican Convent, 1752–1863 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); and Asunción Lavrin, Brides of Christ: Conventual Life in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008). For a brief analysis of conflict within missionary communities in Alta California in the 1790s and internal tensions in the Colegio de San Fernando, Mexico City, during the last decades of the eighteenth century, see Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, “Uncertainty on the Mission Frontier: Missionary Recruitment and Institutional Stability in Alta California in the 1790s,” in Francis in the Americas: Essays on the Franciscan Family in North and South America, John F. Schwaller, ed. (Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2005). Lino Gómez Canedo deals with the importance of individualism in the Franciscan order throughout his classic work, Evangelización y conquista.

14. John Lynch, New Worlds: A Religious History of Latin America (New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 94–98, quote on p. 95. In other study Lynch mentions Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis’s membership in the Franciscan apostolic colleges of propaganda fide, San Buenaventura in Baeza, and San Antonio, Arcos de la Frontera, both in Spain, and the propaganda fide college in Popayán in current-day Colombia, which he erroneously ascribes to the Franciscan Provincia de Quito. Franciscan propaganda fide colleges, as discussed in this book, were independent from the Franciscan provincias. See John Lynch, Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis and the Marvels of New Granada (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, 1999), 1–2.

15. John F. Schwaller, The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 73–76. Some of the essays in the two-volume history of the Catholic Church in Spanish America and the Philippines, Historia de la Iglesia en América y Filipinas, edited by Borges, mention the Franciscan apostolic colleges.

16. None of the following studies on religious orders mention the Spanish Franciscan propaganda fide colleges: Atienza, Tiempos de conventos; Barrio Gozalo, El Clero en la España Moderna; and Martínez Ruiz, ed., El peso de la Iglesia. For José García Oro, see his Los Franciscanos en España, 269–270.

17. Scholars have produced intellectually complex and well-written works in the last two decades. See, for instance, Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press in association with William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University, 2007); Susan M. Deeds, Defiance and Deference in Mexico’s Colonial North: Indians under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); Ganson, The Guaraní Under Spanish Rule in the Río de la Plata; Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis; Radding, Landscapes of Power and Identity; Saeger, The Chaco Mission Frontier; and Weber, Bárbaros. For the idea of Indian empires, see Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire, The Lamar Series in Western History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, in association with William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University, 2008). Two recent exceptions that delve deep into the missionaries’ theological and religious backgrounds are Wade, Missions, Missionaries, and Native Americans; and Harrison, “Franciscan Missionary Theory and Practice in Eighteenth-Century New Spain.”

18. For conversion as the transformation from one religious belief to another, see for instance, the essays in Ira Katznelson and Miri Rubin, eds., Religious Conversion: History, Experience and Meaning (Farnham, UK, and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2014), who in the introduction define religious conversion as “a shift in membership from one community of faith to another” (p. 1). In Converting California, James Sandos clarifies that conversion is a process of transformation, not an event such as baptism, and it is certainly not “a straightforward process,” as native peoples resisted (p. 149). David J. Weber and José Refugio de la Torre Curiel follow James Sandos’s approach to conversion as an acculturation process, in Bárbaros, 93–95, and Twilight of the Mission Frontier, 82–83, respectively. Christian Duverger equates baptisms with conversions in La conversión de los indios de Nueva España con el texto de los Coloquios de los Doce de Bernardino de Sahagún (1564) (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993), 107. He later contends that Indians’ conversion into Catholicism was never total since “el cristianismo de los indios de México se asemeja más a una religión sincrética que a una estricta observancia de los dogmas romanos” (p. 198), compared to European peasants who had such strict observance of Roman dogma.

19. This story appears in Fray Isidro Felix de Espinosa, O.F.M., Crónica de los Colegios de Progaganda Fide de la Nueva España, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan Historians, 1964), bk. 2, chap. 8, 261–263. Fray Joan Papió, from the College of Escornalbou in Spain copied almost verbatim Espinosa’s account; see Joan Papió, Facsímil del llibre de “La història d’Escornalbou” del pare Joan Papió: Any 1765, 2nd ed. (Valls: Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya, 1987), 124–126. See also McCloskey, The Formative Years, 15–17.

