Rorate Caeli


Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God's guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author. Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.

By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.

Europe, indeed, overpowered at the time by the novelty and strangeness of the discovery, presently came to recognize what was due to Columbus, when, through the numerous colonies shipped to America, through the constant intercourse and interchange of business and the ocean-trade, an incredible addition was made to our knowledge of nature, and to the commonwealth; whilst at the same time the prestige of the European name was marvellously increased.

Therefore, amidst so lavish a display of honour, so unanimous a tribute of congratulations, it is fitting that the Church should not be altogether silent; since she, by custom and precedent, willingly approves and endeavours to forward whatsoever she see, and wherever she see it, that is honourable and praiseworthy. It is true she reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity.

For God, indeed, is especially wonderful in his Saints - mirabilis in Sanctis suis; but the impress of His Divine virtue also appears in those who shine with excellent power of mind and spirit, since high intellect and greatness of spirit can be the property of men only through their parent and creator, God.

But there is, besides, another reason, a unique one, why We consider that this immortal achievement should be recalled by Us with memorial words. For Columbus is ours; since if a little consideration be given to the particular reason of his design in exploring the mare tenebrosum, and also the manner in which he endeavoured to execute the design, it is indubitable that the Catholic faith was the strongest motive for the inception and prosecution of the design; so that for this reason also the whole human race owes not a little to the Church.
We say not that he was unmoved by perfectly honourable aspirations after knowledge, and deserving well of human society; nor did he despise glory, which is a most engrossing ideal to great souls; nor did he altogether scorn a hope of advantages to himself; but to him far before all these human considerations was the consideration of his ancient faith, which questionless dowered him with strength of mind and will, and often strengthened and consoled him in the midst of the greatest difficulties. This view and aim is known to have possessed his mind above all; namely, to open a way for the Gospel over new lands and seas.
[I]n his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West, as is abundantly proved by the history of the whole undertaking. For when he first petitioned Ferdinand and Isabella, the Sovereigns of Spain, for fear lest they should be reluctant to encourage the undertaking, he clearly explained its object: "That their glory would grow to immortality, if they resolved to carry the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ into regions so distant." And in no long time having obtained his desires, he bears witness: "That he implores of God that, through His Divine aid and grace, the Sovereigns may continue steadfast in their desire to fill these new missionary shores with the truths of the Gospel."

He hastens to seek missionaries from Pope Alexander VI, through a letter in which this sentence occurs: "I trust that, by God's help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as may be." He was carried away, as we think, with joy, when on his first return from the Indies he wrote to Raphael Sanchez: "That to God should be rendered immortal thanks, Who had brought his labours such prosperous issues; that Jesus Christ rejoices and triumphs on earth no less than in Heaven, at the approaching salvation of nations innumerable, who were before hastening to destruction." And if he moved Ferdinand and Isabella to decree that only Catholic Christians should be suffered to approach the New World and trade with the natives, he brought forward as reason, "that he sought nothing from his enterprise and endeavour but the increase and glory of the Christian religion." And this was well known to Isabella, ... [f]or she had declared of Columbus that he would boldly thrust himself upon the vast ocean, "to achieve a most signal thing, for the sake of the Divine glory." And to Columbus himself, on his second return, she writes: "That the expenses she had incurred, and was about to incur, for the Indian expeditions, had been well bestowed; for thence would ensure a spreading of Catholicism."
July 16, 1892


  1. Anonymous2:07 AM

    If certain people are unsure about beatifying Columbus, it would nevertheless be possible to declare him Venerable or Servant of God, because there is ample evidence that he heroically sought to extend the Christian faith beyond its historic borders.

    By the way, I have written a letter to the archbishop of Quebec in order to propose Samuel de Champlain for the title of Venerable/Blessed, because like Columbus he spread the Catholic faith to large sections of North America. Bishop Ouellet later pronounced a public speech where he wais he was open to the idea.

    Regarding Leo XIII, I find that is among the most agreeable to read, perhaps of the the best writers among modern-day popes. He was literally the last man of the Renaissance. So, like Columbus, I would argue that people could try to nominate Leo XIII for the title of Venerable or Servant of God.

  2. Good post as usual!

  3. I hope all of you parents with children in either public or Catholic schools realize that your children are being brained-washed into believing the New World was a pristine paradise despoiled by greedy, power-hungry, syphilis infected conquistadores. And all that encouraged by the Church.

