Christian Clifford, author of books about Spanish-Mexican history in California, was on a quest to visit all twenty-one California missions, on foot. When asked why he did it, he shared, “I visited all 21 missions by car so I thought it would be nice to walk the entire chain. Being a Catholic school teacher for over twenty years, my hope was to get as close to the lives of the amazing people who were the first Catholics in California — indigenous, Spanish, mestizo — with the hope of being a better Catholic and teacher.” He achieved his goal and shares his story in Pilgrimage: In Search of the Real California Missions.

Clifford began his journey in May 2018, the year marking the 184th anniversary of Pablo Tac’s enrollment at the Urban College, Rome, where the Native American youth learned how to be a missionary priest, hoping to someday return home to California to minister his Luiseño brethren as an ordained Catholic priest (learn more about Pablo Tac here).

The bulk of his miles were walked in 2019. Clifford teaches at Serra High School in San Mateo and 2019 marked its 75th anniversary and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first California mission at San Diego. Clifford finished his walk to the twenty-one California missions in June 2020 and believes it was appropriate, because 2020 marked the fifth year since the canonization of Junípero Serra.

Specifics for Clifford’s pilgrimage along the California Missions Trail were approximately 800 miles walked over 45 days, and approximately 298 hours walking. Clifford also raised over $2000 on Facebook and GoFundMe for The Campaign for the Preservation of Mission San Antonio de Padua Foundation.

Founded in 1771 by Junípero Serra, the third of the twenty-one California missions is the remotest and for many a favorite because of its authenticity. Clifford opined, “The Mission is a gem. Future generations must know of the roots of modern California and the Spanish missions are those roots.”

A major objective of Clifford’s book is to amplify the lesser-known voices in California mission history, particularly those of the Mission Indians and the Franciscan priests. Clifford shared, “During my 800-mile journey on foot of the California Missions Trail, I learned many lessons from those who blazed the Trail before me — indigenous, Spanish, and mestizo.

Inspired by the words of Pope Francis who spoke of the Catholic Church as one ‘which goes forth’, my adventures included a dash of the wandering spirit of Mildred ‘Peace Pilgrim’ Norman; a pinch of the athletic prowess of Terry Fox; part Waldenesque reflection of natural surroundings; a heaping of Franciscan history; and a spoonful of the Codex Calixtinus, the 12th-century guide for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain.”

The above comes from a June 3 release from