"...And What is Lacking of the Sufferings of Christ, I Fill up in my Flesh for his Body, Which is the Church..." (Col.1:24)

Sunday, October 8, 2017


     It's October 7th as I write, time to think again about the Battle of Lepanto. This battle is recognized as the largest naval battle since antiquity, and the most important and crucial in the history of the world. It saved Christianity. It saved our Crucifixes, our altars, our freedom. Yet not many people heard of it, including Catholics.

     In fact, we must always be thinking about the Battle of Lepanto, which took place on October 7th in 1571, when the invading Turks had conquered Cyprus and were at the door of Christian Europe. To Europeans their defense seemed hopeless and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the expanding Ottoman empire would soon be sweeping over the continent, which was already beginning to bicker  over  visions of Christianity. 

     The Turks were ready to surround Italy and from there swoop down, spread over Europe, enslave, behead, and wipe out Christianity altogether. Pope Pius V, a very spiritual Pope (whose name Padre Pio was given when he entered the Capuchin order and whose feast day he always celebrated) had his heart and mind filled with worry and prayer to save Christian Europe from what appeared its imminent fall. With the 22-year old Don John of Austria, who would lead the Christians, he put together a coalition of European Catholic maritime states called The Holy League, which included Spain, Portugal, Genoa, Naples, Venice and the Papal States, and he asked the Catholic nations to pray the Rosary for the success of the impending clash. The Rosary was a popular prayer -- "the beads went through one’s fingers as regularly as the blood through one’s body, as regular as heartbeats and the breathing of the lungs," -- and the Catholics willingly complied.  tp://www.nationalreview.com/article/218921/remembering-lepanto-michael-novak 

     The sea-battle took place in the Gulf of Lepanto, where the Turkish forces were harbored. It was going to be ship against ship, but the Turks had near a hundred more ships than the Christians -- some records quote 280 Turkish, 212 Christian. The two fleets could see each other advancing from two miles apart. "Clouds of arrows" shot forth from the Turkish ships, but Don John of Austria had brought into the battle six new ships with a weapon of surprise not seen before and puzzling the Turks -- cannons. The cannons demolished and sank the Turkish ships they hit. 

     By most accounts the battle lasted some four hours. Do not fail to read the National Review articles by Michael Novak in the links below, with graphic, evocative descriptions. One can almost see the thousands of men fighting on the ships' slippery floors, the large splotches of blood floating on the sea.

     At the time the battle was taking place, Pope Pius V in Rome was seated at a meeting. He suddenly, somehow, knew something, and rushed to the window. He looked out beyond the horizon and knew without doubt (a vision, some say) that over a thousand miles away the battle had been won by the Christians. As I quoted in my previous blog, www.first.padrepiosworld.net/page22.php--

    [Pius V] never rested till he united the forces of Venice, Spain, and the Holy See ... He ordered public prayers and increased his own supplications to heaven. On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, he was working with the cardinals when suddenly, interrupting his work, opening the window and looking at the sky, he cried out, "A truce to business, our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army." He burst into tears when he heard of the victory ... In memory of this triumph he instituted for the first Sunday of October the feast of the Rosary, and added to the Litany of Loreto the supplication "Help of Christians"... He left the memory of a rare virtue and an unfailing and inflexible integrity, and was beatified by Clement X in 1672, and canonized by Clement XI in 1712.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12130a.htm

     As a result of the miraculous Battle of Lepanto, Pope Pius V instituted October 7th as Our Lady of Victory, which later became Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrated every year by the Church. We have just passed September 11th again, the 16th anniversary. I have heard a few people on radio say they were tired of the long ceremony of names, although they were certainly in deep sympathy. But it was in that year of 2001 that our own Battle of Lepanto began.

     The Towers that came down before our eyes were not Christian forts, but they represented the western world of Judeo-Christian precepts, the world we still live in. That is why we must hold on to the memory of those who were killed on that day. And . . .

     . . .to the memory of the Christian world at the time of Lepanto; it would have been exterminated on October 7th, 1571 but for Pope Pius V, Don John of Austria, the thousands of courageous Christians and their leaders who fought the savage battle, and the faithful who prayed the powerful weapon, Our Lady's Rosary.

     In the words of G.K.Chesterton, who wrote an acclaimed poem about the battle, "Lepanto"

                          And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,

                         And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.

     Padre Pio said his "real mission" would begin after he was gone. It surely includes the Christian world. He also repeatedly said that the Rosary was his weapon. We can see what he means; he prayed throughout the day, even while hearing confessions, and throughout the night, when getting only fragments of sleep. We know for sure that he stopped the spread of Communism in his own southern area -- and we can be sure he did it with the Rosary that was always in his hand. We are not Padre Pios, but we can finger our Rosaries anywhere and send the Hail Marys to the frontline.

     Lepanto tells us that much can be accomplished with our own surprise weapon -- cannons of Hail Marys. Lepanto should be our rallying cry.

   Lepanto. . . His Kingdom Shall Have No End

The Battle of Lepanto: unknown artist, late 16th century

Pius V by Palma il Giovane

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