    Yes, I caught the tail-end of a lesson by a social studies teacher in a Catholic school, and that is what she was telling them. She used the word "syphilis" twice in order to make her point.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Trisha in SD9:50 AM

    Sadly, here in Midwest America, this day is now called "Native American" day and it's a big no-no to call it "Columbus" day.

    They teach our kids that ALL the Native Americans were perfect and without sin, while ALL those who came from Europe were totally corrupt.

    What few seem to realize is that, if Columbus hadn't arrived, someone else would have eventually shown up on these shores.

    This is just another opportunity to bash the Catholic faith - yet it was the Catholic priests and missionaries who came and gave their lives, seeking to save the souls of the Indians, while the Protestants, for the most part, only wanted to kill off the Indians, as they didn't think they had any souls.

    But then, the Truth doesn't seem to matter anymore - we must all be politically correct, even though the rules for that change with the wind.

    Our Lady of Guadalupe,
    Empress of the Americas,
    pray for us!

  6. Which just goes to show that, even from a scientific perspective, these people have no idea what they are talking about.

    Syphilis is the iconic "new world" disease: it is known with certainty that it was present in the Americas before the age of discoveries, and all known European outbreaks took place following the arrival of the Europeans in the New World. There is some debate regarding a possible presence in the Old World before 1492, but all seems to indicate that syphilis is an American disease.

    Now, if she had said "smallpox-infected"...

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Unfortunatly, no "Vatican II" Pope would ever write such a wonderful piece as the great Pope Leo XIII.

    Is there any movement to have this great Pope declared Venerable, or any support for his beatification?

    I know his predecessor, Pius IX is already "Blessed Pius IX"...and hopefully soon, "Saint Pius IX".

    I wish Benedict XVI would have the spine to declare the great Pius XII "Venerable" and then "Blessed" even a commission of his own cardinals in 2007 recommended.

  10. Anonymous2:25 PM

    Christopher Columbus was also a Third Order Franciscan! (FYI)

  11. Anonymous2:25 PM

    Pope Benedict is a brave and courageous man. Anyone "hoping he has a spine" is simply not paying attention to his actions. It is strange, especially for a reader of this website to write something like that, when he should be aware of the great risk Pope Benedict took in lifting the excommunications of the Bishops of the SSPX. He has a spine there, and maybe he is busy with, I don't know, unifying the Church militant right now.

  12. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Columbus is the perfect object of hatred for liberal white guilt and anti-Catholicism. That he has so many detractors on the Left almost certainly means he deserves recognition for service to the Church.

  13. J.G. Rathkaj4:03 PM

    " would be difficult, although he did many good things, knowing that Leo was promoting tirelessly his own brother Giuseppe Pecci to become a Cardinal."

    Only petit-bourgoise mediocrity could object this particular promotion to the sacred college. Giuseppe Pecci had been a well known and meritorious Thomist and scholar already long before his brother ascended to the supreme pontificate. Also it should be noted that numerous roman cardinals asked Leo XIII to elevate Giuseppe for his undoubted deeds to their college.

  14. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Photos in the womb

  15. Hernan Cortez landed on the east coast of Mexico, planted a crucifix and built an altar dedicated to Our Lady, then proceeded to march across Mexico, fighting huge bands of wild, satanic aztecs on route.

    He cut off the hands of his soldiers that raped and plundered the Mexicans they encountered.

    All across Mexico he catechized and converted thousands of pagans for God's greater glory.

    In Mexico City he climbed the three hundred and sixty-five steps of the human sacrifice pyramid and vanquished, in fierce hand to hand combat, at every step of the way, Satan and his demons.

    Our Lord rewarded his efforts with the conversion of nine million Mexicans to Christianity, and a nice hand made painting of His Dove; Nuestra Senora Santa Maria de Guadalupe.

    You all can make Mr. Christopher Columbus a Saint if you like.

    I’m putting my money on Cortez.

    That man was a Catholic hero.

    Eternal rest grant him, O Lord.


  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Adeodatus10:26 PM

    Columbus did indeed make a great contribution to Western Civilization and the spread of the True Faith to the New World.

    Pablo, the question of Cortes is an interesting one. I think the accusations of brutality have to be considered. However, the extent to which Cortes is reviled is surely unjust. After all, he was certainly a hero to many unfortunate enough to be next door neighbors of the Aztecs! I'm sure that there were more Indians fighting under Cortes than Spaniards... those racks of skulls the Aztecs built had to come from somewhere. Aztec civilization was one of the cruelest in the world and I don't see how it could be called less than an act of justice to destroy it (methods are a separate issue, of course).

