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The Battle Of Lepanto

June 11, 2021 Frontpage No Comments


It was the end of Christendom, or so many people thought. The Muslims of the Ottoman Empire were ravaging Europe, taking country after country as they moved further to the West toward their ultimate goal of sacking Rome and destroying the Catholic Church.
It seemed that Christian forces had one desperate final play, which was to defeat the Ottoman Empire at Lepanto, immediately off the coast of Greece. If the Muslims won the Battle of Lepanto, there would be nothing stopping them from marching on Rome, capturing the Vatican, and destroying the Holy See — in effect, destroying the Catholic Church.
As forces of the Holy League and the Ottomans gathered for this great naval battle, the Spaniard commander Don Juan could see he was easily outnumbered and out-armed. Understanding defeat would mean the end of Christendom and slavery to the Muslims, Don Juan issued the order that came from the Holy Father, Pope St. Pius V, for every Christian warrior on every ship to pray the rosary, calling upon the Queen of Heaven to save Christianity. Then, on October 7, 1571, as the battle was launched, unimaginable events began. . . .
As the battle proceeded, Pope St. Pius V suddenly paused at what he was doing at the Vatican. With a joyful countenance on his face, he rose and rushed to the balcony window and proclaimed to all the people, “We have won! Our forces have defeated the Turks at Lepanto!”
St. Pius V had been granted a vision of what was taking place by the power of our Lady even as it happened. As the battle began, Ottoman ships began to sink inexplicably. The fleet of the Holy League handily defeated the enemy and saved Christendom. As great a commander as Don Juan was, he was humble enough to know that it was our Lady and the power of the rosary that saved his fleet and the Catholic Church. St. Pius V declared October 7 the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, which we still celebrate today.
The Battle of Lepanto is perhaps the greatest rosary miracle in the history of the Church, but by no means the only one. There are literally thousands of recorded miracles attributed to the Mother of God through her most holy rosary. This is why there is such an emphasis on the rosary in the Church. While not requiring daily recitation of the rosary, the Catholic Church tells the lay faithful that it is extremely imprudent not to pray it daily, and she requires a daily recitation of the rosary for her priests.
Many non-Catholics, though, accuse Catholics of adding something tantamount to paganism by promoting the rosary. They say we deify the Blessed Virgin Mary by praying to her, that the rosary is vain repetition of prayer, and that there is nothing scriptural about the rosary. Contrary to their claims, the rosary is not only scriptural, but its most basic prayers actually come right out of the Bible.
There are three main prayers of the rosary: the Our Father (called the Pater Noster by us and the Lord’s Prayer by Protestants), the Hail Mary (the Ave Maria), and the Glory Be (the Gloria). While the Glory Be isn’t found in the Bible, the concept for it most certainly is. So true is this that not even our detractors among Protestants condemn our use of it. And of course, the Our Father comes right from the mouth of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 6:9-13.
But what of the Hail Mary? This, too, is a prayer directly from Sacred Scripture. Let’s print the prayer here so it is easier to examine phrase by phrase:
“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
At the event the Church calls the Incarnation — that is, when God became man — the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). We’ll get back to the meaning of the greeting another time, but for now we can see that the beginning of the Hail Mary is Gabriel’s greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The next phrase comes from Mary’s cousin Elizabeth when the Virgin Mother of God went to visit her: “. . .and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:40-43). So the last part of the first half of the Hail Mary is also directly from the Bible.
The second half of the Hail Mary is what really sets off our detractors, because we are first calling her the Mother of God and second asking her to pray for us. Even when I was a Protestant I couldn’t understand the complaint about Mary being called the Mother of God, because that is also scriptural. Notice again what Elizabeth asked in verse 43: “And why is this that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” How much clearer could anyone want it?
Detractors complain that we can’t pray to the dead, and they suppose Mary to be dead. Of course, we know that Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven, but let’s discount that for a moment. Jesus said, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). Is it reasonable to suppose that the Christian who prayed for his brethren while on Earth would lose all interest in them once he reaches Heaven? If He is the God of the living, and those souls in Heaven are certainly alive, then praying to those who live with God in Heaven is certainly justified — especially when we pray to Mary!
And what are we asking Mary to do when we ask her to pray for us? We’re asking to pray to her Son for us and our needs right now, and for the moment when we die so we can have the graces of final perseverance. Again, I fail to understand why our detractors have a problem with this. As a Protestant Fundamentalist, I never attended a worship service that didn’t include a time for praying for the needs of congregants and their families and friends. If we who are imperfect and laden with sin can pray for one another, why should anyone balk at the idea of asking those who are perfected and closer to Jesus in Heaven to pray for us as well?
Mary was our Lord’s best and most obedient evangelist and disciple on Earth, and she continues to be so now from Heaven. She intercedes for us today just as she did at the Battle of Lepanto, and just as she did for the newlyweds at the wedding feast at Cana in the second chapter of John. And that is what the rosary is all about.
It’s occurred to me recently that I haven’t spent nearly enough time talking to you about the Blessed Virgin Mary, so I’m going to devote the next several weeks to write about the Mother of God and the Mother of us all. Hopefully I’ll do her justice so you can understand what we believe and why we believe it.
If you have a question or comment you can reach out to me through the “Ask Joe” page of, or you can email me at
Hey, how would you like to see things like this article every week in your parish bulletin as an insert? You or your pastor can learn more about how to do that by emailing me at

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