At the end of the 19th century, Catholics in the United States were in the minority and often scorned by a society dominated by the Protestant religion at the time.
To promote the spread of the budding Knights movement to other parishes, the founders chose as their patron an emblematic Catholic figure whose fame and contribution to American society were both indisputable and admired.
For the Church, Christopher Columbus was a shining example of a layman who accomplished his mission guided solely by his Catholic faith and offering the discovery of America to the Lord.
In his final letter to King Ferdinand of Spain, Columbus summed up his life as follows: “I did what I set out to do; may God, who has always looked favorably upon me, do the rest according to his divine justice." At the end of the 19th century, France went to great lengths to promote recognition of Columbus’ Christian values through the voices of its bishops.
Father Henri Didon, who inspired Pierre de Coubertin to create the modern Olympic Games, paid tribute to Columbus, calling him the architect of the movement to spread Christian civilization across the Atlantic.
In his first homily, Pope Francis quoted French writer Léon Bloy, saying “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” The first Pope from the American continent took this phrase from Bloy’s first book Le révélateur du Globe [“The Man Who Opened the World”]. Published in 1884, the book advocates for the beatification of Christopher Columbus.
Like Columbus, men are explorers driven by the desire to do, to discover, and to venture out in the world, but also, on a more personal level, to explore the depths of their souls, drawing ever closer to God.