The Work of Columbus
Thomas A. Droleskey
Christopher Columbus landed on these shores five hundred twenty-one years ago today.
Our Lady herself put the Divine seal of approval on the work that had begun with Columbus's expedition of 1492, appearing to Juan Diego on December 9, 1531, at Tepeyac, Mexico, resulting in the rapid conversion of over nine million indigenous people to the true Faith following within ten years the conquest of the barbaric Aztec system of human sacrifice. Indeed, a thriving Catholic culture emerged in Central and South America within a very short period of time. Saints, both from abroad and those born in the Americas, emerged to propagate the true Faith.
Saint Turibius of
Mongrovejo, the first Archbishop of Lima, Peru, founded the first seminary in the newly discovered hemisphere and was a tireless defender of the rights of the native peoples against the Spanish conquerors and colonists. Saint Rose of Lima was a Third Order Dominican who was born six years before the centenary of Columbus's arrival, the first native born saint of the Americas. Her friend, Blessed Martin de Porres, served the poor with tireless love as a Dominican brother in Peru. His friend, Blessed John de Massias, came from Spain to the New World to settle eventually in Peru, where he served as a Dominican lay brother, praying the Rosary every day, especially to release the Poor Souls from Purgatory. Saint Peter Claver came from Spain in 1610 to minister to the Negro slaves who had been brought to Cartagena, Colombia, from various places in Africa, baptizing over 300,000 souls during his priestly service in the New World.
In other words, Christopher Columbus, who thought he was on a mission to find a shorter passage from Europe to the Indies, was responsible for beginning the process of planting the seeds for the replication in the Western Hemisphere at the beginning of the second half of the Second Millennium what had grown organically in Europe during the First Millennium: Christendom. Catholicism resonated throughout Latin America within a hundred years of Columbus's landing on the island of San Salvador in 1492. Deep devotion to the Mother of God, who had favored the region with her miraculous apparition to Juan Diego, spread throughout the major cities and into the smallest, most remote mountain villages. People lived and worked for the honor and glory of the true God as He has revealed Himself solely through the Catholic Church. They were mindful of frequenting the sacraments and of preparing for a holy death. They raised their children to love the lives of the saints and to strive to imitate them in every aspect of their daily lives.
The Church provided early on for the education of the indigenous peoples (as well as for the colonists and their descendants, many of whom did not want to "mingle" with the Indians). The College of Santa Clara was founded in
Tlaltelolco, Mexico, in 1534. The University of Mexico opened in 1553. And the College of San Pablo opened in 1575. The University of San Marcos was established in Lima, Peru, in 1551. The University of Cordoba, which began as the College of Saint Francis Xavier, opened in Argentina in 1611. Other institutions were founded throughout Latin America to foster the natural and supernatural development of the peoples who had been subjected to the superstitions and barbaric practices of demonic "religions" prior to the landing of the first priests with Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Pope Leo XIII issued an Encyclical Letter in 1892, Quarto Abuente Saeculo, on the Quadracentenary of the Genoan (all right, all right: all you from Spain who claim Columbus have had your objections over the years noted; DNA tests are being done at present, believe it or not, to try to ascertain Columbus's true ethnicity and national origins) Christopher Columbus's remarkable voyage from Spain to the island of San Salvador. Here are a few salient passages testifying to the fact that Catholics should be proud of the work of Columbus and to see in it an inspiration to do the very same in our own day, that is, to the Catholicize every single part of our own lives and to shun everything in our popular culture that is hostile to the Catholic Faith (which is, admittedly, pretty much everything):
For Columbus is ours; since if a little consideration be given to the particular reason of his design in exploring the "mare tenebrosum," and also the manner in which he endeavored to execute the design, it is indubitable that the Catholic faith was the strongest motive for the inception and prosecution of the design; so that for this reason also the whole human race owes not a little to the Church.
