Discovering Columbus

This weekend, we reach that Monday in October so longed for by school teachers, that first three-day weekend, that first day off, at least for Catholic school teachers. Yes, Columbus Day is rapidly approaching and, as it has been for several years now, the man whom we commemorate is a figure of controversy.

What type of man was Columbus? Hero or villain? Bold explorer or terrible opportunist? Devout man of the Catholic faith or intolerant religious zealot? It all depends on the context in which you perceive him.

By the societal norms of today, Columbus could be perceived as a conquering abuser who came to the already populated land that would one day be called the Americas and imposed a foreign culture, that of Europe’s, on the native population. It can be said that he brought heretofore unknown diseases and brought slavery into the existence of the native population.

However, in the standards of his day, Columbus was engaging in the missionary action of his Church and, for all his faults, brought the Catholic Faith to the lands on which we walk. For all his faults, and perhaps one should say that his biggest fault was that he could not control the excesses of some of the men whom he brought with him. He understood his sailing and exploring as the work of God and an act of evangelization.

Pope Leo XIII, in his 1892 encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, recognizes Columbus’ intent, and even declares that a Mass of the Most Holy Trinity be offered on or around Oct. 12 in thanksgiving of his bringing the Christian faith to the New World.

Yes, Columbus was no saint; he was very human and, like all of us, had his flaws and he was a sinner. However, he was no bloodthirsty conquerer. His legacy, a legacy of faith, is intrinsically tied into Catholicism in this nation and the pride of the Italian-American community. He, like many who fade into the tides of time, represents more than just himself. Columbus represents a spirit of exploration, not exploitation, for most Americans. His statue, his parade, his holiday needs to remain.

One thought on “Discovering Columbus

  1. In view of the fact that Christopher Columbus has become for many political and societal progressives an object of scorn and, indeed, condemnation [with a name meaning “Christ-bearer,” already suspect to the Left], may I respectfully suggest that, in the interests of political correctness, the Knights of Columbus jettison their opprobrium-laden title in favor of more respectable and praise-worthy heroes of Italian origin.

    I would highly recommend that such a worthy Catholic organization take the name “Knights of Pelosi” or perhaps “Knights of Cuomo” or why not “Knights of de Blasio” [though born Warren Wilhelm to a German father, New York’s fine mayor evidently leans to his maternal heritage]. Another excellent choice would be “Knights of Kimmel” [again, with an Italian mother, but a Brooklyn-born former altar boy to boot]. All great alternative names for a Catholic fraternal organization dedicated to Christian charity and good works.

    As it is only a matter of time before Columbia University divests itself of its odious handle, the former Knights of Columbus would be viewed as pioneers in political and social sensitivity if they beat the foully-dubbed institution of higher learning to the proverbial punch.

    And let’s not callously grant a pass to the Columbia River nor to the dozens of cities, towns, and villages in the United States which need to transition to more appropriate names, while Canada’s enthusiastically progressive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will surely soon more suitably re-tag the province of British Columbia, as he has already lectured Pope Francis regarding the Catholic Church’s Columbusesque sins against indigenous peoples.

    And these sensitive readjustments refer only to North America. There is still Colombia and the rest of the Western Hemisphere to re-christen, if not re-Christianize.