Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our Lady of the Rosary and The Battle of Lepanto

The Church has been in dangerous times before. One of the worst was one of the recurring invasions by Muslims intent on overrunning Christendom. In 1571 the West was fractured by the Protestant revolt, and even Catholic monarchs were distracted. The news was bad. On August 1, the Venetian garrison of Cyprus had finally surrendered after a long siege. Despite assurances of safety by the Muslim attackers, the Catholic commander was flayed alive and his lieutenants beheaded.

Faced with this threat by imperialistic Islam, Pope Pius V helped cobble together The Holy League. It would be led by Don John of Austria. Don John was the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and had been put in charge of the Spanish Mediterranean fleet at the age of 21. By the battle of Lepanto, he was an experienced military leader. This would help overcome the Christian fleet's inferiority in numbers.

Pope Pius V asked all Catholics to pray the rosary for victory, which is why the name of today's feast became Our Lady of the Rosary, and used to be called Our Lady of Victory. But that was not the only spiritual weapon available to the Catholics. A reproduction of the miraculous image from the New World -- Our Lady of Guadalupe -- was used as the standard on Andrea Doria's flagship.

In a world without instant communication, the Pope was miraculously given knowledge of the Catholic victory against the Muslim invaders.

Don John's message to his troops was "Paradise is not for cowards."

Today the Bear's message is: "Nail your foot to the deck in front of your favorite rowing bench and row well!"

Chesterton wrote a wonderful poem about the battle -- and the European politics at the time -- called "Lepanto," which should be easy to find online.


  1. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

  2. "Row well and live!" Loved that movie.

    Seattle kim


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