For we have the record of not a few brave and experienced men, both before and after Christopher Columbus, who with stubbornness and zeal explored unknown lands and seas yet more unknown. And the memory of these, man, mindful of benefits, rightly holds, and will hold in honor; because they advanced the ends of knowledge and humanity, and increased the common prosperity of the race, not by light labor, but by supreme exertion, often accompanied by great dangers. But there is, nevertheless, between these and him of whom we speak, a generous difference. He was distinguished by this unique note, that in his work of traversing and retraversing immense tracts of ocean, he looked for a something greater and higher than did these others. We say not that he was unmoved by perfectly honorable aspirations after knowledge, and deserving well of human society; nor did he despise glory, which is a most engrossing ideal to great souls; nor did he altogether scorn a hope of advantages to himself; but to him far before all these human considerations was the consideration of his ancient faith, which questionless dowered him with strength of mind and will, and often strengthened and consoled him in the midst of the greatest difficulties. This view and aim is known to have possessed his mind above all; namely, to open a way for the Gospel over new lands and seas.
This, indeed, may seem of small likelihood to such as confine their whole thought and care to the evidence of the senses, and refuse to look for anything higher. But great intellects, on the contrary, are usually wont to cherish higher ideals; for they, of all men, are most excellently fitted to receive the intuitions and breathings of Divine faith. Columbus certainly had joined to the study of nature the study of religion, and had trained his mind on the teachings that well up from the most intimate depths of the Catholic faith. For this reason, when he learned from the lessons of astronomy and the record of the ancients, that there were great tracts of land lying towards the West, beyond the limits of the known world, lands hitherto explored by no man, he saw in spirit a mighty multitude, cloaked in miserable darkness, given over to evil rites, and the superstitious worship of vain gods. Miserable it is to live in a barbarous state and with savage manners: but more miserable to lack the knowledge of that which is highest, and to dwell in ignorance of the one true God. Considering these things, therefore, in his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West, as is abundantly proved by the history of the whole undertaking. For when he first petitioned Ferdinand and Isabella, the Sovereigns of Spain, for fear lest they should be reluctant to encourage the undertaking, he clearly explained its object: "That their glory would grow to immortality, if they resolved to carry the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ into regions so distant." And in no long time having obtained his desires, he bears witness: "That he implores of God that, through His Divine aid and grace, the Sovereigns may continue steadfast in their desire to fill these new missionary shores with the truths of the Gospel." He hastens to seek missionaries from Pope Alexander VI, through a letter in which this sentence occurs: "I trust that, by God's help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as may be." He was carried away, as we think, with joy, when on his first return from the Indies he wrote to Raphael Sanchez: "That to God should be rendered immortal thanks, Who had brought his labors such prosperous issues; that Jesus Christ rejoices and triumphs on earth no less than in Heaven, at the approaching salvation of nations innumerable, who were before hastening to destruction." And if he moved Ferdinand and Isabella to decree that only Catholic Christians should be suffered to approach the New World and trade with the natives, he brought forward as reason, "that he sought nothing from his enterprise and endeavor but the increase and glory of the Christian religion." And this was well known to Isabella, who better than any had understood the great man's mind; indeed it is evident that it had been clearly laid before that most pious, masculine-minded, and great-souled woman. For she had declared of Columbus that he would boldly thrust himself upon the vast ocean, "to achieve a most signal thing, for the sake of the Divine glory." And to Columbus himself, on his second return, she writes: "That the expenses she had incurred, and was about to incur, for the Indian expeditions, had been well bestowed; for thence would ensure a spreading of Catholicism."
In truth, except for a Divine cause, whence was he to draw constancy and strength of mind to bear those sufferings which to the last he was obliged to endure? We allude to the adverse opinions of the learned, the rebuffs of the great, the storms of a raging ocean, and those assiduous vigils by which he more than once lost the use of his sight. Then in addition were fights with savages, the infidelity of friends and companions, criminal conspiracies, the perfidy of the envious, and the calumnies of detractors. He must needs have succumbed under labors so vast and overwhelming if he had not been sustained by the consciousness of a nobler aim, which he knew would bring much glory to the Christian name, and salvation to an infinite multitude. And in contrast with his achievement the circumstances of the time show with wonderful effect. Columbus threw open America at the time when a great storm was about to break over the Church. As far, therefore, as it is lawful for man to divine from events the ways of Divine Providence, he seemed to have truly been born, by a singular provision of God, to remedy those losses which were awaiting the Catholic Church on the side of Europe.
