October is the month of Columbus Day. It will be a great time to ask our fellow Catholic brothers to join us in our many charitable works and service. In honor of Columbus Day, here is homily on the great Christopher Columbus:
Columbus Day 2016
Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi
St. Patrick Cathedral
New York City
October 10, 2016
In this great and historic and newly renovated Cathedral of St. Patrick, we gather this morning for this 39th Columbus Day Mass, as we do each year, from all over the world, to invoke the memory and mission of Christopher Columbus, whose first name means “Christ bearer”-- one chosen to spread the Word of God.
Born in Genoa, Italy, of poor parents, Columbus immigrated to Spain. With the financial support of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, after many trials and the patience so reminiscent of the varying immigrant experiences of our age and every age, he ultimately opened the age of discovery in the New World. That was his unique mission as every immigrant has and continues to have his own unique mission and experience in life.
At this annual celebration, this Columbus Day 2016, we highlight, in a special way, the hard work, the faith, the special devotion to family of the children of Columbus, the Italian immigrants who have settled in our country over these many centuries! With daring risks, some luck and much perseverance, each immigrant group has helped build this Nation we call America.
In God’s holy providence, I am proud descendent of grandparents who came many years ago from Italy to this very city. With others, they entered our country through Ellis Island-- 5.1 miles from this very cathedral. I visited Ellis Island this weekend with a group of pilgrims. In a certain sense, it is truly “holy” ground. Like many of your forbearers and mine, they brought their precious Catholic faith with them from Italy, a faith that sustained them in the toughest times, a faith that they shared and significantly contributed to the soul and culture of our great Nation.
But on this federal holiday, we remember, above all, Christopher Columbus, the great Italian explorer and navigator, a Catholic layman with a mission. He was a man of piety , a dreamer, a courageous visionary, an explorer, a man of missionary and apostolic zeal, excitement and energy.
Most importantly, we remember a man of perduring and deep Catholic faith. As if to highlight his faith, we read the words inscribed on the north side of the Columbus statue in front of Union Station in Washington, D.C., my hometown. It is there that we read the inscription of a man “whose high faith and indomitable courage gave to mankind a new world.” Or on the statue, here in New York of Columbus, we read the inscription: “to the world he gave a world.”
As he discovered us, we now rediscover him.
At its heart, his mission was to bring Jesus and His Gospel to a people who had never heard of the Good News in this hemisphere. In his diary, the day to day log that he kept, we read: “My enterprise is in God’s hands.” In 1492, a little more than 500 years ago, as a sign of his belief in the redemptive value of the cross, and the beginning of what we have come to call evangelization, he planted the Santa Parra Cross in soil which is present day Cuba. The cross adorned the Santa Maria, his flagship. Artistic depictions show members of his crew carrying flags with the image of the cross as they arrived. And, upon sighting land in October, 1492, the entire crew prayed the Salve Regina, the prayer to our Lady which we so often pray to this day. And Columbus named the land San Salvador after our Savior Jesus Christ.
In celebrating the 500th anniversary of the first sighting by Columbus of the New World, St. John Paul II entitled his 1992 apostolic letter to the religious of Latin America “On the occasion of the V Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World.” With the use of the word “evangelization,” he clearly wished to underscore the religious nature of this Columbian anniversary. It was in that same letter that our late Holy Father stated that “Latin America, along with the other continents, needs a new evangelization…which is ‘new in its zeal, in its methods, in its expression.’”
The call for a new evangelization continues in our day. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, continue to make this call for a new evangelization a significant part of their respective papacies. It is the challenge to re-propose in a new way the ancient verities of our faith to those who already live the faith, to those who have heard the faith but have become tepid, to those who live on the peripheries of the faith, to those who have never fully understood our precious Catholic faith and to those who have never heard about the beauty and life-giving hope that our faith proposes.
I challenge each of us, from this day forward, to think of Columbus Day in a new way (and after the memory of what we truly celebrate this day) as the Day of the New Evangelization.
As our Gospel challenged Simon Peter and challenges us anew this morning to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” so too Christopher Columbus always had on his mind the ocean beyond the horizon. It must be ours as well. It is in the deep where the fish are, the various cultures are, the souls in need of rescue and catching, and it is beyond the horizon where his sighting of a new world took place.
Successful evangelization requires risk. It requires adventure. It requires patience. Discovery of the new world and discovery of faith is not a one time experience. It requires encouragement and constant growth. Each of us is challenged, both in word and deed, to help others, members of our families, schools, workplaces, parishes and neighborhoods to undertake this discovery or rediscovery of faith we call the new evangelization.
The challenges are great indeed!
There are similarly too many altars in our day, dedicated to the Unknown God, as there were in Athens in the days of St. Paul that we just heard about in the first reading. There is, if you will, a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place in our culture. Although it is seemingly not an outright rejection of Jesus Christ and His Church, it is nonetheless a denial of the rich treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity in Him.
That need not happen if each and every one of us, from this Columbus Day forward, seizes the challenge of the new evangelization, a new discovery of faith and a sharing of the faith, a recouping and sharing of our Catholic values, after the example of Columbus, to each and every person we meet.
Yes, it is time to “put out into the deep and lower our nets.” The fish are awaiting us. It is likewise the time to proclaim the true and living God, Jesus Christ, to a world where He is unknown and often considered unknowable, in a world of many, many cultures in search for a common faith in Him. It is thus our time, our moment, to be Christ-bearers in our day as Columbus was in his.
In the encouraging words of Pope Francis, speaking about the new evangelization, he writes: “Jesus is ‘the first and greatest evangelizer’. In every activity of evangelization, the primacy always belongs to God, who has called us to cooperate with him and who leads us on by the power of his Spirit. The real newness is the newness which God himself mysteriously brings about and inspires, provokes, guides and accompanies in a thousand ways. The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that “he has loved us first” (1 Jn 4:19) and that he alone “gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life.” (EG 12)
Almighty God, we ask you this day, this Columbus Day 2016, to enrich our faith. Give us the courage of our convictions in You, in a new evangelization and in a spirit of joy. We pray, then, on this Columbus Day with renewed confidence and love in that beautiful language of Columbus nel nome del Padre e del Figlio and dello Spirito Santo. AMEN
A very good message.
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Vivat Jesus!!! (Christ Lives!!!)