The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/16 – The New World

Following the signing for the authorization documents of a naval expedition at the Franciscan Friary of Santa Maria de Guadeloupe in Spain, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand financed Columbus for his first voyage to the New World. He left Spain on three ships, the Ina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Together with a crew of ninety men, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and three months later spotted land for the first time on October 12; the befitting Spanish Feast of ‘Our lady of the Pillar.’ Is this a coincidence or is not Our Lady of the Pillar a Spanish devotion? Christopher Columbus was compared with Saint Christopher who carries the Christ Child; in this case Christopher Columbus was carrying Christianity to America. En route, the newly discovered islands were christened with the following names; San Salvador, Santa Maria de la Concepcion, Dominica, Santa Maria la Galante, Santa Maria de Guadeloupe, Santa Maria de Monserrate, Santa Maria Redonda, Santa Maria la Antigua and Nuestra Senora de las Nieves. Christopher Columbus’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is evident.

During the great era of naval exploration, Catholic mariners who fixed their gaze upon the North Star, recited the anthem referred to as the ‘Salve Regina.’ Columbus’s men prayed the Salve Regina the evening before the New World was sighted. The first native South American Indian converts were brought to Santa Maria de Guadeloupe in Spain on pilgrimage to pray for their nascent Christian nations. Following Our Lady’s visitation to the native Juan Diego, on Tepeyac Hill, the Virgin of Guadeloupe became the Patroness of Latin America and was honored by the dedication of hundreds of monasteries and churches. As Columbus was financed by Isabella’s court, signed with the words ‘XMY (X- St Christopher, M- Maria, Y- John the Baptist) Xpo ferens’ (meaning Christ-bearer) and sailing upon a vessel named ‘Santa Maria,’ leads one to believe that Our Lady was directing the expedition and discovery of America.

Initially, Christopher Columbus was exploring a possible route to India. Therefore, the ‘Christ-bearer’ who was supernaturally guided by Our Lady, in his first voyage knew not that he was to be the discoverer of a new continent and initiate the future conversion of millions of Indios to the Roman Catholic Faith. However, he would later come to understand his heavenly entrusted mission. In 1506, in a codicil to his will, Columbus requested three Masses to be dedicated daily; one for the Trinity, one for his soul and the third in honor of the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception. Today, Columbus’s remains lie in a sarcophagus beneath a painting of ‘Santa Maria la Antigua’ in the Cathedral of Seville, Spain.

According to the Historian Taviani, the adventurers who discovered the New World were ambitious and at times unscrupulous men but were surely all “Catholic sinners.” Pizarro died tracing a cross in his own blood on the ground, while Cortes desired a flag to bear the cross with the writing ‘In hoc signo Vinces’ on one side and an image of Our Lady on the other. Cortes set out from Spain and was devout to the Blessed Virgin, just as Columbus was before him. In 1506, as he traveled through Mexico, images of Mary and of the saints replaced the pagan idols. Cortes followed the exhortations of Pope Gregory the Great, who in 601 advocated that the idol temples of a pagan race should not be destroyed. Pope Gregory ordered the sole destruction of the idols within the temples. Holy water was sprinkled within the pagan shrines, altars built and Catholic relics set in them. The idea was that the pagans would banish error from their hearts and on seeing that their places of worship were kept intact, would more readily come to worship the true God in their own temples. In the New World, Cortes adopted this strategy which worked successfully. Many Indios were thus baptized to the Faith and received salvation. In the Aztec City of ‘Tenochtitlan’ or ‘Mexico City,’ following a battle against the Totonacs, Cortes threw down the idols from their pyramids and instructed the tribe on the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Spanish believed and paid reverence. Cortes replaced the pagan idols with images of the Blessed Virgin and instructed the blood soaked native priests, to put an end to their sacrificial human practices and rather burn incense and give honor to the Mother of God. He explained that in this manner they would save their souls from eternal perdition. If they accept her, she would also become their advocate. In Tenochtitlan, the native conversion was not quick in coming. Many revolts took place; Cortes himself escaped before the advance of angry natives. At the center of the city, at the summit of a pyramid 150 feet high, Cortes insisted on the removal of the Aztec idols and installed a cross and an image of the Virgin Mary. Eventually, the natives attempted to remove the image, however their attempts proved useless as the image resisted and refused to be removed. A battle ensued and according to the Indios, “…the woman of the altar”(1) cast powder and hail in their eyes and blinded many, while Saint James of Compostella appeared astride a white horse, both the steed and rider killed numerous Indios. The Aztecs claimed that, had Saint James and the Virgin not frightened them, the Spanish would have been cooked and eaten with chocolate. The Spanish thanked ‘Our Lady of the Snows,’ (Feast August 5), for having delivered them from the cannibalistic and chocolate eating Aztecs. The chocolate was consumed together with honey and amaranth during their pagan and magic rituals, practises which were later outlawed. However, an ancient prophecy of the Aztec civilization was regarding the return of the goddess Quetzacoatl, they had to respond and free themselves from her by performing magic rituals and repel the aggressors with showers of chocolate. The Blessed Virgin might have been mistaken for their Quetzacoatl. The Virgin who stamps out the snake underfoot shot water/snow/hail chrystals at them. Saint John the Baptist baptized with water. The Church today baptizes with water and the Holy Spirit to cleanse the child (neophyte) of Original sin. The fact that Our Lady, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, guided Colombus through arduous adventures for the sake and salvation of the Indios, this mission to the Americas was a ‘baptizing’ mission. The dynamics of God’s Mercy and Justice which were manifest in Tenochtitlan can be studied. Our Lady symbolized the arrival of Christianity, of the christening with water and the Holy Spirit, manifest by God’s Mercy in baptism and God’s Justice in Our Lady’s supernatural attack. Our Lady of the Snows is radiant and pure, reflecting the Sun’s rays or God’s power.