To persuade the Indian people to Christianity was, indeed, the duty and work of the Church, and upon that duty she entered from the beginning, and continued, and still continues, to pursue in continuous charity, reaching finally the furthest limits of Patagonia. Columbus resolved to go before and prepare the ways for the Gospel, and, deeply absorbed in this idea, gave all his energies to it, attempting hardly anything without religion for his guide and piety for his companion. We mention what is indeed well known, but is also characteristic of the man's mind and soul. For being compelled by the Portuguese and Genoese to leave his object unachieved, when he had reached Spain, within the wall of a Religious house he matured his great design of meditated exploration, having for confidant and adviser a Religious -- a disciple of Francis of Assisi. Being at length about to depart for the sea, he attended to all that which concerned the welfare of his soul on the eve of his enterprise. He implored the Queen of Heaven to assist his efforts and direct his course; and he ordered that no sail should be hoisted until the name of the Trinity had been invoked. When he had put out to sea, and the waves were now growing tempestuous, and the sailors were filled with terror, he kept a tranquil constancy of mind, relying on God. The very names he gave to the newly discovered islands tell the purposes of the man. At each disembarkation he offered up prayers to Almighty God, nor did he take possession save "in the Name of Jesus Christ." Upon whatsoever shores he might be driven, his first act was to set upon the shore the standard of the holy Cross: and the name of the Divine Redeemer, which he had so often sung on the open sea to the sound of the murmuring waves, he conferred upon the new islands. Thus at Hispaniola he began to build from the ruins of the temple, and all popular celebrations were preceded by the most sacred ceremonies.
This, then, was the object, this the end Columbus had in view in traversing such a vast extent of land and water to discover those countries hitherto uncultivated and inaccessible, but which, afterwards, as we have seen, have made such rapid strides in civilization and wealth and fame. And in truth the magnitude of the undertaking, as well as the importance and variety of the benefits that arose from it, call for some fitting and honorable commemoration of it among men. And, above all, it is fitting that we should confess and celebrate in an especial manner the will and designs of the Eternal Wisdom, under whose guidance the discoverer of the New World placed himself with a devotion so touching.
A beautiful excerpt concerning Christopher Columbus is contained in a book, Trials and Triumphs of the Catholic Church in America. Columbus was concerned about the honor and glory of God and the saving of souls, which occupied his mind throughout the course of his initial voyage from Spain to the island of San Salvador:
The sun went down flaming into the vast and solitary ocean. Naught but the horizon on its pure azure appeared to the eye. No vapor indicated that land was near, but suddenly--as if by inspiration--Columbus changed his course somewhat, and ordered the helmsman to steer due west. As the caravels came together, all joined, according to custom, in singing the Salve Regina--our familiar "Hail, Holy Queen!"--at the conclusion of which the admiral made them a touching discourse. He spoke of the mercy of that good God who had enabled them to reach seas never cut by keel before. He asked them to raise their hearts in gratitude, and vanquish their fears, that the fulfillment of their hopes was near at hand. That very night, he said, would see the end of their memorable voyage. He finally recommended all to watch and pray, as their eyes would behold land before morning.
At two a.m., by the clock of the Santa Maria, a flash came from the Pinta, followed by a loud report--the signal gun. It was no false alarm this time. Roderic de Triana, a sailor on the Pinta, had sighted land. Columbus, at the sound of the gun, fell on his knees and chanted the Te Deum; his men responded with full hearts. Then they went wild with joy. The admiral ordered the sails to be furled, and the ships to be put in a state of defense, for it was impossible to say what the daylight might reveal.
It was Friday, the 12th of October, 1492. Friday--the day of the Redemption--was always a blessed day for Columbus. On Friday he sailed from Palos, on Friday he discovered America; on Friday he planted the first cross in the New World; and on Friday he re-entered Palos in triumph. At dawn of this fateful day there was seen issuing from the mists, a flowery land, whose groves, colored by the first golden rays of the morning sun, exhaled an unknown fragrance, and presented most smiling scenes to the eyes. In advancing, the men saw before them an island of considerable extent, level, and without any appearance of mountains. Thick forests bounded the horizon, and in the midst of a glade shone the pure and sparkling waters of a lake. Green willows and sunny avenues gave half glimpses into these mysteries of solitude, and revealed many a scattered dwelling, seeming by its rounded form and roof of dried leaves, to resemble a human hive, from which the curling smoke ascended in the air, greeting the glad sunbeams of that early hour.
