Remember Lepanto-Like Victory on Feast of Most Holy Name of Mary

The feast of The Most Holy Name of Mary was officially instituted in the Church after the Lepanto-like victory at the Battle of Vienna.

Daniel Schultz, “Portrait of John III Sobieski in Roman Costume,” after 1680
Daniel Schultz, “Portrait of John III Sobieski in Roman Costume,” after 1680 (photo: Public Domain)

The year was 1683. The situation was dire. Turkish invaders from the Ottoman Empire were about to overrun Western Europe. European people everywhere — including the papal nuncio — implored and begged for help, turning to John III Sobieski, King of Poland. Sobieski had courage and something greater — a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Answering their pleas, Sobieski marched his army toward Vienna for a decisive showdown. On the way under a banner of Our Lady, he and his troops prayed for her assistance at her shrine in Czestochowa. On the morning of Sept. 12, Sobieski worshipped at Mass, then confidently told his smaller, outnumbered army, “Let us march with confidence under the protection of Heaven and with the aid of the Most Holy Virgin!”

Fast forwarding, Sobieski himself led the charge, and his much smaller army and cavalry routed the Ottoman Turk invaders soundly and ended the invasion. With Vienna and the Christian world saved, Sobieski crediting the victory to God alone.

He rewrote Caesar’s famous words when he said: “Veni, vidi, Deus vicit” — “I came, I saw, God conquered.”

To honor Mary for her aid for this great Battle of Vienna victory, in 1683 Pope Innocent XI extended the celebration of the feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, observed in Spain from 1513, to the universal Church. (The memorial was dropped after Vatican II but reinstituted in 2002 by John Paul II.)

Innocent XI requested a Rosary to be said before the battle and asked everyone to pray for the defense of Christian Europe, Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Kazimierz Chwalek provincial superior of the Mother of Mercy Province told me during a conversation. She said, “When we’re overwhelmed and there seems no way out, he sends his mother to assist us. He sent a king who loved our Lady and had a great devotion to her.”

The Marians connection goes to that battle. He said, “Our founder Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski — a confessor at the royal court — is the one who blessed the army.”

Every Sept. 12 when we celebrate this memorial, we should resolve to always honor the Most Holy Name of Mary, recall her qualities and call constantly upon her protection and assistance.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri knew why. In his book The Glories of Mary, he said, “After the most sacred name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.”

“From this title Holy Name of Mary we unpack the dimensions of who she is to us,” explained Father Chwalek. She was called by that name by God, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace.’ Mary became the mother of his son. Calling her by different titles is the explication of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

In the Church, he reminded, her name is used throughout generations with incredible reverence and love as the Mother of God and our mother, and for her extraordinary intercessory powers which the Lord granted her.

Are you bombarded by physical troubles, pains, and sufferings, to those even greater ones in moral pain and suffering? “Our Lady is there for us and will always assist us,” stressed Father Chwalek, when “we open to her as a mother, in trust and confidence.” The  Memorare offers us this personal relationship. “We feel we can experience her presence and her special protection and the mercy of the Lord that she is able to obtain for us.”

We can say that calling on Mary by praying her Rosary is the major way to her. Sobieski had his men pray the Rosary. Before that, St. Pius V asked people to pray the Rosary and a small fleet defeated a monstrous fleet of Ottoman invaders in the Battle of Lepanto. As recently as Fatima Our Lady asked for the daily Rosary for peace. Padre Pio called the Rosary “The weapon.”

Mary is always there to help us even in the direst circumstances. She keeps us safe. She defeats evil.

“The tradition of the Church is that when you call upon her name in moral depravity, she is especially efficacious in this area,” Father Chwalek said as he pointed out our society is plagued with this problem. “In Mary we see how we can become by the gift of redemptive grace of Christ totally faithful and pure from the heart before the Lord.”

Alphonsus Liguori recognized her powerful name gives strength to overcome temptations against purity, and Thomas à Kempis affirmed the devils fear her so much that on hearing her name they fly as from a burning fire.

St. Bernard’s advice? “In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not leave thy lips; let her not depart from thy heart."

Always call on Mary. Say a Hail Mary. If we do, like Sobieski, we too will be the victors.