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Columbus and Sharing the True Faith

October this year is a month of anniversaries: October 12th is the 525th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. October 13th is the 100th anniversary of the final appearance of Our Lady at Fatima. October 25th is 100th anniversary of the communist revolution in Russia. All are related in that they involve a confrontation between Christianity, and paganism or atheism, and a role played by Mary, the Blessed Mother, in this meeting.

Columbus is now often popularly vilified, leading many to wonder: What’s so great about Columbus?

Columbus is great because his stupendous maritime voyage brought the Catholic faith to the Western Hemisphere, to the Americas. Millions of pagans who had never heard the Good News were brought to the True Faith. Columbus saw bringing the Good News as a major part of his mission. It wasn’t just accidental that his lead ship was called Sancta Maria or “Holy Mary,” or that when he first set foot on land in the New World he called the island San Salvador, or “Holy Savior.” On October 12, the day of his arrival, he wrote in his journal, “I want the natives to develop a friendly attitude towards us because I know they’re a people who can be made free and converted to our Holy Catholic Faith more by love than by force… it seems to me they have very little and are poor in everything. I warned my men to take nothing from the people without giving something in exchange.”

According to Fr. John Hardon, S.J., “The real ground for animosity against Columbus is that he brought the Catholic Faith to the New World.”

Some say that Columbus brought slavery to the New World. This is not true: the Aztecs were already enslaving those from other tribes and cutting out their hearts to expiate their gods. Again, according to Fr. Hardon, “There is no clear evidence that Columbus approved the enslavement of innocent persons.” Nonetheless, many “Catholics in name only” who came over from Spain did enslave and harshly treat the indigenous people. This treatment was condemned by priests such as Fr. Antonio de Montesinos who in 1511, in a sermon, told the Spanish on Hispaniola (Haiti) that they "are all in mortal sin and live and die in it, because of the cruelty and tyranny they practice among these innocent peoples." In 1545, Fr. de Montesinos was martyred in Venezuela.

The example of the missionaries and good Catholics did convert natives such as the Aztec Juan Diego, who, on his way to Mass in 1531, 39 years after Columbus’ arrival, encountered the Blessed Mother at Tepeyac Hill, Mexico, an encounter which resulted in probably the greatest mass conversion in the history of the world.

At Fatima, the Blessed Mother warned that if people did not turn back to God, that “Russia’s errors (atheism and materialism) would spread.” Russia’s errors have spread, and to a large extent, Western Europe and the Americas have again become pagan territories that have cast aside the ideal of chaste, monogamous marriage, and offer human sacrifice in the form of abortion. Formerly Christian nations desperately need re-evangelization. To accomplish this Mary at Fatima asked that we daily pray the Rosary and offer prayer, penance and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. Like Columbus in the Sancta Maria, we are to bring the true faith to the spiritually poor.

Fr. Hardon asks, “What is the lesson for us in our day? It is very plain. Believing Catholics are to exercise uncommon zeal in favor of their non-Catholic, or ex-Catholic, or anti-Catholic contemporaries. This zeal must be combined with a deep love for those who do not share our True Faith or who abandoned it, or who are hostile to what the Church teaches the whole world is the will of God. Catholic orthodoxy here is not enough. Orthodoxy without charity is not Christianity. It will require heroic effort on our part to love those who do not love what we believe and may even hate us for living our faith.”

This month we hope to film and show (it is not finished yet) a program about Columbus that will help viewers know more about his heroic legacy. Please continue to support the station by telling others, offering to volunteer, or a financial contribution if possible. And now, Columbus’ favorite prayer: “Jesu cum Maria sit nobis in via.”

“May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way.”

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