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Christopher Columbus Writes About His Discovery

He [Columbus] was a gentle man of great force and spirit, of lofty thoughts and naturally inclined to undertake worthy deeds and signal enterprises; patient and long suffering, a forgiver of injustices who wished no more than that those who offended him should recognize their errors, and that the delinquents be reconciled to him.

 

Bartolome de Las Casas

 

Bartolome de Las Casas in the 1530s transcribed the journal of Christopher Columbus.  The below passage relates the discovery of the New World on October 12, 1492:

 

After sunset, he steered his former course to the west. They made up about 12 miles each hour and, until two hours after midnight, made about 90 miles, which is twenty-two leagues and a half. And because the caravel Pinta was a better sailer and went ahead of the Admiral [Columbus] it found land and made the signals the Admiral had ordered. A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana saw this land first, although the Admiral, at the tenth hour of the night, while he was on the sterncasde, saw a light, although it was something so faint that he did not wish to affirm that it was land. But he called Pero Gutierrez, the steward of the King’s dais, and told him that there seemed to be a light, and for him to look: and thus he did and saw it. He also told Rodrigo Sanchez de Segovia, whom the king and queen were sending as vee-dor [accountant or auditor) of the fleet, who saw nothing because he was not in a place where he could see it. After the Admiral said it, it was seen once or twice; and it was like a small wax candle that rose and lifted up, which to few seemed to be an indication of land. But the admiral was certain that they were near land, because of which when they recited the Salve, which in their own way are accustomed to recite and sing, all being present, the Admiral entreated and admonished them to keep a good lookout on the forecastle and to watch carefully for land; and to the man who first told him that he saw land he would later give a silk jacket in addition to the other rewards that the sovereigns had promised, which were ten thousand maravedis [copper coins] as an annuity to whoever should see it first. At two hours after midnight the land appeared, from which they were about two leagues distant. They hauled down all the sails and kept only the treo, which is the mainsail without bonnets, and jogged on and off, passing rime until daylight Friday, when they reached an islet of the Lucayos, which was called Guanahani in the language of the Indians. Soon they saw naked people; and the Admiral went ashore in the armed launch, and Martin Alonso Pinzon and his brother Vicente Anes, who was captain of the Nina. The Admiral brought out the royal banner and the captains two flags with the green cross, which the Admiral carried on all the ships as a standard, with an F and a Y [for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella], and over each letter a crown, one on one side of the ✠ and another on the other. Thus put ashore they saw very green trees and many ponds and fruits of various kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains and to the others who had jumped ashore and to Rodrigo Descobedo, the escrivano [clerk] of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez de Segovia; and he said that they should be witnesses that, in the presence of all, he would take, as in fact he did cake, possession of the said island for the king and for the queen bis lords, making the declarations that were required, and which at more length are contained in the testimonials made there in writing. Soon many people of the island gathered there. What follows are the very words of the Admiral in his book, about his first voyage to, and discovery of, these Indies. I, he says, in order that they would be friendly to us because I recognized that they were people who would be better freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force to some of them I gave red caps, and glass beads which they put on their chests, and many other things of small value, in which they took so much pleasure and became so much our friends that it was a marvel. Later they came swimming to the ships’ launches where we were and brought us parrots and cotton thread in balls and javelins and many other things, and they traded them to us for other things which we gave them, such as small glass beads and bells. In sum, they took everything and gave of what they had willingly. But it seemed to me that they were a people very poor in everything. All of them go around as naked as their mother bore them; and the women also, although I did not see more than one quite young girl. And all those that I saw were young people, for none did I see of more than 30 years of age. They are all very well formed, with handsome bodies and good faces. Their hair coarse—almost like the tail of a horse—and short. They wear their hair down over their eyebrows except for a little in the back which they wear long and never cut. Some of them paint themselves with black, and they are of the color of the Canarians [Canary Islanders], neither black nor white; and some of them paint themselves with white, and some of them with red, and some of them with whatever they find. And some of them paint their faces, and some the whole body, and some of them only the eyes, and some of them only the nose. They do not carry arms nor are they acquainted with them, because I showed them swords and they took them by the edge and through ignorance cut themselves. They have no iron. Their javelins are shafts without iron and some of them have at the end a fish tooth and others of other things. All of them alike are of good-sized stature and carry themselves well. I saw some who had marks of wounds on their bodies and I made signs to them asking them what they were; and they showed me how people from other islands nearby came there and tried to take them, and how they defended themselves; and I believed and believe that they come here from tierra firme to take them by captive. They should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them; and I believe they would become Christians very easily, for it seemed to me that they had no religion. Our Lord pleasing, at the time of my departure I will take six of them from here to Your Highness in order that they may learn to speak No animal of any kind did I see on this island except parrots. All are the Admiral’s words.

