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Celebrating Our Lady of Victory October 7, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, General Catholic, Our Lady, Society.
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On October 7, 1571, a mixed Christian fleet, established under the Holy League of Spain, Venice, Genoa, the Papal States, and the Duchy of Savoy in Italy, met a much larger Turkish fleet in the Ionian Sea in a battle to decide the fate of the Mediterranean.  The Turks had been making steady progress in driving the Christians from throughout the Meditteranean, dating back to the collapse of the Crusader states at the end of the 13th Century.  In 1565, the Turks had laid seige to Malta, seeking to drive Christian influence from its last bastion in the southern and eastern Mediterranean.  The Knights Hospitaller won the seige and drove the Turks off.  In 1571, having put together another powerful fleet, the Turks were set to try again.

This new threat could not have come at a worse time for Christendom.  The unity that once prevailed throughout all of western Christendom had been shattered by the “Reformation.”  The Holy Roman Empire, once the strongest supporter of the Church, was now split and ineffectual, with roughly half the territory occupied by protestants and half by those remaining loyal to the Church.  Even those states remaining loyal to the Church were riven by strife.  With much effort, Pope St. Pius V managed to cobble together a Holy League, united as much by self-interest as they were by religion, to fight the Turks.  For if the Turks gained naval supremacy in the Mediterranean,  they could engage in a two pronged thrust, driving from anywhere along the southern coast of Europe to link up with the forces which had already conquered the southeastern quarter of Europe.  The threat was truly grave.  Rome was indeed the Turks next target.

Pope St. Pius V gave command of the united Christian fleet to Don Juan of Austria, the bastard son of Charles V and half-brother of Phillip II of Spain.  The entire fleet was sent into battle with rosaries, and St. Pius V prayed fervently for Mary’s intercession for the protection of Christendom.  And on the morning of October 7, 1571, the fleets of united Christendom, such as it was, sailed against the wind into the Gulf of Lepanto, with Don Juan travelling from ship to ship, crucifix in hand, shouting encouragement to the sailors and galley slaves and claiming that through victory or death they would gain immortality.  In spite of the best preparations and some technological advantages, the Christians faced very long odds, and, worse yet, the vaunted banks of Turkish archers, men who spent a lifetime acquiring their skill and whose sky-darkening fusillades of arrows would decimate the crews of the Holy League ships.  With the wind against them, outnumbered, the leaders of the Holy League met:

But in the end, it was God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who indeed gave the Don John the victory. When the fleet entered the Bay of Lepanto they had the wind in their faces. The galley slaves struggled to power the fleet into battle, while the much larger Muslim fleet rested and waited with the wind in its favor. But as Don John and his officers knelt in prayer beneath the blue banner of the Holy League, the wind suddenly changed, the Christian sails filled and Our Lady’s host was now suddenly bearing down upon the Turks.

The battle, with the odds so against the Holy League, rapidly developed into a complete rout.  The Christian artillery raked the Mohammaden ships with fire from stem to stern, blowing their archers overboard and sending horrific splinters into the galley slaves so necessary at that time for propulsion, especially with the wind now against them.  The Christians broke the Muslim fleet up into small units and summarily dispatched them all.  At one point, it looked as if a wing of the Turkish fleet would turn the flank of the Venetians, but reinforcements from Spain rapidly met, and eliminated, that threat. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in Rome, Pope St. Pius V was having a conference with a member of the curia. In mid-sentence, he suddenly stopped, walked to the window, and stared off into the distance.  He turned to his conferee, and said “It is not well to conduct business right now, for a great battle has been won.  We must give great thanks to God and to Our Lady.”  The Christian victory was complete.  Turkish sea power was forever broken.  They would never threaten the Mediterranean again – those dreaded archers, who had been the scourge of Christian sailors for years, had been killed almost to a man, their incredibly delicate skills lost forever, with no one to train new archers in their role.

At one time, today’s Feast, Our Lady of the Rosary, was known as Our Lady of Victory.  Today, much has changed.  We are taught that it is wrong to exult in Mary’s intervention in this miraculous battle.  We are taught that we must be understanding, even indifferent, towards other, false religions.  Fr. Angelo Geiger:

Islam again is a real threat. All necessary distinctions between the ordinary Muslim and the jihadist being made, the Islamic world has never recovered from the fall of the Ottoman empire, and has never forgotten that the Battle of Lepanto was the beginning of the end. Europe again faces the prospect of loosing its Christian identity, this time to Islamic immigration, the advance of secularism and to a pathetically low birthrate.

Just as it was in the sixteenth century, there is now more at work here than militant Islam. Again the “tangled things and texts and aching eyes” have twisted the Christian mind into a mutant form. The Protestantization of the Catholic mind, and worse, the utter secularization and agnosticism of the “faithful” have paralyzed an effective Catholic Action. And in the face of all of it Catholics are told to seek peace, not the peace which only the Lord can give, but the peace of compliance. In the face of attacks against the very name of God, and against the natural law, we are reminded to be pluralistic and to keep our personal convictions to ourselves.

Benedict XVI, the indefatigable enemy of the “dictatorship of relativism,” has the new compromise well spotted. In his now famous lecture to the representatives of science at the University of Regensburg, the Holy Father created quite a stir by pointing out the Islamic compromise with reason; however, what went largely unnoticed by many was his suggestion that the West’s abandonment of faith is not so different from Islamic unreason. The jihadist’s faith is contrary to reason, and this leads to fanaticism. The secularist’s reason, excludes any transcendent authority, and that leads to the abandonment of the natural law. In Iran today, sexual sins are punished by public stoning and lynching. In America we talk about dignifying sodomy with rights of marriage. Neither approach is godly or reasonable.

Indeed.  Christianity, and Catholicism, are even more fractured today.  In fact, many Catholics simply don’t regard the Faith as anything more than a minor ornament on their lives.  Is this what Our Lady prayed for?  Would those 8,000 Christian men who fell at Lepanto be gratified by what they see in the Church today?  We need more than a new evangelization, we need a miracle.

Holy Mary, Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

Special thanks to Fr. Angelo Geiger, Franciscans of the Immaculate, at Mary Victrix

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