Christopher Columbus and Christmas
On Christmas Eve in 1492, the Santa Maria came aground on a reef off the coast of the island Columbus named La Española; or as we know it - Hispaniola. That left 39 men too many to board the La Niña for the voyage back to Spain. Thus was the founding of the first Spanish outpost in the new world on Christmas Day, 1492 – Villa de la Navidad; the town of Christmas.
Of all the Christmas television "specials" over fifty years, perhaps the all-time greatest is A Charlie Brown Christmas. With its cool jazz music, real kids' voices, no laugh track, wry humor, and a timeless message, it was ahead of its time attacking the secularism and commercialism of the "holiday season". The best part of the show had no music at all (Luke 2: 8-14) and almost did not make it to the screen; Charles Schultz said "If we don't do it, who will?" Christmas is a Federal holiday – listen to Linus as he reminds us of "the reason for the season":
In all my years as a Knight, I have seen countless occasions where our Color Corps have turned out for events that required a significant amount of time on their part for preparation, rehearsing, driving to/from the event, and then execution of the event itself. It can be a thankless job. I don’t want today to be one of those times.
Today, as Vice President of the National Christopher Columbus Association, I hosted the annual Columbus Day Celebration at the statue in front of Union Station in Washington D.C. It’s always an impressive event with the Marine Corps Band, the Honor America Corps, dozens and dozens of Color Corps members, in collaboration with the National Park Service, the Embassies of Italy and Spain, and over two dozen patriotic organizations.
Given the weather predictions we were getting all the way up to last night – it was posing to be a real concern. Vice Supreme Master Richard Head called me to say he was going to allow the Color corps the option to stand down because of pending rain throughout the morning and the concern about costly regalia being ruined in the rain.
Columbus Day does not get a rain day, it either happens or it doesn’t. In spite of the VSM giving his men the option to stay home because of pending rain, I was pleased to see several members of the Color Corps from D.C., Maryland and Virginia – along with the Masters of the Maryland and Washington Districts, the Provincial Marshall, and the Master of the Virginia District who lives in the Tidewater, Va. area; all in attendance. I arrived an hour before the event, they were there several hours before me.
The event started with a light sprinkle, and as the program got underway, the rain picked up. I tried to accelerate the program but the rain continued to get heavier. We cut the agenda down and moved right to the floral wreath presentations, 24 in all. My Brother Sir Knights stood their ground in what was now a pretty steady rain. They escorted each organization through the presentation, assisting them in the rain as necessary, got soaking wet, BUT THEY STAYED!
As soon as the last wreath was presented, I thanked the attendees and they left. But the Color Corps deserve more than just a “thank you for coming”.
I am proud to be associated with men like this; I respect highly what they did for all of us today, and am thankful that they are a part of my life.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to the Color Corp, the attached picture of the flyer that was tucked safely in a plastic sleeve in my binder throughout the whole ceremony, tells the story better than I could.
Peter Davio, PSD
National Christopher Columbus Association
This article is an "apology" for Columbus Day in both senses of the word. "Apology" is a contronym, a word that has two directly opposite meanings. We often mean apology as a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure. It is also a reasoned argument or defense of a cause or Church doctrine. As Columbus Day approaches we had best be prepared to do a combination of both.
We can apologize first and foremost that the "Columbian encounter" did not fare well for the Native Americans. There was an exchange of diseases for example. The New World gave the Old World the "gift" of syphilis while the explorers gave the natives exposure to a host of European diseases. A sad fact: there are no "Carib" Indians alive today in the Caribbean. Nature and disease happens – I cannot apologize for that.
Did Columbus "discover" America? No. Expect to make apologies when reminded that the Norse under Leif Ericson discovered Iceland, Greenland and "Vinland", presumably Newfoundland. Some may suggest that the ancient Phoenicians sailed across the Atlantic in 1600 BC. Fair enough. Others theorize that the Portuguese and Chinese (!) explored the Americas in the 1420s.
The Knights of Columbus took Christopher Columbus as their patron because he showed the importance of a Catholic, "one of their own", in American history. There is much more to the story – the true apology - than that. Look at the Knights of Columbus flag and check for the green cross. This was the emblem emblazoned on the sails of the Santa Maria.
Christopher "the Christ-Bearer" Columbus landed at "Our Savior" San Salvador on October 12, 1492. From that moment on, Christianity and specifically Roman Catholicism took root in the Americas. From Mexico to the tip of South America the land is solidly Roman Catholic. In the United States and Canada the influx of Spanish, French, Swedish, Dutch and English explorers made for a Protestant/Catholic Christian mix, with Catholics outnumbering any particular Protestant sect.
This year, just over 1,510 years after Roman Catholicism took root in the New World, the story has come full-circle. From Buenos Aires we have seen the first South American become Pope. With the papacy of Francis I, the world is rediscovering Roman Catholicism in an exciting and positive light.
Remember this Columbus Day and every day that it is not our place to apologize the problems of the past, but to be apologists for our Catholic faith.
Gary Patishnock, PGK, PFN
Council 2203 Lecturer
ADW and Assembly 383 Patriotic Education Chair