Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7th: The Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto.  The story of this day is a fascinating one, one that I could not do justice to.

How similar the circumstances appear; The West was facing an onslaught by Islam, but due to various situations and mistrust, the realms that are most threatened cannot come to a common unity to defeat their enemy.

Constantinople had been captured in 1453.  From there, there was a slow march by the Turks towards the heart of Europe. There were various landings by the Turkish Navy in Spain, Italy, Greece, and France. Albania was captured, as well as much African territory from Europe. However, Malta had withstood a siege by the Turks (600 Knights of St. john vs. 30.000 Turks) six years earlier, so the Turks could be defeated.

The Turks were on the march.  The Turks had captured parts of Greece, particularly ports such as Naupactos, known in Italian as Lepanto. the Holy League was formed, made up of Spain, the Papal States, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, and the Knights of Malta. All of these states contributed various vessels, plus various mercenary forces, so that the entire armada consisted of roughly 205 galleys, and 6 converted Galleasses, merchant ships converted to carry heavy artillery.  All the states saw the Turks as a menace to trade and the security of Europe, and a threat to the Holy Faith itself. The Holy League mustered 13.000 Sailors, along with 28.000 troops. The Turks had an advantage with nearly 300 ships, 13.000 sailors and 35.000 soldiers, led by the commander Ali Pasha.

Don Juan of Austria was the illegitimate son of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the half brother of Phillip II, the King of Spain. He had proved himself as an able leader, and was persuaded by Pope St. Pius V to lead the Holy League into battle. St. Pius V had tried for many months to alert Europe of the coming danger, but many realms were embroiled with the Reformation. Don Juan saw the danger, and even though very young (24!), persuaded others to join him in his doom.

Before the Holy League went into battle, in early October, Don Juan did the unlikely action of having his entire armada fast for three days and to pray for victory.

Ali Pasha was so confident of victory, he sailed at the forefront on his ship the Sultana with his harem.

Many books have been written about this battle. In short, Don Juan sailed right into the heart of the Turkish armada. The Venetians sailed right into the Turkish right wing, and crushed it. the Holy League was then able to come around that right side, and encircle the Turks. The battle took 5 hours. between 12.000 to 15.000 Christian slaves and rowers on the Turkish Galleys were delivered unto freedom. The Turks left with about 70 ships.

The Holy Father that day was praying the Rosary in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Whether the Holy Father had a vision, it is still unclear, but around the time Don Juan had gained victory around 4 in the afternoon, Pope St. Pius ordered that Masses of Thanksgiving be offered, and that the Confraternity of the Rosary proceed immediately to Roman Churches to pray.

Some historians report that just before Don Juan left to lead the Holy League, King Phillip of Spain presented him with a small painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This apparition had just happened less than 40 years before in the Spanish territory of Mexico. This painting was placed in the chapel of the admiral vessel of Giovanni Andrea Doria, the Admiral from Genoa. The painting can still be seen above the High Altar in the church of Santo Stefano d'Aveto, in the chapel of Madonna di Guadalupe near Genoa, Italy (Tried looking for a picture, but no success: Will keep looking, as this might be one of the oldest images of Guadalupe in Europe).

Pope St. Pius later that year declared that every October 7th, a commemoration of the Rosary would be a part of the Mass at the Vatican, and would be know as Our Lady of Victory. Two years later, Pope Gregory XIII established the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary and extended it to all Churches throughout the world that had Altars dedicated to the Rosary. In 1671, it was extended to all of Spain. After another vitory over the Muslims in Hungary in 1716, Pope Clement extended the Feast of the Rosary to the Universal Church.

Today, many forget why we have this Feast in our Calendar. Those who would bring terror to our country do not forget, so we should not forget the Rosary nor Our Lady on her day. It was through her intercession that victory was given to the Holy League that day. May we continue to seek her intercession.

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.

No comments:

Post a Comment