    I'm sure that the same sort of people in our academies who write paeans for the priest-murdering Republican atheists of Spain also write of the unbridled wickedness of the white, Christian, European males and the evil deeds they did to the poor, defenseless, enlightened pacifists and ecologists such as the Aztecs.

    After all, the New World was essentially a combination of a green commune and a "We Are the World" concert until heartless Christians showed up and ruined it, introducing hitherto unknown concepts such as violence, torture and negative vibes... right?

  18. Wow. That is a splendid post. Leo's tribute to Columbus is a total contrast from the politically correct history lessons I learned as a child.

  19. " ..... until heartless Christians showed up and ruined it, introducing hitherto unknown concepts such as violence, torture and negative vibes... right?"

    Oh, yes, I forgot to mentioned that the teacher also told the students that the Europeans introduced - horror of horrors - GUNS!! :-O


    She probably thought an obsidian knife to gouge out hearts was a kinder, gentler way to go.

  20. Adeodatus4:36 AM

    @ M.A.:

    Well, a freshly knapped obsidian edge is supposed to be monomolecular. Obviously way more merciful and humane than those thoughtless Europeans with their high-velocity balls of lead. What were they thinking?

  21. There is a happy medium to be threaded in historical discourse. To affix God's approval of events or eras in broad brushstrokes is as unwarranted as the retrospective liberal 'human rights' based view. It is impossible to know how holy Cortes was, or the state of his immortal soul. Evil has been inflicted and suffered at the hands of Catholics and non-Catholics. God will be the judge. The appetite for triumphalism, or a desire for Divine endorsement of our frustrated appetite for triumphalism shouldn't blind us. (Our love of the beauties of the Extraordinary Form should not be motivated by nostalgia or a appetite for the partisan victories of Catholic powers in the past. IT is the mass for all ages, now and the future, as well as the past.). The triumph will come. Our Lord was executed judicially like a common thief. In this world he was a failure. And yet the Father turned that failure into fruit through the Resurrection and Descent of the Holy Ghost and showed that Truth (even the Truth) is not the same as worldly victory. Indeed we should be suspicious of worldly victories. St Damian of Molokai, pray for us.

  22. M.A.

    One has to defend the truth gently with objective facts in front of those who believe in such characteristic liberal fantasies. This needs to be done with African slavery - Arabs slave-traded long before modern Europeans and still do, remembering of course that they were aided and abetted by indigenous warrior tribes-people. They have not been the only ones to enslave: it is evident throughout documented history.

    Where Latin America is concerned if you read about the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans to some degree it is apparent that anyone who is going to attempt to make similar claims about southern American eldorados had better argue in favour of human sacrifice; enslavement of pacific indigenous tribes-folk and most of the panoply of items associated with pagan and polytheistic cultures.

    Liberals and socialists are worse than conservatives for exploiting history as a propaganda tool. It reminds me of some of the absolute sentimentalist pseudo-historical nonsense some post-conciliar catholics have indulged in where the supposed historical basis for the vernacular liturgy is concerned and, often worse, the basis for modern understandings of Holy Scripture.

    In a world wallowing in information & conditions of universal education in most places, the actual level of sheer ignorance is not only astounding but it is dangerous also.

    This is why I distance myself from mistaken notions of a perfect pre-conciliar church which it never was. However, one factor above all is more than noteworthy and that is our leaders were much clearer about The Faith and had much more confidence and self-assurance where the defense of it was concerned. Furthermore, the liturgy had all the necessary guarantees of dogmatic infallibility.

    If liberals cannot prove otherwise they ignore.

  23. I agree with you, Leon G. I will pray for guidance as whether or not I should proceed to speak to this teacher. Heaven knows, one cannot spend one's life correcting the misconceptions of liberals and bad Catholics. An eternity would not suffice! And if a person's viewpoint is not formed from the Traditional Catholic perspective of the Kingship of Our Lord, Jesus Christ and His sovereign reign over peoples and nations, one will never come to a correct understanding of historic events, much less come to believe that God wills His Church to exercise a certain influence in State governance. I wouldn't know where to begin with this person. But I will pray.

    When as a child long ago, in a Catholic school, I learned that a pope instructed Nations on how to divide the newly discovered territory, I certainly was not scandalized. That was a Catholic perspective that, by and large, no longer exists. It comes as no surprise then, that now even most Catholics, cannot accept that God wills a Pope to consecrate the nation of Russia!


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!