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Captain Z-RO and Christopher Columbus

The things you find on the internet!  From 1955 the first episode of the Captain Z-RO show featuring the time traveling explorer going back to 1492 and the discovery of the New World by Columbus.  Obvious low production values, but it holds up well compared to the appalling drek that mostly makes up TV fare today.

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Pope Leo XIII and Christopher Columbus

 

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.

Christopher Columbus

 

 

 

Another Columbus Day is upon us, and I always observe it with posts on the discoverer of the new world.  The official observance this year in the US is on October 9, rather than on the date of the discovery of the New World which occurred on October 12.  I have posted before the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the 400th anniversary of the discovery.  This year we will take a closer look at his words, with comments interspersed by me.

QUARTO ABEUNTE SAECULO
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON
 THE COLUMBUS QUADRICENTENNIAL

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and
Bishops of Spain, Italy, and the two Americas.

Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author.

Pope Leo flatly states that Columbus was guided by God on his voyage of discovery.  That is certainly in accord with what Columbus himself thought, as demonstrated by this excerpt from his letter to Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer of Ferdinand and Isabella, reporting on his first voyage:

But these great and marvellous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to the holy Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our Sovereigns; for that which the unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human exertions, for God is wont to hear the prayers of his servants who love his precepts even to the performance of apparent impossibilities. Thus it has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never hitherto attained; for if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures, and no one has ever asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be held, and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be partakers.

Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.

Note that Pope Leo not only praises the spreading of Christianity, but also the raising up of the natives of the New World from “savagery to gentleness and humanity”.  How the intellectual fashions have changed from the time of Pope Leo to our own day! Continue Reading

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Columbus, Catholicism and Courage

 

“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. “

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, does not fall on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World.  Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations.

In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans.  Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade.  As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Things, the condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus.  From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours.  Among other views inimical to our time,  he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers.  He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic.  (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)

Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time.  The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him.  Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ.  Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith.  The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death.  The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other.  Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. Continue Reading

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PopeWatch: Christopher Columbus

On May 27, 2017 when visiting Genoa, Pope Francis mentioned and praised Christopher Columbus.  Ironically it was in the context of attempting to convince Italians to accept mass illegal immigration from Islamic countries, something that would have appalled Columbus:

 

And thank you, Luca, for your restlessness. Genoa is a port city, which historically has received many ships and has produced great navigators! To be a disciple it takes the same navigator’s heart: horizon and courage. If you have no horizon, or prospect, and are unable to look at what is under your nose, you will never be a good missionary. If you do not have courage, you will never be one. It is the virtue of the navigator: they know how to read the horizon, to go, and they have the courage to go. Let us think of the great navigators of the fifteenth century, many set out from here. You have the opportunity to know everything with new techniques, but these techniques of information very often make us fall into a trap: because instead of being informed we are saturated, and when you are saturated your horizon draws in, until you have a wall in front of you, and you lose the capacity to look to the horizon. Be careful: always watch for what they are selling you! Also what they are selling you in the media. Contemplation, the capacity to contemplate the horizon, of making your own judgement, not eating what they serve you on a plate. This is a challenge: it is a challenge that I think should lead us to prayer, to say to the Lord, “Lord, I ask you a favour: please, never stop challenging me”. Challenges to our horizon which require courage. Are you Genoese? Navigator: horizon and courage. And to all Genoese, I say: onwards! That prayer I offered to you: “Lord, I ask you a favour, challenge me today”. Yes, “Jesus, please, come, trouble me, give me the courage to be able to answer to the challenge and to You”. I like this Jesus Who bothers, Who troubles: because He is the living Jesus, Who moves within you with the Holy Spirit. And how good it is to see a boy or a girl let themselves be moved by Jesus; and the young person who does not allow his or her mouth to be closed easily, who learns not to stay with a closed mouth, who is not happy with simplistic answers, who seeks the truth, who looks for the profound, who sets out at large, who goes ahead, onwards. And who has the courage to ask questions about the truth and many things. We must learn to challenge the present. A healthy spiritual life generates lively young people, who when faced with some things that are offered nowadays by this culture – “normal”, they say, it may be, I don’t know – ask themselves, “Is this normal, or is this not normal?”. The courage to seek the truth. Is it normal that every day that sense of indifference increases? I don’t care what happens to others: indifference with friends, neighbours, in our neighbourhood, at work, in school… Is it normal – as Francesca invites us to ask – that many of our peers, migrants or from distant, difficult countries, bloodied by selfishness that leads to death, that they live in our cities in truly difficult situations? Is this normal? Is it normal that the Mediterranean has become a cemetery? Is this normal? Is it normal that many, many countries – and I am not saying Italy, because Italy is very generous – is it normal that many countries are closing their doors to these people who are wounded and flee from hunger, from war, these exploited people, who come in search of a little security … is it normal? This question: is this normal? If it is not normal, I must get involved to make sure it doesn’t happen. My dear, this takes courage, it takes courage.

