Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Friday, Oct. 7, marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and also the 445th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto.
Some people have taken up Lepanto’s call and showing us what we can do to turn the tide of the battle in our country over secularism, immorality, antagonistic unbelief, and laws downright hostile to Christianity.
Many who have been faithfully praying the 54-Day Rosary Novena for our Nation will be heading to Washington, D.C., for the conclusion of the novena with the National Rosary Rally and hopes a Lepanto-like victory will happen again. Many others whould be joining them too.
Why a Lepanto moment? Lepanto became the model for other lopsided victories to come in favor of saving Christianity in Europe and elsewhere.
Cardinal Raymond Burke “wholeheartedly” endorsed the novena and the Rosary Rally on this Oct. 7 anniversary. “I urge as many as are able to participate in these great spiritual works for the sake of our entire nation,” he said on the novena website.
Engaging in today’s Lepanto, all those who will come to the rally will hear speakers and pray the four Mysteries of the Rosary right by the Capitol (see exact location) for these intentions: “respect for life at all stages of development; the sanctity of marriage and families; upholding constitutionally protected religious freedom; and the return of our nation to God and Holiness.”
Leaders and speakers will include Father Rick Heilman, the president of Holy League, Austin and Cathy Ruse, president of Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute,
EWTN co-host of Life on the Rock Doug Barry, and Father Stephen Imbarrato of Priests for Life and EWTN co-host of Defending Life.
That Lepanto victory 445 years ago was a miraculous event. When all seemed on the brink of being lost for Christian Europe, heaven provided the victory through our Blessed Mother. Her Rosary was the chief weapon, the spiritual one par excellence.
That tremendous Mediterranean battle off the coast of Greece, one of the greatest sea battles in history, saw an outnumbered Christian fleet defeat a superior Turkish Moor armada of the Ottoman Empire, the most powerful naval force of the time, about to invade Europe. The fate of Western Christian Europe was in the balance.
The Catholic naval forces primarily from Spain, Venice, and Genoa, called the Holy League under the command of Don Juan of Austria, had to fight the Turkish fleet in what would be the last battle at sea between "oared" ships. At the time, the Moslem force was the most powerful navy in the world, with between 12,000 to 15,000 Christian slaves as rowers for their hundreds of ships.
Knowing that the Christian forces were at a distinct material disadvantage, the holy pontiff, St. Pope Pius V called for all Catholics, all of Europe, to pray the Rosary for victory. Christians answered his call. All the churches in Rome were continuously open.
The fleet’s major weapon became the Rosary.
The patchwork team of the smaller Catholic fleet was powered by the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy League’s 65,000 Christian sailors and troops also received Communion and prayed the Rosary together.
Although facing a much superior enemy, the winds seemed to inexplicably change to favor the Holy League fleet, and the victory they won was decisive, preventing the Islamic invasion of Europe by the Turkish Moors, and evidenced the Hand of God working through Our Lady.
At the hour of victory, St. Pope Pius V, who was hundreds of miles away at the Vatican in the days of no phone, telegraph or means of instant communication, got up from a meeting, went over to a window, and exclaimed with supernatural radiance: "The Christian fleet is victorious!" He shed tears of thanksgiving to God.
The Credit Goes To
Our Lady of the Rosary. Don Juan of Austria, Commander of the Christian fleet, credited this major upset victory to the intercession of the Blessed Mother through the Rosary. And the Venetian Senators officially proclaimed it was not courage, not arms, not leaders, but Mary of the Rosary that made them victors.
Our Lady of the Rosary got all the credit from the saintly pope on down to the simple sailor. She didn’t have that title yet, but it was soon to come.
As a constant reminder and to commemorate the victory, St. Pius V first instituted and called it the feast of Our Lady of Victory for celebration on Oct. 7.
Later in 1683, at Vienna, 140,000 Muslim troops were defeated by 41,000 Christian defenders through the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa and praying the Rosary.
After another victory over the Turks in Hungary in 1716 (on the feast of Our Lady of the Snows), that was again credited to the Rosary, the Oct. 7 feast was extended by Pope Clement XI to the universal Church was renamed Our Lady of the Rosary.
Popes Have Their Say
Blessed Pope Pius IX said, "Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been so favored by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary." In one of Leo XIII’s 11 encyclicals on the Rosary (here ) he devotes a long section to the Lepanto victory, saying, “those who were unable to take part formed a pious band of supplicants, who called on Mary, and unitedly saluted her again and again in the words of the Rosary, imploring her to grant the victory to their companions engaged in battle. Our Sovereign Lady did grant her aid…the Christian fleet gained a magnificent victory, with no great loss to itself, in which the enemy were routed…”
St. John Paul II singles out Leo XIII’s encyclical in his own apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), especially noting the Rosary is “an effective spiritual weapon against the evils afflicting society.”
John Paul II proclaimed in the same apostolic letter, “At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer.”
Lepanto Possible Again
Whether you are or are not taking part in the 54-day Rosary Novena, or going to the rally on Oct. 7, don’t forget the Rosary and Lepanto in these dire times.
Here on earth can’t forget we’re the Church Militant. The Church Militant must be ready for spiritual combat.
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina told us what the arms for this reenactment of the Battle of Lepanto were. Remember, he very strongly stated: "The Rosary is the weapon.” It’s time to pick up our weapon — the Rosary — to fight back.
Just as Europe was once saved, following the Church’s wisdom proves how the victory can be won to save this country from many different enemies trying to take it over. Heaven gave the answer several times loud and clear. It’s through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through the Rosary.
Our Lady of the Rosary has proven over and over again how the victory is won. She told us at Fatima too — now approaching its 100th Anniversary Year.
Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed: “I could conquer the world if I had an army to say the Rosary.”
Heaven is waiting to hand us the victory and has given us the most powerful weapon of all to triumph — the Rosary.