Dear Parishioners: The Columbus Day Holiday was beautiful with the sun shining and the temperatures near 70 degrees. There was a weekend of festivities and a parade on Providence’s Federal Hill. In New York nearly a million people attended the Columbus Day Parade. Many celebrated a day off and many others celebrated the memory of Christopher Columbus.
However, in Rhode Island at Brown University where they have removed Columbus Day from their calendar and now call it Fall Weekend Holiday, they had a protest against Columbus and his holiday! These Ivy League critics of Christopher Columbus brand him as being an invader of a land that belonged to the gentle inhabitants of the New World, an enslaver of the indigenous people who, until then, were living in blissful freedom with one another and finally accuse him of being a cruel oppressor of people who, until then, had been living in prosperous harmony and concord. It easy to criticize someone who lived in the 15th Century in the cultural context of the 21st Century. What is more difficult is to truly consider a much fuller historical image of Columbus and the times in which he lived. Certainly there are legitimate criticism to be offered about him and anyone is free to offer them. However, too often such criticism is simply political correctness run a muck.
The Providence Journal featured two op-eds on honoring Columbus in their holiday edition. One commentary written by a left-wing college professor suggested eliminating the holiday and instead calling it a Day of Solidarity. The other written by retired RI Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams offered a much broader interpretation of the holiday and the man, he suggests: “When you judge characters from the past, try doing so within the context of the times in which they lived and acted. All of us, like Columbus, have multilayered personalities — the good, the bad and the ugly. So, we should be discerning when we judge another individual by recognizing that almost each of us has the opportunity for doing good and, like the person we commemorate on Oct. 12, has, in fact, performed good deeds that contribute to our culture.”
I also believe that some of the animosity against Columbus is the fact that he brought the Catholic faith to the New World. Columbus believed he was specially chosen by God to bring the Gospel to a people who were living in darkness and the shadow of death. He was a devout Catholic attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion regularly. He was a Franciscan Tertiary who believed, like St. Francis, that the world should be converted to Christ by prayer, preaching and peaceful means.
His Journal from August 3 to October 12, 1492 is a daily record of the historic voyage from Spain to the New World. In it he often refers to Jesus and the need for divine help. He is always asking Our Lord for the light and strength he needs to realize what God had entrusted him to do – the mission of bringing the knowledge and love of Jesus to those who had not heard the Good News of salvation. This is clearly an image of Christopher Columbus rejected by his critics at Brown. It might help them gain a fuller understanding of the man. After all, the motto of Brown University’s founders is: “In deo speramus” (In God we hope)!
At Devotions on Monday Fr. Chris Murphy, Chaplain at Bishop Hendricken High, is to offer a reflection. Following devotions the confessions of our Confirmation candidates and their sponsors are to be heard. I ask you to please keep these young people in your prayers as they prepare to receive the Sacrament on Sunday, November 1st at the 5PM Mass from Bishop Tobin. Next weekend we are to conduct the October Mass Count. We are required annually to count the number of people attending Masses here at OLM. Every parish does the same and the results are sent to the Bishop and then on to the Vatican. So if you see our ushers counting heads during Mass next weekend now you know why! Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats!!