Returning to navigators, Christopher Columbus, whom they say was one of yours – but we know, but many like him or he himself perhaps departed from here – of him they say, “This crazy man wants to arrive here going from there”. But he had reasoned on the “normality” of certain things and faced a great challenge: he had courage. Is it normal that, faced with the pain of others, our attitude is to close the doors? If it is not normal, get involved. Challenging the present is having the courage to say, “There are things that seem normal but they are not normal”. And you, this you must think: these are not things willed by God, and they must not be willed by us! And say this with force! This is Jesus: untimely, Who breaks up our systems, our plans. It is Jesus Who sows in our hearts the restlessness to ask this question. And this is good: this is very good! Continue Reading

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Salve Regina, Hermann the Cripple and Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was nearing the end of his voyage across the Atlantic 525 years ago.  He had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.  Each night he would assemble the crew on his ship to sing the Salve Regina.  The hymn was written in the eleventh century by Blessed Hermann the Cripple, a truly fascinating figure.

 

 

Born on July 18, 1013, he was a son of Wolverad II, Earl of Altshausen.  He entered this world with maladies that would be considered overwhelming in our time and in the eleventh century entirely beyond hope: a cleft palate and cerebral palsy and spina bifida, or perhaps  Lou Gehrig’s disease or spinal muscular atrophy.  In any event he could barely move, and could hardly speak.  He was placed in a monastery at age 7, no doubt his parents fearing that all that would occur for their son for the remainder of his time in this vale of tears was that he would be made as comfortable as possible until his afflicted life came to an end.

Among the monks he flourished.   At twenty he took his vows as a Benedictine monk. He spent most of his life at the Abbey of Reichenau.  He quickly demonstrated that a keen mind, as well as a beautiful soul, inhabited his wreck of a body. He mastered several languages including Latin, Arabic and Greek.  His genius was catholic in its scope:  he wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry, mathematics and astronomy, a chronicle of events from the Crucifixion to his time and composed religious poetry.  He built musical instruments and astronomical devices.  Students flocked to him throughout Europe, drawn not only by his learning but also by his sweet demeanor.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of his role in the scientific renaissance sweeping through Europe in the eleventh century.

Going blind in his later years, he became a noted composer of hymns, including the Salve Regina.  Dying in 1054 at age 40, he was beatified by Pio Nono in 1863. Continue Reading

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Christopher Columbus

“No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by our Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will, even though He gives advice. He lacks nothing that is in the power of men to give Him. Oh, what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things for which He holds Himself responsible! Day and night, moment by moment, everyone should express their most devoted gratitude to Him.”

Christopher Columbus

3

Columbus and the Virgin Mary

virgin-of-the-navigators

The Virgin of the Navigators is an alterpiece painted in 1536 by Alejo Fernandez for the chapel at the House of Trade in Seville.  Under the protection of the Virgin are depicted King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and, kneeling on the viewer’s right are Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and one of the Pinzon Brothers.  In the background are gathering the peoples of the New World.  The painting was made five years after the appearance of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531, and I wonder if word of this miracle had made its way back to Spain.

At any rate, I know Columbus would have loved the painting.  All of his life he had a special devotion to Mary, as demonstrated by the name of his flagship, Santa Maria, and his strict observance of sailors singing Salve Regina at around 7:00 PM after saying their evening prayers.  ( The full name of the Santa Maria was Santa Maria de la  Imaculada ConcepcionSaint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, which indicates that Columbus believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary.)  On the return voyage from discovering the New World, when supplies were rapidly running out, Columbus and his crew promised pilgrimages to various Marian shrines if they made it back to Spain.  In his will Columbus left a legacy to build a church dedicated to Saint Mary of the Conception on Hispaniola, a wish, alas, his executors did not carry out.  Columbus would rarely write a letter without inserting this phrase:  Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via. (May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way.)  Not a bad hope for all of us. Continue Reading

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Sail On!

