It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.
Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.
Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)
“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”
Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”
The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”
Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”
Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.
Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:
In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.
Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.
America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.
The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.
Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.
It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.
Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.
©2015 The Hanneman Archive
- Quarto Abeunte Saeculo by Pope Leo XIII (1892)
- “In Defense of Christopher Columbus the Catholic,” by Rev. John Hardon S.J.
- “Columbus: Fact vs. Fiction,” by the Order Sons of Italy