September 23, 2018

1634 words 8 mins read

This Day Comes Only Once a Year

But the urgency of this moment comes only twice per millennium. Will you be there?

On October 7, Christians around the world will unsheathe the most powerful weapon with which God has ever armed his people

We will, together, wage a great battle in the spiritual war of our age. 

What is this weapon? What is the spiritual war? 

If you’re paying attention at all, you know the spiritual war we’re all in. It’s the battle of God vs. Satan, good vs. evil, collectivism vs. individualism, faith vs. heathenism, chastity vs. impurity, cleanliness vs. filth. 

And the weapon? 

It’s a great weapon that took twelve hundred years to forge. 

It is the weapon the devil hates above all others.

It is the weapon that saved Christendom from Islamic invaders. 

It is the weapon of choice of the great saints, including St. Padre Pio whose feast we celebrate today. 

The weapon is the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And October 7 is perfect day for the next great battle in this war.

October 7, a Sunday, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Originally, this was the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. The victory in the Battle of Lepanto in October of 1571, a battle that has been purged from the schools' history books because it is politically incorrect. 

[Here’s what’s happening on October 7]

But I am politically incorrect, so let’s look at it through the capable words of Catholic Education:

In a.d.  622, Mohammed set out from Medina to conquer the whole Christian world for Allah by force of arms.  Within a hundred years, his successors had occupied and pillaged every Christian capital of the Middle East, from Antioch through North Africa (home of Saint Augustine) and Spain.  All that remained outside Allah’s reign was the northern arc from Southern France to Constantinople.

—Michael Novak, How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto Saved Europe

We moderns often forget that there is nothing new under the sun. However difficult today’s problems seem, Christendom has seen worse. 

For 1,000 years after 622, Muslims built great navies and armies and prepared for the final assault on Christianity. By the mid-1500s, it seemed Christianity was doomed. 

For more than three years, Pope Pius V had labored mightily to sound alarms about the deadly Muslim buildup in the shipyards of Istanbul.  The sultan had been stung by the surprising defeat of his overwhelming invasion force in Malta in 1565.  The savagery of Muslim attacks on the coastal villages of Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia, and Greece was ratcheted upwards.  Three or four Muslim galleys would offload hundreds of marines, who would sweep through a village, tie all its healthy men together for shipment out to become galley slaves, march away many of its women and young boys and girls for shipment to Eastern harems, and then gather all the elderly into the village church, where the helpless victims would be beheaded, and sometimes cut up into little pieces, to strike terror into other villages.  The Muslims believed that future victims would lose heart and swiftly surrender when Muslim raiders arrived.  Over three centuries, the number of European captives kidnapped from villages and beaches by these pirates climbed into the hundreds of thousands.

—Michael Novak, How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto Saved Europe

And the stage was set for the Battle of Lepanto. Don Juan led the battle from Venice whose merchant class had for years appeased the Muslim invaders in order to keep lucrative trade lines open. (Sound familiar?)

But, by 1571, the lukewarm Christian establishment class realized their lives and, more importantly to them, their wealth were in danger. They were finally ready to heed the warnings of the pope. 

Keeping the Knights of Malta in reserve just a short distance behind the main battle line, Don Juan assigned the impassioned Venetians the important left flank, with its leftmost ships close to the shoreline.  He himself commanded a hundred vessels at the center.  In plain sight was his capital ship, the Real, its banners of leadership visible to all.  To the right flank he assigned the venerable Andrea Doria and the Genoese fleet.  The plan was to hold his ships in as long and straight a line as seamanship in a besetting wind would allow, while heading directly for the Muslim line.

—Michael Novak, How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto Saved Europe

The Christians were greatly outnumbered. The Muslims were more battle-hardened and experienced. No one alive believed the Christians could hold the line, much less defeat the Muslim invaders. 

The Christians had only two advantages: taller ships and the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. First, those ships. 

