Columbus on the Santa Maria.
Remembering the Truth of His Faith and Courage
By Elizabeth Lev
ROME, OCT. 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Even the ancient Romans understood the importance of gratitude. Marcus Tullius Cicero, orator extraordinaire, extolled that "gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."
Yet in our modern age we seem to have lost this virtue as revisionist history, cinema and popular literature have vilified those whose achievements have shaped the world we live in today.
This came to mind Sunday, Oct. 12, on what was once known as Columbus Day in commemoration of the day Christopher Columbus first sighted the New World.
This event, which opened the age of discovery, has been since renamed "Indigenous People Day" by some U.S. towns, thus casting into obscurity the courageous and visionary undertaking of the explorer and his patrons who equipped the mission.
Columbus himself has been recast as a greedy, social-climbing tyrant, and while his defects have been blown out of all proportion, his admirable qualities have been simply forgotten.
Ironically, Columbus, the first European man to set foot in America, was the first example of what would later be called "the American dream."
Born of poor parents in Genoa, he immigrated to Spain with only his hard-earned knowledge of seamanship, his desire to get ahead and his profound Catholic faith to sustain him.
Like the countless immigrants who would follow him, he had a dream and the drive to work hard and take risks to realize it.
Divine Providence decreed that he would find a sympathetic ear in the king and queen of Spain, and so Columbus fulfilled his life's ambition, did well for himself and paved the way for future generations to be able to excel through hard work and ingenuity.
A deeply devout man, Columbus was always grateful to God and dedicated his mission to the New World to the conversion of pagan peoples; like the apostles, he hoped to bring the Gospel to those who had never heard of Christ. Upon sighting land on Oct. 13, 1492, the entire crew prayed the Salve Regina.
Today, his contributions are masked by words like "exploitation" and "gold-hunger," but all those Americans who descend from families who hoped to live out their ambitions while freely practicing their faith, should be grateful to Christopher Columbus who was not only great navigator on the seas, but in life.