20. Espinosa, Crónica de los Colegios de Progaganda Fide, bk. 2, chap. 9, 265–269: “[E]n la mano de una triste figura de la muerte,” “rostro era de una desnuda calavera, el hábito que traía por mortaja de la misma tela cenicienta de que se visten los religiosos de la santa Provincia de Mallorca,” “una túnica de sayal y unos paños menores y sandalias como para el religioso más humilde,” “toda su determinación, que era de vivir de allí en adelante pobre, desnudo y como verdadero hijo de San Francisco,” “[c]eñía sus carnes con agudos cilicios, hería el rostro con bofetadas, el pecho le lastimaba con golpes y con despiadados azotes vertía copiosa sangre de su cuerpo.”

21. Fr. Antonio Llinás, “Memorial que escribió el P. Fr. Antonio Llinás al Ministro General de la Orden de la Orden y a su majestad solicitando la fundación de los Colegios,” Madrid 1681, AHPFM-FCSCQ, D, file 2, no. 1, fol. 1r–v. “Yo soy la voz del que clama en el desierto, enderezad vuestros passos por el camino del Señor. . . . Advertid que Yo soy el que os envío como ovejas en medio de los lobos . . . predicando â multitud de Gentes.” Espinosa included it in his hagiography; see Crónica de los Colegios de Progaganda Fide, bk. 2, chap. 11, and quote on p. 275, “predicando a multitud de gentes.”

22. The literature on conversion is vast. Sociologists, psychologists, historians, theologians, and anthropologists have studied the process of conversion from different angles and in different geographical areas and times. See for instance the essays in Andrew Buckser and Stephen D. Glazier, eds., The Anthropology of Religious Conversion (Lanham, Md. and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003). Lewis R. Rambo describes conversion as a “process of change over time” with sometimes an spiraling effect—a going back and forth between stages,” Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven, Connecticut and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 16–17. For his quote see p. 3. For a survey of the concept religious conversion in colonial America see Katharine Gerbner, “Theorizing Conversion: Christianity, Colonization, and Consciousness in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” History Compass 13/3 (2015): 134–147; and Gabriela Ramos, “Conversion of Indigenous People in the Peruvian Andes: Politics and Historical Understanding,” History Compass 14/8 (2016): 359–369. Both Gerbner and Ramos point out that in the American context, studies underscore conversion as a change of religion rather than revitalization within one’s own faith.

23. On confession, penance, and contrition, see Council of Trent, Session XIV, first decree, chaps. 1–5, November 25, 1551, and Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977), 250–273. (I thank Jay Harrison for this reference.)

24. “Libro de doctrinas para mission,” APS, Carpeta 183, n.d., unfoliated: “Porque á muchos os parece, que en confesar todos los pecados, en dares quatro golpes de pechos, y decir con la boca: ya no pecare mas, os parece, digo, que con esto solo os confesais bien. Pero estais muy engañados. Porque para que una Confesion sea buena es necesario tener verdadero dolor de vra culpas, y propósito firme de no volver á pecar mas.”

25. Anonymous, Acto de Contricion de un pecador, que se hallaba preso en la Villa, y Corte de Madrid al tiempo de la proclamacion al throno de nuestro amado, y querido rei D. Fernando el Sexto (Sevilla: Imprenta bajo de Nuestra Señora del Populo, en Calle Genova, n.d.), 8:

“Firme propongo la enmienda
de nunca jamàs pecar,
ofrezco de confessar
mi maldad, porque se entienda:
Pondrè freno, pondrè rienda
à todas las ocasiones,
y ligarè mis passiones
con la Santa Contricion,
templando con la razon
el mal de mis sin razones.”

