Our Lady of the Rosary
One of the things that does not seem to go away is the need some people have to push their will on others. Vladimir Putin must be the current champion in this struggle as he seems unable to accept the present reality of the world. So, the people of Ukraine continue to see their country, their homes, their lives and their hope challenged. We always seem to have people fighting other people. And the unjustified invasion and destruction that Russia has inflicted on Ukraine flows out to affect the rest of the world.
Today’s feast is a significant one that touches our lives and our world right now. First known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory it celebrated the final battle between the Holy League and the Ottoman empire. The “Holy League” was composed of countries of southern Europe bordering the sea, particularly Italy, Spain and Venice. It was organised by the Pope and the Holy See fighting against the Turkish Ottoman empire. It was a war to spread both faith and trade – Catholics and Muslims, both looking to protect their trade routes. Pope Pius V knew his Christian forces were badly outnumbered and at real disadvantage The seventh of October was the decisive victory. Pope Pius V had called all Europe to pray the rosary for victory. He led a rosary procession in Rome. The final battle took place at Lepanto on the edge of the Gulf of Corinth where the Holy League and the Ottoman navy did battle. Pope Pius saw the battle as more than trade. It was also the fear that Islam would take over the Christian world.
Lepanto was the largest naval battle in Western history involving more than 400 warships, fought almost entirely between rowing vessels, namely the galleys. After hours of fighting on the edge of the Gulf of Corinth the combined navies of the Papal States, Venice and Spain managed to stop the Ottoman navy. The Sultan was already claiming to be emperor of the Romans. This battle and this victory denied him access to Italy, to the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas. October 7th 1571 became a red-letter day in the Christian story.
The victory of Lepanto is important in the history of Europe and the Ottoman Empire, marking the turning-point of Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean, although the war would continue for another century.
Lepanto is also a reminder to us all never underestimate the place of prayer in facing life. Our Lady of Victory was changed into the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Lepanto also reminds us never to underestimate the power of prayer to change the course of history for us.
Fr. Kevin Dance CP is the vicar of the St.Brigid’s Retreat, Marrickville. He is very actively involved in ministries locally and at Passionist International where he served as the Executive Director for many years.