Today’s feast day is set on the anniversary of the victory at Lepanto in 1571. A victory the Christians attribute to the intercession of the Virgin. The Christians were outnumbered. It was a difficult battle at best, a “sure defeat” for the Christians at worst. Ali Pasha, the Turk leader, was so sure of victory that he placed his own boat right in the center of his own armada. It didn’t look good for the Christians, so they turned their eyes to the heavens and invoked the intercession of Mary on their behalf by praying a rosary. Miraculously, the Christians won this battle.
Here’s a bit of trivia… what famous author served on one of the Christian galleys at this battle?
(To google is to cheat! 🙂 The answer is at the end of this post)
Here are a few words from our dearly departed Papa, John Paul the Great:
A path of contemplation
5. But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine “training in holiness”: “What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer”. Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become “genuine schools of prayer”.
The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. Developed in the West, it is a typically meditative prayer, corresponding in some way to the “prayer of the heart” or “Jesus prayer” which took root in the soil of the Christian East.
Prayer for peace and for the family
6. A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely. First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of 11 September 2001, a millennium which witnesses every day innumerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph2:14). Consequently, one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian.
A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age.
APOSTOLIC LETTER ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE
The answer to the trivia questions is: Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote !