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 marvelously increased. Therefore, amidst so lavish a display of honor, 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 endeavors to forward whatsoever she see, and wherever she see it, that is honorable and praiseworthy. It is true she reserves her special and greatest honors 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 favored and held in honor 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.
2. 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 endeavored 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.
3. For we have the record of not a few brave and experienced men, both before and after Christopher Columbus, who with stubbornness and zeal explored unknown lands and seas yet
more unknown. And the memory of these, man, mindful of benefits, rightly holds, and will hold in honor; because they advanced the ends of knowledge and humanity, and increased the common prosperity of the race, not by light labor, but by supreme exertion,
often accompanied by great dangers. But there is, nevertheless, between these and him of whom we speak, a generous difference. He was distinguished by this unique note, that in his work of traversing and retraversing immense tracts of ocean, he looked for
a something greater and higher than did these others. We say not that he was unmoved by perfectly honorable 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.