When all was ready, the anchors were dropped, orders were given to man the boats, and Columbus, with majestic countenance and great recollection--as one who walked in the presence of God--descended into his own cutter. He was richly attired in the costume of his dignities. A scarlet mantle hung from his shoulders, and he held displayed in his hand, the image of Jesus Christ on the royal flag. The captains of the Pinta and Nina, Martin and Vincent Pinzon, likewise put off their boats, each accompanied by a well-armed detachment, and bearing the banner of the enterprise emblazoned with a green cross.
With mute delight, and all the elastic ardor of youth, the admiral stepped on shore. Scarcely had he touched the new land, when he planted in it the standard of the cross. His heart swelled with gratitude. In adoration, he prostrated himself before God. Three times bowing his head, with tears in his eyes he kissed the soil to which he was conducted by the divine goodness. The sailors participated in the emotions of their commander, and kneeling as he did, elevated a crucifix in the air. Raising his countenance towards heaven, the gratitude of his soul found expression in that beautiful prayer which has been preserved by history and which was afterwards repeated by order of the sovereigns of Castile in subsequent discoveries.
"Lord! Eternal and Almighty God! Who by that sacred word hast created the heavens, the earth, and the seas, may Thy name be blessed and glorified everywhere. May Thy Majesty be exalted, who has deigned to permit that by Thy humble servant, Thy sacred name should be made known, and preached in this other part of the world."
Standing up with great dignity, he displayed the standard of the Cross, offering up to Jesus Christ the first fruits of his discovery. Of himself he thought not. He wishes to give all the glory to God, and he named the island San Salvador, which means "Holy Savior." (Trials and Triumphs of the Church in America, as quoted in Adsum.)
The depth to which the Cross of the Divine Redeemer penetrated the soil of the lands of Latin America was such as to arouse the demonic fury of the adversary. This is why one of the immediate aftermaths of the American Revolution was the sending of Freemasonic emissaries to the countries of Central and South America to disseminate propaganda amongst the Catholics there that the Faith was the enemy of "civil liberty."
The first American ambassador to the independent country of Mexico,
Joel R. Poinsset, promoted Freemasonry actively in Our Lady's country. Simon Bolivar, the "Liberator," was a Freemason. There were thus intense efforts to root out the Cross of the Divine Redeemer with violence throughout the lands that had been Catholicized some three centuries before. The United States of America was in the vanguard of exporting its "values" as the means of "liberating" supposedly "ignorant" people from the "tyranny" of "the priesthood and the sword." As was the case in Europe, Freemasonry had to attack the Church with violence head-on in Latin America precisely because of the fact that Christendom had arisen there and souls were pursuing sanctity, not political ideologies or capitalist dreams of material wealth, as the means by which they would know an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
Sadly, even many American Catholics, some of them professing allegiance to the Immemorial Mass of Tradition, believe that people in other countries are truly "liberated" by adopting "American values." The values of the United States of America, however, are not American. American culture is Catholicism. For there was a thriving Catholic America long before English and Dutch Protestants began settling in the land along the eastern seaboard of what became the United States of American.
The "values" of the United States are hostile to Catholicism.
They embrace religious indifferentism, egalitarianism and cultural pluralism as objective goods upon which can be built and maintained a just social order. They reject the necessity of belief in the totality of the Deposit of Faith that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has entrusted to His true Church as essential for personal and social order.
They reject the necessity of belief in, access to and cooperation with Sanctifying Grace as indispensable in the pursuit of personal virtue.
The "values" of the United States enslave man to his own disordered passions, convincing him that "civil liberty" defines his existence, not liberation from sin through the Sacrifice of the Cross of the Divine Redeemer, which sacrifice is perpetuated in an unbloody manner at the hands of priests in every offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There is not one part of our lives that is not meant to reflect the glories of the Catholic Faith. Not one.
There is not one aspect of national life (politics, the administration of justice, economics, education, literature, music, science, entertainment) is meant to be untouched by the Catholic Faith. Not one.
There is never a moment in which we are called to be silent about the Holy Faith. Not one.
There is never a time in which we are called to refrain from exhorting all of those outside of the Catholic Church to convert.
There is never a time in which we are called to refrain from publicly extolling the Holy Name of the Mother of God.
