This feast commemorates the apparition of the Mother of God during her own lifetime to Saint James, the great apostle of Spain, in the year 36, in the town of Saragossa in Spain. This was to encourage Saint James to be the apostle to the great country of Spain, which by its valiant Catholicism and its many saints was to mean so much to the one true Faith in the centuries to come. The feast of Our Lady of the Pillar has a very important significance to us Americans. Christopher Columbus packed his boat to sail from Spain to America on August 2, 1492, the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. Columbus and his men sailed all the rest of August and the whole of September without sighting the land they were looking for. And then October approached. Columbus said if he did not see land on October 12, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, he would turn and go back to Spain. By the special providence of Our Lady, it was on October 12 that Columbus first saw land. Columbus did not choose this day because it was October 12 simply. He chose it because it was the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar. In childlike innocence, every one of us must admit that it was because of the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, that America was discovered. The whole New World was meant to belong to her.
On the second voyage of Columbus to America in 1493, he put his whole expedition under the protection of the Immaculate Conception. He called the boat on which he sailed on this second voyage, Gracious Mary. Columbus had called the island on which he first landed in the New World on his first voyage, San Salvador, which means Holy Saviour. Enemies of the Catholic Faith, of the Blessed Virgin, of all true history and, of course, of Columbus himself, have changed the name of that island to Watling Island. On his second voyage to America, Columbus saw a group of islands south of San Salvador. He called these islands the Virgin Islands, in honor of the 11,010 virgins who were martyred with Saint Ursula in Cologne, in 383.