Skip to comments.Queen Isabella: Evangelizer of the New World
Posted on 11/10/2004 9:46:57 PM PST by Coleus
Queen Isabella: Evangelizer of the New World
by Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez
The 500th anniversary of Queen isalbella's death this month prompts a Puerto Rican prelate to examine her faithful service
|In this article:|
|A True Follower of Jesus|
|A Reformer of Church and State|
|Devotion to Jesus and Mary|
|Bold, Decisive, Faith-Filled Action|
Imagine that you have before your eyes a map of the world. Looking at the map from heaven's perspective, imagine that the places strong in the Catholic faith shine with special brilliance. Ireland, for example, would be one such place. History shows that this island owes its faith and Catholic culture to St. Patrick, who is rightly known as the "Apostle of Ireland."
Detail from 1596 painting King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle of Spain Bidding Farewell to Christopher Columbus."
Now move your eyes west across the map, across the Atlantic to America. How can we account for the fact that Spanish America, not just a small island or a large peninsula, but one entire continent and a large part of another has been and is still predominantly Catholic?
After Columbus' first voyage to America, he reported to Queen Isabella that, as far as he could see, there was not much promise of material wealth in the lands he had visited. No mountains of gold or other precious metals were seen. How did Queen Isabella the Catholic respond to this news? Her response is recorded in history: "Although there would be nothing but stones, I would continue there while there may be souls to save." These words reveal her heart. Much more than any possible monetary gain, her zeal to spread the Catholic faith led Queen Isabella to sponsor Columbus' expeditions. This truth, which is often left out of history books, deserves recognition: Most of Spanish America is Catholic because of Queen Isabella.
Christ said we can know the tree by its fruits. What exactly were the fruits of Isabella's faith? As the author Nemesio Rodriguez Lois points out, America "will soon be home to more than half of the Catholics of the whole world. This is the reason for which recent popes have baptized these lands with the significant name of 'The Continent of Hope.'" Truly, the great hope that this continent holds can be traced back to the extraordinary virtues of Queen Isabella: her hope of bringing Christ to new peoples; her charity in making laws to protect these peoples from exploitation and enslavement, and her great faith, whose legacy still lives in South and Central America, Mexico, the western United States, the Canary Islands and the Philippines, among other places.
|A True Follower of Jesus||Back to Top|
|Queen Isabella, who died 500 years ago on Nov. 26, has often been likened to St. Teresa of Jesus, the 16th century Carmelite. Venerable Juan de Palafox, who made extensive studies of the writings of Isabella and St. Teresa, claimed "that if St. Teresa had been a queen she would have been another Queen Isabella and if Queen Isabella had been a nun she would have been another St. Teresa of Jesus."
Born of Catholic parents on April 22, 1451, Isabella was proclaimed queen of Castile in 1474. With her hand on the Bible, she vowed to be obedient to the Commandments, to honor her prelates and ministers, and to defend the Church with all her strength. The papal nuncio was present at her enthronement in Segovia along with the papal legate, clear signs of the Holy Father's support of her taking the throne.
In anyone's eyes, Queen Isabella would be considered great just by the fact that, with great prudence, justice and fortitude, she joined together 27 separate kingdoms into one strongly united Spain, with her husband King Ferdinand. It is a striking example of how a truly Christian leader can elevate a people from a state of extreme prostration to become a world power. Before Isabella's reign, it was often not safe to walk or travel in cities or through the countryside. Many people were victimized by rampant violence, and there was terrible corruption among civil leaders. All this changed under Queen Isabella.
|A Reformer of Church and State||Back to Top|
|A true daughter of the Church, Isabella initiated religious reforms, and then undertook political reforms. She knew that if she could strengthen the Spanish clergy, religious orders and monasteries, she would thereby obtain the spiritual betterment of her people. Once a reform in faith and morals was in place, the political reform would be much more successful.
Her reforms of Church and state worked marvelously, resulting in many good fruits: unity in the kingdom, the strengthening of the crown to better serve the people, the establishment of a stable peace and the restoration of justice, exemplary clergy and religious orders, a unified front against the enemies of the faith, and the promotion and defense of morality. These elements form the basis of good government. How many of today's world leaders could learn from her example of how to govern without compromising ones faith or violating one's conscience?
Isabella clearly stated her motives for carrying out these two reforms: the greatest service of God and the exaltation of the holy Catholic faith. Thus, the Catholic Church in Spain was well prepared for the great enterprises for which she was destined, especially the evangelization of America and all of Spain's territories. Because the faith in Spain itself was so strong, the country enjoyed a unity free from the splintering effects of Protestantism. And let us not forget the great Spanish saints who rose out of Isabellas reforms: St. Teresa of Jesus, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Borgia, to name a few.
|Devotion to Jesus and Mary||Back to Top|
|Like these saints, Queen Isabellas devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was outstanding. She created and promoted many eucharistic associations which still, even today, foster devotion and reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. She also wrote personally to all the bishops of her realm asking that they encourage devotion to, and take much care in their handling of, the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote them not so much as their queen but as a concerned daughter of the Church.
The queen's devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was not only fervent but, in a way, visionary. She co-founded the Order of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in 1489 with St. Beatriz of Silva. Around the same time, she also wrote to the Holy Father and respectfully asked him to take appropriate steps against those who denied the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. She did both of these things 365 years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was even declared.
Queen Isabella once received two monks from the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and after they had departed, she sent them the enormous sum of 1,000 ducats every year which she ordered to be used in Jerusalem for the things necessary for divine worship there, and for the upkeep and improvement of the Holy Sepulcher itself. She also gave them a veil to put on top of the Holy Sepulcher, which she had made with her own hands. From these few examples, we can gain some appreciation for the strong devotion which Isabella had for the Catholic faith.
Her determination only to fight wars that were both just and unavoidable is demonstrated by the fact that, whenever possible, Isabella avoided fighting against other Christian rulers. And she never took sides with Christian rulers who were opposing the Holy Father. In all, she carried out two successful campaigns against the Moors, one in Granada and one in Africa. These victories helped save Spain and Europe from the very real Moorish threat to conquer Christendom. In addition, her sponsorship of the evangelization of America resulted in the conversion of many native people.
|Bold, Decisive, Faith-Filled Action||Back to Top|
|Isabella proved that her Catholic faith was not simply a pious phrase said in passing but the deepest conviction of her being. In a heroic way, her actions matched her words. Her greatest achievement was certainly her impact on America. In the evangelization of America, Granada and all of her realms, Isabella showed how she saw the Catholic faith as a most precious gem a jewel that, once unveiled, would be dearly coveted by all those who saw it.
While physically Isabella never stepped foot in America, her zeal to spread the Catholic faith caused and inspired many missionaries to sail across the Atlantic bearing the Good News of Christ. Therefore, Isabella merits a unique title as "Evangelizer of the New World."
History offers no other candidates for this title. And today, Catholics in lands stretching from my island of Puerto Rico, down to the southern tip of South America, and all the way to the coast of California can all look to Isabella as their historical mother in the Catholic faith.
Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez is archbishop emeritus of San Juan in Puerto Rico. He is a member of San Juan Bautista Council 1543 in San Juan.
I just got my Columbia mag but haven't had a chance to look at it yet. Thanks for the preview.
I wonder how many FReepers are KofC or wives of KofC?
We must not judge the past by the morality of today.-----Unknown
It never fails, mention the name Columbus and out come the horror stories. I guess that's more interesting than talkng about the faith and accomplishments of two great Catholics.