 

QUARTO ABEUNTE SAECULO
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON
THE COLUMBUS QUADRICENTENNIAL

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and
Bishops of Spain, Italy, and the two Americas.

Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author. Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life. Europe, indeed, overpowered at the time by the novelty and strangeness of the discovery, presently came to recognize what was due to Columbus, when, through the numerous colonies shipped to America, through the constant intercourse and interchange of business and the ocean-trade, an incredible addition was made to our knowledge of nature, and to the commonwealth; whilst at the same time the prestige of the European name was marvellously increased. Therefore, amidst so lavish a display of honour, so unanimous a tribute of congratulations, it is fitting that the Church should not be altogether silent; since she, by custom and precedent, willingly approves and endeavours to forward whatsoever she see, and wherever she see it, that is honourable and praiseworthy. It is true she reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity. For God, indeed, is especially wonderful in his Saints – mirabilis in Sanctis suis; but the impress of His Divine virtue also appears in those who shine with excellent power of mind and spirit, since high intellect and greatness of spirit can be the property of men only through their parent and creator, God.

2. But there is, besides, another reason, a unique one, why We consider that this immortal achievement should be recalled by Us with memorial words. 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 endeavoured 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. Continue Reading

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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Samuel Eliot Morison

 

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: expansion. If the Turk could not be pried loose from the Holy Sepulcher by ordinary means, let Europe seek new means overseas; and he, Christopher the Christ-bearer, would be the humble yet proud instrument of Europe’s regeneration. So it turned out, although not as he anticipated. The First Voyage to America that he accomplished with a maximum of faith and a minimum of technique, a bare sufficiency of equipment and a superabundance of stout-heartedness, gave Europe new confidence in herself, more than doubled the area of Christianity, enlarged indefinitely the scope for human thought and speculation, and “led the way to those fields of freedom which, planted with great seed, have now sprung up to the fructification of the world.”…

In his faith, his deductive methods of reasoning, his unquestioning acceptance of the current ethics, Columbus was a man of the Middle Ages, and in the best sense. In his readiness to translate thought into action, in lively curiosity and accurate observation of natural phenomena, in his joyous sense of adventure and desire to win wealth and recognition, he was a modern man.

Samuel Eliot Morison:  historian, Harvard professor of history, biographer of Christopher Columbus, Rear Admiral, United States Navy

5

Salve Regina and Hermann the Cripple

Something for the weekend.  Salve Regina.  Christopher Columbus was nearing the end of his voyage across the Atlantic 523 years ago.  He had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.  Each night he would assemble the crew on his ship to sing the Salve Regina.  The hymn was written in the eleventh century by Blessed Hermann the Cripple, a truly fascinating figure.

Born on July 18, 1013, he was a son of Wolverad II, Earl of Altshausen.  He entered this world with maladies that would be considered overwhelming in our time and in the eleventh century entirely beyond hope: a cleft palate and cerebral palsy and spina bifida, or perhaps  Lou Gehrig’s disease or spinal muscular atrophy.  In any event he could barely move, and could hardly speak.  He was placed in a monastery at age 7, no doubt his parents fearing that all that would occur for their son for the remainder of his time in this vale of tears was that he would be made as comfortable as possible until his afflicted life came to an end.

Among the monks he flourished.   At twenty he took his vows as a Benedictine monk. He spent most of his life at the Abbey of Reichenau.  He quickly demonstrated that a keen mind, as well as a beautiful soul, inhabited his wreck of a body. He mastered several languages including Latin, Arabic and Greek.  His genius was catholic in its scope:  he wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry, mathematics and astronomy, a chronicle of events from the Crucifixion to his time and composed religious poetry.  He built musical instruments and astronomical devices.  Students flocked to him throughout Europe, drawn not only by his learning but also by his sweet demeanor.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of his role in the scientific renaissance sweeping through Europe in the eleventh century.