At his front, however, Don Juan placed a nasty surprise for Ali Pasha.  Six new, taller, sturdier ships packed with cannons (especially in the bow) and heavily laden with lead and shot placed themselves a mile forward of the Christian line.  They looked flat on top, like merchant ships.  No one had ever seen such ships before.  They lacked a bow rising up skywards, the one necessary weapon for vicious ramming.  For the purpose of these new galleasses, as they were called, was not to ram oncoming ships but to blast them with an array of cannons.  Their shot could carry a mile with great accuracy.  When the galleasses turned sideways, they could blast with even more cannons, designed for shorter ranges, often aiming their cannon just at the waterline of their foes.  They had the power to sink a smaller, lighter, faster Muslim galley with a single burst.

—Michael Novak, How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto Saved Europe

Don Juan’s galleasses were the secret weapon in the earthly battle. The Rosary was the secret weapon in the spiritual battle. For this perspective on what has been called ‘the greatest sea battle in history,’ we turn to National Catholic Register.

St. Pope Pius V, realizing that the Muslim Turks had a decided material advantage, called upon all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory. Christians gathered in villages and towns to pray as the sea battle raged . . . .

—Kathy Schiffer, The Pope, the Rosary, and the Battle of Lepanto

Guess what happened? Well, you’re not reading this in Arabic, so you know what happened. The vastly outnumbered and out-skilled Christians crushed the Muslim invaders and ended Islam’s spread for 500 years. (Until a new generation of establishment merchants decided their personal wealth was more important than the greater glory of God.)

The toll of the sea battle was great: The Holy League lost 50 of its galleys and suffered some 13,000 casualties. The Turks, however, lost much more: Their leader Ali Pasha was killed, along with 25,000 of his sailors. The Ottoman fleet lost 210 of its 250 ships, of which 130 were captured by the Holy League. Coming at what was seen as a crisis point for Christianity, the victory at Lepanto stemmed Ottoman incursion into the Mediterranean and prevented their influence from spreading through Europe. Through the intervention of Our Lady, the Hand of God prevented the Muslims of the East from overcoming the Christian West.

—Kathy Schiffer, The Pope, the Rosary, and the Battle of Lepanto

And another miracle occurred. 

Pope Pius V learned of the victory immediately. Without internet, telephones, or even telegraph, more than 400 miles away, the pope announced the victory at the Vatican and asked the faithful to switch their prayers from intercession to thanksgiving.

If you have nowhere else to gather “in villages and towns” to pray the Rosary with fellow spiritual warriors on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of Victory (and of the Rosary), **join me at a beautiful and holy Shrine of the Black Madonna in Eureka, Missouri. **

We will gather in the shrine’s open-air chapel at 3:00 for opening prayers and remarks. We will pray all 4 mysteries (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious) beginning at 3:30. We have Rosaries and How to Pray the Rosaries pamphlets for anyone who needs them. 

Directions, agenda, and everything you need to know about Rosary Coast-to-Coast is available here. 

If you cannot attend any of the gatherings on October 7, please say the Rosary yourself at home. 

We mortals have fought valiantly for decades. We need a spiritual weapon. We need the Lord’s help and direction. As the Virgin Mary told the servants at the wedding feast at Cana, pointing to Jesus, “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

UPDATE for September 24—Our Lady of Ransom

I have never heard of the feast of Our Lady of Ransom. Turns out it’s September 24. And it is closely related to the subject of his post. (Funny how God works, isn’t it?)

According to My Morning Offering email from The Catholic Company:

St. Peter Nolasco (12th c.) was inspired to establish a religious order for the ransom of Christians from Muslim captivity. On August 1, 1218 the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Peter Nolasco along with his confessor, St. Raymond of Peñafort, and to King James I of the Kingdom of Aragon to verify the Divine inspiration of this mission. Word of the Marian apparition soon spread to the entire kingdom. The new religious foundation, called the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (the Mercedarians), was established and approved by Pope Gregory IX. The order worked to raise money to ransom Christians who had been captured and enslaved by Muslims, and to offer themselves, if necessary, as payment for their release. A feast was instituted under the title of Our Lady of Ransom and observed on September 24, later extended to the entire Church.

The Catholic Company

Imagine faith so strong you’re willing to become a slave to Muslims to free an innocent. Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us.