Tuesday, October 7, marks the 443rd anniversary of a key event that kept Europe from being dominated by Islam in the 16th century—-the Battle of Lepanto. This was the last major naval battle fought with ships powered by oars; it was also the largest such battle since the battle of Actium in 31 BC.
March 7th is also the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. This is not a coincidence. Your life may well depend on understanding the connection and getting practical about it.
In 1571 the Ottoman Empire forces were on the warpath, determined to bring all of Europe under Islamic domination. Europe was divided because of the Protestant reformation as well as traditional national divisions and was not responding well to the challenge. Only Pope Pius V seemed to understand its gravity, and thus he mustered the support of enough of Catholic Europe to raise a navy. On October 7 under the leadership of 26-year-old Don Juan of Austria, it met the larger Ottoman force in the Bay of Patras in Southern Greece, west of the port of Lepanto. The Pope realized that the real battle was spiritual and did everything in his power to get everyone in Catholic Europe to pray the rosary for victory so that they could live in peace and not be under rule of Sharia law.
To roughly paraphrase Caesar, Islam came, the Pope saw, the people prayed, and the rosary conquered.
To learn more about this highly important historic event, do an internet search for Battle of Lepanto. The Wikipedia account http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lepanto with all its references is somewhat tedious and difficult to read. A military history account is fairly short and a quick read at http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/navalbattles14011600/p/lepanto.htm. The account at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7391 is very well written. The two I liked the best were http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-battle-that-saved-the-christian-west and http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/olislam.htm. I liked Christopher Check’s article at catholic.com because it gives an excellent explanation of the events leading up to Lepanto. I appreciated Fr. Ladis J. Cizik’s article at EWTN.com because it connects the links between Lepanto, Fatima—both the name and the events in Portugal in 1917, and our Lady’s plea for us to pray the rosary for “world peace, the conversion of Russia, and the conversion of sinners” throughout the world.
The stakes are high once again. A militant Islam is once again on the rise. The headlines feature Iraq and Syria with widespread murder of non-combatants and deliberately provocative beheadings, but the Islamist warfare has been going on for years in the Sudan and currently threatens the existence of the people of South Sudan. The kidnapping of over 200 adolescent girls by the Boko Haram has let us know of something that has been going on for years in Nigeria. If you think the things we read today are bad, wait till you read about the Islamic conquest of Cyprus leading up to Lepanto.
I suppose there are those who think that military force alone will quell the Islamic forces of terror today, but that is simply whistling in the dark. As it was in 1571, the battle is primarily spiritual as well as being physical. I am not belittling the use of military force; I agree with the saintly Pope Pius V that sometimes we need to resort to force.
But I also agree with Pope Pius V and many Popes since then that we have to pray the rosary. Our Lady of Fatima is reverenced by many Muslims. She has a place to play in the search for peace. It is just not at all smart to ignore her request at Fatima for us to pray the rosary every day for peace.
Somehow I get the impression that not a lot of younger people, say those born since 1980 and maybe even since 1960, pray the rosary consistently. If so, what does it take for them to take seriously Mary’s request that we pray the rosary daily for peace? If they think about it, they are the ones who will suffer the most if Islamic jihad continues to grow. So, if there are any of you younger folks who read this, please, please pray the rosary every day.
I know that some folks claim to be bored while praying the rosary. I admit the problem and have tried to make it less of a problem. In my little Seven Day Bible Rosary, you will find a different set of mysteries for each day of the week. You will find a scripture verse before each Hail Mary. There is also a short meditation before each mystery. I find it very helpful; sometimes when I am especially distracted or tired, it is my best bet for praying the rosary that day. For those interested in how the rosary developed historically, there is a short history at www.sevendaybiblerosary.com.
Please. For the benefit of your family and for the benefit of our fellow Christians in other lands, and out of gratitude for our Lady’s visits to Fatima, please pray the rosary every day. It’s our Lady’s request.
John F. Kippley, October 3, 2014