Our Lady of the Rosary

On October 7, 1571, Christian forces defeated the Ottoman Turks in a battle at the Port of Lepanto in Western Greece (now called the Gulf of Corinth). Thanks to this great victory, Europe remained a Christian continent.

Pope Pius V had requested that all pray the Rosary for the successful outcome of this battle; moreover, the Christian forces were outnumbered. And so, when the battle was won, led by Don John of Austria, the Pope attributed their victory to Our Lady’s intercession. Thus was born the feast day of Our Lady of Victories, now called Our Lady of the Rosary. More history about the whole event here.

The Battle of Lepanto

The great author G.K. Chesterton wrote a wonderful poem about the Battle of Lepanto; it should be required reading for all Catholics.

By means of the Holy Rosary Our Lady has been victorious in so many other battles as well: most of them personal and spiritual. Regular prayer of the Rosary helps us to overcome our lack of discipline; it helps us to grow in our spiritual lives; it helps us to meditate more effectively; it helps us to root our day in Christ.

In the Holy Rosary we can find healing for our spiritual wounds. Consider the case of Blessed Bartolo Longo. Born a Catholic, but gone astray in college, he eventually became a satanic priest! Through the fervent prayers of his family and friends, and their continual urging him to change his life, he reverted back to Catholicism. But he felt a terrible regret for his satanic past and also a need to make reparation. It was through praying the Rosary – and assiduously promoting this prayer to others – that he found peace and healing.

The Rosary has long been considered a sort of “ladder into heaven”, and indeed, there are some rosaries made in a sort of ladder style to promote that concept. See how Michelangelo depicted this idea in his famous fresco in the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment (completed in 1541):

An angel – traditionally depicted as a strong man – lifts two people into heaven with a Rosary.

Praying the Rosary is not always easy; it takes some getting used to. But we should all try to pray it on a regular basis, if not daily. I have recently written more about this topic here. Some also question if the Rosary is still a relevant devotion, suitable to our times. Cardinal Luciani – later Pope John Paul I – preached a wonderful homily on this topic back in 1973 which is just as valid today.

Everyone should have a decent Rosary – in many families they are heirlooms – that reflects the dignity of the devotion and honors the Mother of God in its beauty. Here is the one that I was given by a family friend for my priestly ordination:

Made from beautiful blue lapis lazuli. I use it most days here in Rome.

I have other rosaries that are special to me: the one that Pope Benedict XVI gave me, my maternal great grandmother’s, etc. And “basic” rosaries (the inexpensive plastic type) are good for travel or for praying while walking outside.

You should have your rosary blessed by a priest. If you haven’t ever had yours blessed, now you have homework.

Should we wear rosaries? They are not jewelry. No.

Should we hang them on our rear view mirrors? I think this is fine, especially when it is accompanied by a prayer that our Blessed Mother protect you as you drive; but if you never pray to her, it’s nothing more than superstition to put one in your car, as if it were some sort of good luck charm. Moreover, if you flail your arms and curse at bad drivers, it’s not a good example to have a Rosary hanging there as you do that – not that you should do it anyway, even without one!

All of the modern Popes have heavily promoted the prayer of the Rosary. Our Lady herself spoke to us about it when she appeared at Fatima. Fr. Peyton conducted for years his famous “Rosary Crusades”, with the slogan “the family that prays together stays together” – thus encouraging the family rosary. In short, you should really pray the Rosary!

Fr. Patrick Peyton promotes the Rosary to a crowd of over 500,000 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1961.

Getting back to the Battle of Lepanto, and since it’s a feast day, maybe you would like to celebrate with a nice snifter of good Spanish brandy? In that regard, I do highly recommend Lepanto, available in fine liquor stores everywhere:

Happy Feast Day!

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