26. Scott H. Hendrix, “Rerooting the Faith: The Reformation as Re-Christianization,” Church History 69 (2000), 575.

27. Scott H. Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (Louisville, Ky. and London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 129.

28. Louis Châtellier, The Religion of the Poor: Rural Missions in Europe and the Formation of Modern Catholicism, c. 1500–c.1800, trans. Brian Pearce (1993; Cambridge University Press, 1997), 60.

29. Jesuit and Capuchin popular missions in Europe have received more attention. See, for instance, Châtellier, The Religion of the Poor; Charles C. Noel, “Missionary Preachers in Spain: Teaching Social Virtue in the Eighteenth Century,” The American Historical Review 90, no. 4 (1985): 866–892; Francisco Luis Rico Callado, Misiones Populares en España entre el Barroco y la Ilustración, Humanismo e Ilustración (Valencia: Institució Alfons el Magnànim, Diputación de Valencia, 2006); Martí Gelabertó, La palabra del predicador: Contrarreforma y superstición en Cataluña (siglos XVII–XVIII) (Lleida: Editorial Milenio, 2005); and Jennifer D. Selwyn, A Paradise Inhabited by Devils: The Jesuits’ Civilizing Mission in Early Modern Naples (Hants, England; Burlington, Vt.; Rome: Ashgate Publishing and Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2004). Selwyn studies Jesuits’ popular missions in Naples as part of a broader global civilizing mission, a similar thesis adopted in this study for the Franciscan missionary program. I also agree with her when she further points out that Jesuit missions in Naples served “as a training ground for [Jesuit] members, as an internal frontier that shaped the Jesuits’ missionary praxis, and as a place from which to recruit leading members of the Society of Jesus, including those destined for far-off mission fields beyond Europe” (p. 3). For the Jesuit itinerant ministry in New Spain, see J. Michelle Molina, To Overcome Oneself: The Jesuit Ethic and Spirit of Global Expansion, 1520–1767 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). Karen Melvin has also studied the colleges’ role in missionizing Christians in the urban areas of New Spain in Building Colonial Cities of God, 156–163, and in her essay, “The Globalization of Reform,” in Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation, Mary Laven, Alexandra Bamji, and Geert Janssen, eds. (Ashgate, 2013): 435–450.

30. Robert Ricard, La conquista espiritual de México: Ensayo sobre el apostolado y los métodos misioneros de las órdenes mendicantes en la Nueva España de 1523–1524 a 1572, trans. Ángel María Garibay K. (1933; Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1986), 34–35. Ricard’s book has deeply influenced scholars of the frontier. See, for instance, Ramón A. Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in Colonial New Mexico: 1500–1846 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991), 46; and David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), 95. In A Flock Divided: Race, Religion, and Politics in Mexico, 1749–1857 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010), 57, Matthew D. O’Hara also claims that “Beginning in 1749 royal and ecclesiastical decrees called for the orders to leave the doctrinas and return to their convents or to traditional missionary work among the ‘heathen Indians’ on New Spain’s northern frontier.” Although Franciscan scholars have long claimed that Ricard’s thesis had to be revisited and contested, only recently has archival research demonstrated the evangelical activities of the mendicant orders in urban settings after 1572. See Melvin, Building Colonial Cities of God.

31. Brian Larkin, The Very Nature of God: Baroque Catholicism and Religious Reform in Bourbon Mexico City (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010); Rico Callado, Misiones Populares en España; Molina, To Overcome Oneself. For the sacramentalization of Mexico in the sixteenth century, see Osvaldo F. Pardo, The Origins of Mexican Catholicism: Nahua Rituals and Christian Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004).

32. A good summary of the Council of Trent appears in R. Po-Chia Hsia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540–1770, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 10–25.

33. For examples of becoming a nun or a monk as a stage in the conversion process, see Frederick H. Russell, “Augustine: Conversion by the Book,” and Leonard P. Hindsley, O.P., “Monastic Conversion: The Case of Margaret Ebner,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, James Muldoon, ed. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), 13–46.