Going blind in his later years, he became a noted composer of hymns, including the Salve Regina.  Dying in 1054 at age 40, he was beatified by Pio Nono in 1863. Continue Reading

4

Christopher Columbus and Historical Optimism

 

 

Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison, who was about to become the official historian of the Navy during World War II and who would attain Admiral rank, in 1943 came out with his two volume Pulitzer prize winning biography of Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea.  The prologue in that book is a standing rebuke of the historical pessimism that infests our own time:

At the end of the year 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science, and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune [boring] and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past.

Islam was now expanding at the expense of Christendom. Every effort to recover the holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem, touchstone of Christian prestige, had been a failure. The Ottoman Turks, after snuffing out all that remained of the Byzantine Empire, had overrun most of Greece, Albania and Serbia; presently they would be hammering at the gates of Vienna….

With the practical dissolution of the Empire and the Church’s loss of moral leadership, Christians had nothing to which they might cling. The great principle of unity represented by emperor and pope was a dream of the past that had not come true. Belief in the institutions of their ancestors was wavering. It seemed as if the devil had adopted as his own the principle “divide and rule.” Throughout Western Europe the general feeling was one of profound disillusion, cynical pessimism and black despair….

Morrison goes on to note that the Nuremburg Chronicle was in preparation in 1492 which purported to be a universal history from the creation of the world.
Lest any reader feel an unjustified optimism, the Nuremberg chroniclers place 1493 in the Sixth or penultimate Age of the world, and leave six blank pages on which to record events from the date of print to the Day or Judgment. Continue Reading

17

Columbus, Catholicism and Courage

“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. “

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, does not fall on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World.  Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations.

In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans.  Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade.  As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Things, the condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus.  From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours.  Among other views inimical to our time,  he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers.  He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic.  (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)

Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time.  The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him.  Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ.  Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith.  The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death.  The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other.  Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. Continue Reading

4

Christopher Columbus Trilogy

 

 

Your Highnesses have an Other World here, by which our holy faith can be so greatly advanced and from which such great wealth can be drawn.

Christopher Columbus, letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, 1498

 

Something for the weekend.  With Christopher Columbus day coming up, a trilogy of pieces on Christopher Columbus.  From 1936 Fats Waller belting out Christopher Columbus. A jaunty tune whose cheerful historical illiteracy is set forth early in the song with the claim that Columbus did not have a compass:

Mister Christopher Columbus
Sailed the sea without a compass
When his men began a-rumpus,
Up spoke Christopher Columbus!

There’s land somewhere
‘Til we get there
We will not go wrong,
If we sail with a song.

Since the world is round-o
We’ll be safe and sound-o
‘Til our goal is found-o
We’ll just keep rhythm-bound-o

Since the crew was making merry,
Mary got up and went home.
There came a yell for Isabel
And they brought on the rum and Isabel.

No more mutiny, no.
What a time at sea!
With diplomacy,
Christopher made history.

Mister Christopher Columbus
He used rhythm as a compass.
Music ended all the rumpus,
wise old Christopher Columbus.

(Latch on Christy, yeah! Uh huh! Yes, yes, yes!)

(Well, looky there!
Christy’s grabbed the Santa Maria and he’s going back!
Yeah, ahhh looky-there!
In the year 1492,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue… what’d I say?)

 

From 1949 the musical score from the technicolor movie Christoher Columbus.  The film is forgotten today, which is a pity.  While containing a plenitude of the usual historical howlers that period films are ere too, Fredric March gives us a powerful, albeit irascible, portrayal of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.  Definitely worth watching. Continue Reading

6

Columbus and the Virgin Mary

virgin-of-the-navigators

The Virgin of the Navigators is an alterpiece painted in 1536 by Alejo Fernandez for the chapel at the House of Trade in Seville.  Under the protection of the Virgin are depicted King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and, kneeling on the viewer’s right are Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and one of the Pinzon Brothers.  In the background are gathering the peoples of the New World.  The painting was made five years after the appearance of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531, and I wonder if word of this miracle had made its way back to Spain.

At any rate, I know Columbus would have loved the painting.  All of his life he had a special devotion to Mary, as demonstrated by the name of his flagship, Santa Maria, and his strict observance of sailors singing Salve Regina at around 7:00 PM after saying their evening prayers.  ( The full name of the Santa Maria was Santa Maria de la  Imaculada ConcepcionSaint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, which indicates that Columbus believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary.)  On the return voyage from discovering the New World, when supplies were rapidly running out, Columbus and his crew promised pilgrimages to various Marian shrines if they made it back to Spain.  In his will Columbus left a legacy to build a church dedicated to Saint Mary of the Conception on Hispaniola, a wish, alas, his executors did not carry out.  Columbus would rarely write a letter without inserting this phrase:  Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via. (May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way.)  Not a bad hope for all of us. Continue Reading

12

521 Years Ago

It is true she reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity. For God, indeed, is especially wonderful in his Saints – mirabilis in Sanctis suis; but the impress of His Divine virtue also appears in those who shine with excellent power of mind and spirit, since high intellect and greatness of spirit can be the property of men only through their parent and creator, God.

