Our Lady of Rosary
Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29
One thing that doesn’t seem to go away is the need some people have to force their will onto others. Vladimir Putin may be the current champion in this struggle. He seems unable to accept the reality of the world. So Ukrainians still see their country, their homes, their lives and their hope challenged. The present world is full of people fighting other people. That unjustified invasion and destruction Russia inflicts on Ukraine flows out to affect the rest of the world even down to daily prices for food and fuel.
Today’s feast touches our lives and our world right now. The Acts tells us that after Jesus is taken from their sight on Ascension day Mary is at the heart of the apostles gathered in continuous prayer in the Upper Room. Today’s feast was known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory it marks the final battle between the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire. The “Holy League” was made up of countries in southern Europe bordering the sea – Italy, Spain and Venice. The Pope pressed the league to fight the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. It was a war of both faith and trade – Catholics and Muslims, both were out to protect their trade routes. Pope Pius V knew his forces were badly outnumbered. The final battle was on the seventh of October. The Pope called all of Europe to pray the rosary for victory and himself led a rosary procession in Rome. The final battle of the “Holy League” and the Ottomans took place at Lepanto on the edge of the Gulf of Corinth. Pius saw the battle as more than just about trade. Rather it was the fear that Islam would take over the Christian world.
Lepanto was the largest naval battle in Western history involving more than 400 warships, – almost entirely with rowing vessels or “galleys”. After hours of fighting the combined navies of the Papal States, Venice and Spain managed to halt the Ottoman navy. The Sultan was denied access to Italy, to the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas. October 7th 1571 was a red-letter day in the Catholic 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 to never underestimate the place of prayer in facing life. Our Lady of Victory became the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The power of prayer to change the course of history for us is still our best hope. In what other battles do we need the strength of Mary’s presence?
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.