Today the good name of Christopher Columbus is too often maligned thanks to the efforts of the anti-Catholic writers of history. Now they are even going so far as to declare his holiday to instead be some sort of ‘indigenous peoples’ day, which isn’t surprising given that the Indians, before they were converted, were into all manners of paganism, satan worship, human sacrifices, and sins of the flesh – in other words much like our evil society today. Thank God that Columbus was given the graces and means to come to the New World, risking all that he had, in order to convert the natives from their heathen ways to the one true Faith, outside of which there is no salvation! May we all grow to have that same zeal for the conversion of souls that he had! Please enjoy the following excerpt from Trials and Triumphs of the Catholic Church in America and allow yourself to be transported back to that glorious time as Columbus first set foot in the what would become the Americas.
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.”
A Catholic of Catholics, if this prince of pioneers desired to open the way to unknown continents, and to raise large sums of money, it was not through any motive of grasping selfishness. Before St. Ignatius Loyola adopted the maxim, Ad majorem Dei gloriam, – “To the greater glory of God” – Columbus put it in practice. To carry the light of the Gospel to the heathen, to connect the ends of the earth for the glory of Heaven, to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the infidel Turk – such were the grand motives that guided his life’s labors. Though a layman, he was one of the greatest of missionaries. His discoveries led to the salvation of millions of souls, and this messenger of the Cross rivals the most illustrious of the saints in being the means of unlocking the portals of paradise to countless multitudes. America, and the world at large, might well do honor to his memory and his achievements.
“My men and brothers, westward lies our way:”
So spoke Columbus, looking on the sea
Which stretched before him to infitity;
And while he sailed he wrote these words each day,
As though, “West lies thy course,” he heard God say,
With promise of the blessings which should be
When a New World had borne young Liberty,
As fair and fresh as flowers in month of May.
O God-appointed man! All hail to thee!
Thou other Moses of a chosen race,
Who out of darkness and captivity
Leadest the people from the tyrant’s face
To where all men shall equal be and free,
And evil life alone shall be disgrace.
Sail on, Columbus, sail right onward still,
O’er watery waste of trackless billows sail,
Nor let a doubting race make thy heart fail
Till a new world upglow beneath thy will.
Let storms break forth and driving winds be shrill.
But be thou steadfast when all others quail,
Still looking westward till the night grow pale,
And the long dreamed-of land thy glad eyes fill.
Sailor, still onward sail! God leads the way
Across the gloomy, fathomless dark sea,
Of man unvisited until thy day,
But which henceforth for the whole world shall be
The road to nobler life and wider sway,
Where tyrants perish and all men are free.
Excerpt from Trials and Triumphs of the Catholic Church in America by Professor P.J. Mahon, and Rev. J.M. Hayes, S.J., 1907