There is never a time in which we can discuss any issue of public policy without mentioning the cornerstone of the Social Teaching of the Church, the Social Reign of Christ the King.
There is never a time in which we are called to do anything other than what the saints have done: profess the Catholic Faith openly and unapologetically at all times in every we say and do and think.
We must think as Catholics, not as Freemasons or conservatives or liberals or Democrats or Republicans or libertarians or capitalists or socialists or communists or nihilists.
We must pray as Catholics, spending much time before the Blessed Sacrament and pledging ourselves in total consecration to Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Christopher Columbus himself, filled with a bit of pride following his initial discoveries and conquests, implored the help of Our Lady to keep him humble, vowing before undertaking his second voyage to name more places in American after various shrines named in her honor in Spain:
But before he could go on his voyage, Columbus had first to fulfill the vows made on board the Nina. In June, therefore, he went to the shrine of Guadalupe [in Spain]. He carried a five-pound wax taper and went clad in the simplest garments. For three hours he knelt in the dusk of the shrine, praying, shedding the pride which had come upon him, in homage to the Virgin. "Blessed Mother," he prayed, "intercede in my behalf. Do not let us fail. Pray for us that we shall be the vessels through which the word of God reaches those across the western sea."
One after another Columbus fulfilled the promises he had made to God. Then he turned to Cadiz, that white city down the coast from Palos, from which the second voyage was to start out.
There in the harbor of Cadiz the ships were being assembled. Once more the Nina was among them. And again the biggest ship was named the Santa Maria. Slowly the fleet grew until there were seventeen caravels in all. Seventeen crews were recruited to man the ships. Doctors, soldiers, craftsmen--200 volunteers eager to search for gold--all came to Cadiz to set sail with the Very Magnificent Lord Don Christopher Columbus.
On the morning of September 24 [in 1493] the fleet sailed out of Cadiz into the no longer unknown est. In Columbus humility vied with pride.
Early in the morning of November 3, a lookout sighted land. Columbus immediately named the new island Dominica and called together all hands to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving. The crews sang hymns in their gratitude for an easy, rapid passage across the ocean.
Then there began a journey of exploration among man islands. Columbus named then--at first with devotion to the Virgin Mary and her shrines--Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Santa Maria de Monserrate, Santa Maria de la Nieve, Santa Maria la Antigua; then with other names he thought fitting--Santa Cruz, The Virgins, St. John the Baptist. (August Derleth, Columbus and the New World, Vision Books, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957, pp. 140-142.)
Christopher Columbus made sure that we would know that which Our Lady herself ratified twenty-eight years after that second voyage of Columbus in the year 1493:
The Americas Belong to Our Lady. We must never forget this fact. We must proclaim it openly. Every country on this face of this earth must acknowledge Christ as King and Mary as its Immaculate Queen.
Columbus Day is a time for us to reflect on the fact that the Church herself sought to convert the souls of the indigenous peoples of the Americas from their pagan and barbaric practices so as to have access to the life giving treasures found in the sacraments, teaching us that we must have the same zeal for souls in our own day despite the fact that the counterfeit church of conciliarism has rejected "proselytizing" as an offense to the heresy of "religious liberty." We must do exactly what Columbus and the priests who accompanied him did: seek the good of souls by praying and acting for the conversion of all men and women everywhere to the true Church founded by Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself upon the rock of Peter, the Pope.
We must continue the work of Columbus with every beat of our hearts, entrusting all to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, praying as many Rosaries each day as our states-in-life permit!
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Juan Diego, pray for us.
Saint Turibius of Mongrovejo, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.
Blessed Martin de Porres, pray for us.
Blessed John de Massias, pray for us.
Saint Peter Claver, pray for us.
Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us.
Venerable John Neumann, pray for us.
Saint Francis Solano, pray for us.
Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.
Saint Rene Goupil, pray for us.
Saint John Lalande, pray for us.
Saint Gregory Lalemont, pray for us.
Saint John de Brebeuf, pray for us.
Fray Junipero Serra, pray for us.
Father Miguel Augstin Pro, pray for us.
The Mexican Martyrs, pray for us.
Saint John Lalande, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel Lalemant, pray for us.
Saint Noel Chabanel, pray for us.
Saint Charles Garnier, pray for us.
Saint Anthony Daniel, pray for us.
Saint John De Brebeuf, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?