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Monday, October 9, 2017

Christopher Columbus Deserves His Holiday (an excerpt from The Miracle and Magnificence of America)

In my research for The Miracle and Magnificence of America, I spent a good deal of time looking at the life and exploits of Christopher Columbus. In spite of what you might hear from many modern pseudo-historians and ignorant Antifa fools, Columbus is a man worthy of his recognition.

One of the most skilled mariners of his day, Christopher Columbus not only knew that the earth was a sphere, but was also extremely capable in all of the known science required to navigate an ocean. In addition, Columbus was a devoted Christian who was known to be a man of prayer and a serious student of God’s Word.

Born in late 1451 to Domenico Colombo, a poor to middle-class wool weaver, and Susanna Fontanarossa, at a young age Cristoforo (Italian for “Christ-bearer”) Colombo showed intelligence, drive, and a distinct impression of God at work in his life.

As Columbus would explain later in his life:
I have had commerce and conversation with knowledgeable people of the clergy and the laity, Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and with many others of different religions. Our Lord has favored my occupation and has given me an intelligent mind. He has endowed me with a great talent for seamanship; sufficient ability in astrology, geometry, and arithmetic; and the mental and physical dexterity required to draw spherical maps . . . with everything in its proper place. 
During this time I have studied all kinds of texts: cosmography, histories, chronicles, philosophy, and other disciplines. Through these writings, the hand of Our Lord opened my mind to the possibility of sailing to the Indies and gave me the will to attempt the voyage. . . . Who could doubt that this flash of understanding was the work of the Holy Spirit . . . ?
With access to the personal papers of Columbus, noted sixteenth century missionary, theologian, historian, and Dominican friar Bishop Bartolomé de Las Casas was able to describe in great detail the “Divine Providence” present in Columbus’s life. In order to achieve “one of the mightiest and divine exploits” in the history of the world, Las Casas noted that when the time had come, the “divine and supreme Master” entrusted the “illustrious and great” Christopher Columbus with “virtue, mind, zeal, labours, knowledge, and wisdom.”

Las Casas also revealed the significance of Columbus’s name:
He was therefore named Cristóbal, i.e. Christum ferens, which means bringer or bearer of Christ, and so he often signed his name; for in truth he was the first to open the gates of this Ocean sea by which he brought out Saviour, Jesus Christ, to these remote lands and realms, until then unknown…His surname was Colón, which means repopulator, a name befitting one thanks to whose labour so many souls, through the preaching of the Gospel.
With prophetic accuracy, Las Casas wrote of the “Christian and happy republic” that Columbus aimed to bring to the previously unknown “remote lands and realms.” In his History of the Indies, Las Casas described Columbus as,
a gentle man of great force and spirit, of lofty thoughts and naturally inclined to undertake worthy deeds and signal enterprises; patient and longsuffering, 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.
Most importantly, Las Casas also described the faith of the “Christ-bearer:”
In matters of Christian religion no doubt he was a Catholic and of great devotion; …He fasted with the utmost strictness when ordained by the Church; he confessed often and took Communion; he prayed at all canonical hours as do Churchmen and friars; most averse to blasphemies and oaths…he seemed to be very grateful to God for the benefits received at the Divine Hand, and so it was almost a proverb with him, which he quoted every hour, that God had shown him great favour, as to David…He was a most jealous keeper of the honour of God; eager to convert the peoples and to see the seed and faith of Jesus Christ spread everywhere…
Contrary to what many modern historians reveal, Columbus was not heading out across the vast Atlantic Ocean merely searching for gold and spices. Though there was a desire for gold, as Las Casas reveals, among other things, Columbus had a desire to fund a crusade to rid the Holy Land of its Muslim invaders. On December 26, 1492, in his personal journal, Columbus recalled that he urged King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Spanish sovereigns, “to spend all the profits of this my enterprise on the conquest of Jerusalem.”

