On this date, October 7, in 1571, Turkish invaders, intending to begin a massive assault on Europe, were defeated and stopped in the naval Battle of Lepanto, off the Greek coast. Months before, the Pope, Saint Pius V, fearing what a Turkish conquest would mean to Christian Europe, began an intense campaign of prayer of the Rosary to stop this invasion.
The day of the battle arrived. Turkish forces slightly outnumbered the European allies, who called themselves “the Holy League.” From the outset, the Turks were winning — until something unexpected happened: the wind changed! At that point, the forces on both sides reported that they saw Our Lady in the sky. The course of the battle changed dramatically, and the Christian forces were victorious. The Pope, being in Rome, went into a trance while in a meeting, and when he emerged from his vision, he said to those around him, “Our forces have been victorious.”
Convinced that it was through Our Lady’s intercession, in thanksgiving, the Pope instituted this feast we celebrate today, calling it “Our Lady of the Rosary” and “Our Lady of the Victories!” It’s about how Our Lady truly is the Mother of the Church. She journeys with us in the life of the Church and in our personal lives to bring us to Christ — she has given us the Holy Rosary to help us walk with her on the way of the Lord in very concrete ways.
There’s a detail I love in this story: the Christian forces were losing – until the wind changed! The wind changed! Something surprising and simple that changed everything!
When we follow the ways of the Lord with our Mother Mary’s help, we will find that His ways are not always easy, but they lead us to life, often with surprising simplicity and beauty —and always in love!
But how do we learn to follow the ways of the Lord? Our Lady has given us the Holy Rosary as her “School,” as Saint John Paul II called it, to help us to follow Jesus, to lead us on this path of life! Today and all through this month of the Holy Rosary, let’s renew our commitment to the Holy Rosary.
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About Father Jim Phalan, C.S.C.
Father James Phalan, C.S.C., is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary as part of the Family Rosary team. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!