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What Does October Mean to You?



In October our thoughts naturally turn to cool, colorful days and the first faint inklings that the year is ending.  A vague feeling that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner invades our minds.  But, when it's October maybe you are one of those who consider October very special because of the events that occurred in it regarding our heritage.  Let's do some reminiscing - October 12th, 1492.

On this day on an island in the Bahamas Columbus raised a cross hailing the finding of "the Indies."  A few years later, on October 31 in the year 1517, a monk's pen was pointing men to a cross - an act that shook the foundations of all Europe and whose vibrations would reach the new world Columbus had discovered shortly before.  We will soon meet two other persons important in our history.

These two great European personages (whose names also happen to begin with the letter "C") are woven into the fabric of America's founding: Catherine of Aragon and John Calvin.  Each represents areas of influence on our founding.

The first, Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella (you've heard of these before!), was King Henry VIII's first wife.  That king, in order to divorce her, separated from the church of Rome.  Catharine was involved, involuntarily, in those great changes that led to the Puritans fleeing to this country.

Next in line is Columbus of Genova or Genoa, Italy.  Columbus was commissioned to sail west toward the "islands of the sea" by Ferdinand and Isabella who, as Catholic Sovereigns, believed, along with Columbus, they had a mission: "...the Spaniards were intent upon conquest and empire, upon winning gold and silver and trade, but they also had a genuine zeal for carrying the true faith to the ends of the world."1  And so, here we are, thinking of....October!

Third in our trinity of "C"s is John Calvin of Noyon, France.  And it was in October 1540, that he began his final tour of duty in Geneva, Switzerland, where most of his great works were written.  Just as the histories of America, England, and Spain are inter-twined, so now we see France and Switzerland figuring in our history for Calvin is considered the "father" of both the Pilgrims and the Puritans.  How is it that a Frenchman living in Switzerland, whose writings were mainly in French, Latin, and Greek became the father of our country?  His works were read and understood by those English colonists who first arrived here in 1620 and by those who fought the Revolutionary War and wrote the great documents on which our form of government was founded.  "Lastly, Calvin was the founder of the greatest of republics.  The 'pilgrims' who left their country...(and landed) on the barren shores of New England, founded populous and mighty colonies.  (They) are his sons,..and that American nation which we have seen growing so rapidly boasts as its father (John Calvin)." 2 

Thus, even the perusal of one month reveals that the fabric of history is the intricate inter-weaving of men, events and nations.  I like October!


1. Hubert Herring, A History of Latin America, quoted in Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus, Libros CLIE, Barcelona, Spain, 1992, pg. 51.   (Back to article)

2. J.H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in Europe, quoted in Rosalie Slater, Teaching and Learning America's Christian History, San Francisco, 1980, page 172.   (Back to article)

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