At Otoncalpulco, Cortes pleaded for the assistance of the Blessed Virgin who came to be known as the ‘Virgin of Remedios.’ In August 1521, following Cortes exhortation to her, he won a decisive battle against the Aztecs, cutting down their leaders and creating havoc and confusion amongst the native warriors. The victor entered Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) beneath the Cross and an Image of the Blessed Virgin. Solemn Mass followed and the conquest of Mexico City by Catholic Spain was complete. In the future, Mexico had to face tough times as the indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors engaged frequently in armed conflict. The friar, Fra Turibio de Benevente Motolina wrote to the Emperor Charles V, saying that the land was so ruined by the afore-mentioned wars and the woes, that many homes were destroyed and abandoned. Not a place was left where sorrow and weeping could not be seen. This went on for many years and to remedy so much evil, the friars had recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘Star of the lost’ and ‘Consoler of the Afflicted.’ Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, heard their prayers and answered much more powerfully than they could have imagined. She appeared to Juan Diego, an Indio.

On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was on his way towards a Franciscan mission. Juan was a recently baptized South American Indio. On reaching a hill close to Mexico City, called Tepeyac Hill, the Blessed Virgin appeared. She revealed to Juan that she was the mother of Him, for whom we live. Our Lady invited Juan to build in that place ‘a house’ for her Son and herself. Juan Diego was asked to visit the bishop and recount all that he saw. The bishop was at first incredulous or at least suspicious and asked for a sign. Juan was instructed by the Virgin to collect roses and transport them to the bishop. Juan carried the Castilian roses in his tilma and on meeting the bishop he accidentally, let his tilma fall. The Image of the Blessed Virgin of Guadeloupe was cast on the tilma and the bishop had received his sign. As it is made out of Maguey cactus fibers within thirty years this tilma should have rotted away. It has been miraculously spared from the ravages of time for 408 years and also survived one bombing attempt.

The cult of the indigenous snake deity, Tonantzin, was held on Tepeyac Hill and hundreds, if not thousands, of human sacrifices were offered to the pagan god. The Aztec priest would slit open the chest of the victim and pluck out the warm, still beating heart. The Blessed Virgin, who is referred as being the woman who crushes or stamps out the serpent (Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12), was factually enacting the prefigurative biblical images. At Tepeyac, the feathered stone serpent god Quetzalcoatl was worshipped together with Tonantzin, the gods of human blood sacrifice and satanic macumba magic. Our Lady’s apparition caused the greatest mass conversion to Catholicism in history, as in the years 1531 to 1538, eight million conversions occurred. Mankind’s true Heavenly Queen Mother was victorious and at Tepeyac, crushed the serpent’s head. This apparition ended completely any desires, on the part of the natives, to re-enact the bloody human sacrifice, which was routinely carried out. The heavenly apparition prevented Indian insurrections in sixteenth century Mexico from taking place. Juan Diego was the instrument and Our Lady the converting power of the Mexican people. Previous to the mass tribal conversions these natives offered anually 20,000 people to their serpent god Quetzalcoatl. The Aztec word ‘coatlaxopeuh’ pronounced as ‘te quatlasupe’ incredibly resembles the Spanish word ‘Guadalupe,’ the former means ‘the stamping out or the crushing of the stone serpent.’ The Aztecs interpreted Our Lady in the Guadalupe Image, as a goddess who would crush their feathered serpent-god Quetzalcoatl, truly exposing the primordial serpent as Lucifer and revealing in fact the age old struggle between the Dragon and the Woman. Our Lady saved the lives and souls of countless Aztecs from the tenebrous clutches of the ancient serpent, Lucifer. Ever since these events transpired she has remained the pride and joy of this people. Obviously, the view that she was a ‘goddess’ was initially necessary, in what other way could such natives describe the supernatural. Today the Mexican people are well aware that she is only our Mother and worship belongs solely to God.

Our modern age attempts to compare the discovery of the American Continents to a hypothetical vision of lonely humanity navigating through the voids of outer space in search of solar systems and Earth-like planets to colonize or mine. Science fiction is plentifully endowed with such tales, however is the need so urgent? The contemporary eminent Cambridge physicist and cosmologist Professor Hawking, in an interview to the BBC radio in 2006 insisted “…theoretical advances could revolutionize the velocity of space travel and make such colonies possible…. Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid or a nuclear war could wipe us all out.”(2) Colonizing outer space cannot be compared to the discovery of the Americas, which produced the conversion of millions of Indios. However, Our Lady’s work is always one of protection. She acted in the discovery of the American continents and the conversion and salvation of millions of natives, ‘Our Lady Star of the Sea’ protects mankind constantly. ‘Our Lady of Guadeloupe’ prevented Indios’ insurrections, avoiding much bloodshed. She consoled the Mexicans as they achieved independence from Spain and maintained their Catholic identity. Pope John Paul II named her as ‘Patroness of all the Americas,’ designating December 12 as the Feast and a day of holy obligation.

In Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s words, on the manner in which he discovered strength in Our Lady following the death of his companions during the retaking of Tenochtitlan, “I remembered these deaths… for this reason fearing from this moment forward such cruel death; and I mention this because from then on before entering afterward into battles I felt a horror and great sadness in my heart; yet putting myself in the hands of God and his Blessed Mother, and entering into battle, I was one with them, and then the terror left me; and I also must mention that, unaccustomed terror was new to me, even though I had been in many very dangerous encounters. Yet now I had toughened my heart and strength and will, and they were even more firmly rooted in my own being than I had ever experienced before.”(3)

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