Because of events such as the Great Plague, during the fifteenth century there was widespread belief that the end of time was near. Many Christians of this time also believed that before Christ would return, Jerusalem had to be in the hands of Christians. As the result of his study of Scripture, along with his study of the works of first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and noted theologian and philosopher Saint Augustine, Columbus believed the same. Thus Columbus literally saw himself as an agent of the apocalypse. Also, as the result of reading of the travels of Marco Polo—where it was revealed that the Chinese monarchs expressed an interest in Christianity—and because he believed that sailing west he would land in Asia, Columbus wanted to convert the Chinese.

When it came to his quest for the “New World,” Columbus’s faith was instrumental in most everything that he did—from his initial efforts to obtain funding from European monarchs to his later expeditions into the Americas. Not everything he did was Christ-like, but as Columbus notes in his own journal,
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies…There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because he comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures…
It is not known exactly when Columbus first conceived his plan to cross the Atlantic. It is known that by 1484 Columbus was in the exclusive business of mapmaking with his brother Bartolomeo. This experience, combined with his significant time at sea, made him as knowledgeable of the Atlantic as nearly anyone in the world. By 1484 Columbus began seeking funding for his ambitious expedition.

For eight years Columbus traveled throughout Europe seeking a sponsor. The waiting was trying for Columbus. He almost certainly began to doubt any holy calling upon his life and his quest. He sought direction and comfort from Father Juan Perez, the Prior of the monastery where Columbus had left his son Diego several years earlier when he had no means to care for him (a common practice during this time).

Perez was close to Queen Isabella, as he had at an earlier time been her confessor. He convinced Columbus to approach the queen again with his plans and obtained the explorer an audience with her. Perez also wrote a letter to her highness telling her that he was convinced that God’s hand was upon Columbus. Moreover, by late 1491 the Spanish war against the Moors was about to end, with Spain being victorious. The Spaniards were jubilant, and the king and queen were in the mood for adventure, especially one that would advance the kingdom of God.

On August 3, 1492, with three ships—the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María—Columbus and his crew set out on their journey for the New World. Heading out into the vast Atlantic Ocean without a really good idea of how long it will be before you reach land requires not only faith, but great boldness. Of course, as time passes on, boldness can turn into frustration, and frustration can breed fear and anger. With hope waning and mutiny brewing, two months after departing Spain, Columbus told the Pinzón brothers (owners of the Pinta and the Niña) that if land were not sighted in three days, they would turn about and head home.

On October 12, 1492, with less than four hours remaining on the deadline, a cry of “Tierra! Tierra!” (“Land! Land!”) rang out from the Pinta. Columbus was the first to set foot on dry land, followed by the Pinzón brothers carrying a huge white banner adorned with a large green cross and the crowned initials of Ferdinand and Isabella on either side of it. Columbus christened the island San Salvador, which meant “Holy Savior.”

Columbus and his crew later erected a large wooden cross, as they did on every island at which they stopped, to be, in his words, “a token of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in honor of the Christian faith.” Sadly, Columbus often failed miserably to live out his Christian faith. As Peter Marshall and David Manuel note, Columbus succumbed to “the three things the world prizes most: money…position…and power.”

Yet, in his journal Columbus noted his reasons for seeking “undiscovered worlds:” to “bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathens” and to “bring the Word of God to unknown coastlands.” In these efforts, Columbus was eager to note the presence and power of God. In March of 1493, upon returning to Europe after his initial voyage to the Americas, Columbus wrote,
Of this voyage, I observe…that it has miraculously been shown, as may be understood by this writing, by the many signal miracles that He has shown on the voyage, and for me, who for so great a time was in the court of Your Highnesses with the opposition and against the opinion of so many high personages of your household, who were all against me, alleging this undertaking to be folly, which I hope in Our Lord will be to the greater glory of Christianity, which to some extent already has happened.
In spite of all of his shortcomings, at his core, Columbus was a man of faith. Time and again he would prove himself devoted to the Great Commission of his Lord and Savior—to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations of the earth. In spite of frequent failures and repeated rejections, the faith, devotion, and hard work of one man would change the destiny of the world. The efforts of Columbus would lay the groundwork for even more miraculous events that would culminate in the most magnificent nation the world has ever known.

Copyright 2017, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the The Miracle and Magnificence of America

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