Leo XIII on Christopher Columbus, from the encyclical of Pope Leo XII on the Columbus Quadricentennial
 

Something for the weekend.  The Conquest of Paradise theme from the film Conquest of Paradise (1992).  Today is the 521st anniversary of the sighting of land by Christopher Columbus, when the Old World became aware of the existence of the New.

This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, does not fall on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World.  Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations.

In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans.  Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade.  As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Things, the condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus.  From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours.  Among other views inimical to our time,  he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers.  He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic.  (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)

Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time.  The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him.  Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ.  Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith.  The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death.  The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other.  Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. Continue Reading

Conquest of Paradise

Something for the weekend.  The song Conquest of Paradise from the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), which retold the story of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of a New World:

At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani. Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits. Continue Reading

13

Columbus, Catholicism and Courage

“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. “

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, does not fall on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World.  Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations.

In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans.  Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade.  As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Things, the condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus.  From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours.  Among other views inimical to our time,  he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers.  He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic.  (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)

Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time.  The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him.  Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ.  Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith.  The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death.  The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other.  Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. Continue Reading

10

Pope Leo XIII on Christopher Columbus

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.

Christopher Columbus

Another Columbus Day is upon us, and I always observe it with a post on the discoverer of the new world.  Go here to read an earlier post on Columbus.  The official observance this year in the US is on October 10, rather than on the date of the discovery of the New World which occurred on October 12.  I have posted before the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the 400th anniversary of the discovery.  This year we will take a closer look at his words, with comments interspersed by me.

QUARTO ABEUNTE SAECULO
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON
 THE COLUMBUS QUADRICENTENNIAL

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and
Bishops of Spain, Italy, and the two Americas.

Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author.

Pope Leo flatly states that Columbus was guided by God on his voyage of discovery.  That is certainly in accord with what Columbus himself thought, as demonstrated by this excerpt from his letter to Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer of Ferdinand and Isabella, reporting on his first voyage:

But these great and marvellous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to the holy Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our Sovereigns; for that which the unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human exertions, for God is wont to hear the prayers of his servants who love his precepts even to the performance of apparent impossibilities. Thus it has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never hitherto attained; for if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures, and no one has ever asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be held, and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be partakers.

Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.

Note that Pope Leo not only praises the spreading of Christianity, but also the raising up of the natives of the New World from “savagery to gentleness and humanity”.  How the intellectual fashions have changed from the time of Pope Leo to our own day! Continue Reading

3

Pope Leo XIII on Christopher Columbus

QUARTO ABEUNTE SAECULO
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON
THE COLUMBUS QUADRICENTENNIAL

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and
Bishops of Spain, Italy, and the two Americas.

Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author. Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life. Europe, indeed, overpowered at the time by the novelty and strangeness of the discovery, presently came to recognize what was due to Columbus, when, through the numerous colonies shipped to America, through the constant intercourse and interchange of business and the ocean-trade, an incredible addition was made to our knowledge of nature, and to the commonwealth; whilst at the same time the prestige of the European name was marvellously increased. Therefore, amidst so lavish a display of honour, so unanimous a tribute of congratulations, it is fitting that the Church should not be altogether silent; since she, by custom and precedent, willingly approves and endeavours to forward whatsoever she see, and wherever she see it, that is honourable and praiseworthy. It is true she reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity. For God, indeed, is especially wonderful in his Saints – mirabilis in Sanctis suis; but the impress of His Divine virtue also appears in those who shine with excellent power of mind and spirit, since high intellect and greatness of spirit can be the property of men only through their parent and creator, God.

Continue Reading

40

Columbus, Catholicism and Courage


“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. “

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, actually falls on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World.  Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations. 

 In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans.  Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade.  As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Thingsthe condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus.  From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours.  Among other views inimical to our time,  he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers.  He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic.  (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)

Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time.  The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him.  Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ.  Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith.  The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death.  The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other.  Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. Continue Reading