Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Our Lady of the Rosary, Ever Victorious

From Without Having Seen: Meanderings in Faith From One Hoping to Grow in Charity:

"I originally wrote this piece for print in a parish newsletter for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary two years ago. I have revised it slightly, and added a bit to the end.

After 800 years of nearly constant defense, Constantinople, the Rome of the East, fell to attacking Muslim armies. From the year of its fall, 1453, Muslim Turks poured into Europe. By 1571, not only were all the Balkans under brutal Turkish Muslim rule, but the Protestant Reformation had been racking Europe and destroying Christian unity in the West for two generations. Catholic Europe was disintegrating on the inside and being overrun from the outside. In 1571, a great Muslim fleet sailed from Lepanto, in Turkish-ruled Greece, in a bid to dominate the entire Mediterranean. If the Mediterranean fell, there would be nothing to protect Europe from another invasion from the South. Don Juan of Austria, a Spaniard by birth and a devout Catholic, commanded the only Christian fleet that stood in the way. It was considerably smaller than the Turkish fleet. The enemies of holy Christian Faith had, to all appearances, great cause to rejoice. Pope St. Pius V called on all Christians to pray the rosary and to beg Mother Mary to save the West.

On the morning of October 7, 1571, which happened to be the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, with practically every Catholic in Europe fervently praying their rosaries, the massive naval battle was joined. In an amazing upset, the Christian fleet not only won, but won in just five hours, virtually destroying the Turkish fleet. Don Juan captured over half of the Turkish ships, and his fleet suffered only a little harm. Tens of thousands of Christian galley-slaves were set free, and Europe’s southern coast was secured. Nobody doubted that Our Lady of Victory, answering the call of the rosary, had come to Christendom's defense. In honor of her devotion, the feast was renamed to be Our Lady of the Rosary.

In our times we witness not only the Christian faith dividing and even apparently dissolving. In places where crowds once packed into cathedrals, now only a few tourists wander into them. At the same time, militant Islamists are fighting the West with ferocious new vigor. Those who hate our Christian Faith again seem to have ample reason to rejoice.

But we have a cause of hope that is greater than they understand. That’s what the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is about. What Don Juan had no hope of accomplishing on his own, Our Lady brought about for him. He barely had to break a sweat! It is as if each rosary bead were a cannonball. On that October morning, hundreds of millions of cannonballs were fired from all across Europe at the enemies of Christian Faith. The rosary is a nice devotion to Mary, yes; but we must not forget that it is a weapon. There is no question of hating secularizing atheists or Islamist terrorists; we Christians are not permitted to hate, “for we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against… this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness,” (Eph 6:12). Again St. Paul writes, “We are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds,” (2 Cor 10:3-4). Spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons. Among them, second only to the Holy Mass, is Our Lady’s rosary. Do you fear for your faith, or for the faith of your children and grandchildren? Then cling to your Rosary! From whatever quarters holy Christian Faith comes under attack, we only delude ourselves if we do not know who our true enemy is. And he is already beaten by Jesus Christ. The enemy of souls, however impressive his battle fleet may seem, is always and everywhere turned back at the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

On a personal note, the Rosary is a perfect prayer for the laity. For me it has been a source of great consolation, a useful help in discernment, and a nice way to while away time with our Lord and Lady, rather than waste it with headphones. It does not require difficult training or the purchase of expensive, rare, or really any books at all. The verbal prayers are simply enough for a small child and the mental meditations are profound enough for a very advanced mystic. The verbal prayers, said silently or aloud, communally or privately, serve as a platform for reflection on the life of Jesus and Mary, and that reflection serves as the medium for entering into their heart and giving them access to yours. It isn't a "technique" as if communion with God were a skill; it is simple and intimate, like we'd expect of time spent sitting on Mama Mary's lap, next to the Baby Jesus. Since it was first promoted by St. Dominic in the 12th century, its usefulness for every spiritual purpose has been endorsed by the word and example of virtually every pontiff and saint. If you don't know how to pray it, check out the website for
Rosary Army."

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