Beginning in the 1840s, waves of European immigrants swelled the ranks of Catholics in the United States, and along with that came an increasingly anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant backlash from the Protestant majority. Catholics were subject to discrimination, slander, ridicule, anti-Catholic propaganda and sometimes mob violence. It was within this hostile climate that Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. He and the founding Knights chose as the Order’s patron Christopher Columbus — one of the few Catholics considered a hero of American history. Father McGivney believed the explorer represented both Catholicism and patriotism at the very root of America’s heritage, thereby symbolizing that faithful Catholics also can be solid American citizens.
A decade later, as the Order celebrated its patron on the 400th anniversary of his discovery, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a national Columbus holiday. He called for “expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.” Colorado became the first state to establish Columbus Day in 1907, and others soon followed. In 1934, with strong urging and support by the Knights, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress made Columbus Day a federal holiday, mandating its first annual observance on Oct. 12, 1937.
Prayer for Our Country
God of all nations,
Father of the human family,
we give you thanks for the freedom we exercise
and the many blessings of democracy we enjoy
in these United States of America.
We ask for your protection and guidance
for all who devote themselves to the common good,
working for justice and peace at home and around the world.
We lift up all our duly elected leaders and public servants,
those who serve us as President, as legislators and judges,
those in the military and law enforcement.
Heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord,
with a common purpose, dedication, and commitment to achieve liberty and justice
in the years ahead for all people,
and especially those who are most vulnerable in our midst.