As I mentioned last time, October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The rosary is not only a favorite prayer of many Catholics, it is a powerful weapon in an arsenal for peace in our especially troubled times. On 7 October 1571, the decisive Battle of Lepanto was won. In it the Catholic forces of Spain and Italy fought against the invading Turkish fleet in what was considered the battle for Europe. It was the last battle at sea that involved galley slaves at the oars of the great ships going into battle. Christian slaves in the galleys powered the Moslem ships. The Catholic ships were powered by the rosary. As the Turks howled and yelled their battle cries, the men on the Catholic ships continued the recitation of the rosary. The Christian forces were at a terrible disadvantage and Pope St. Pius V knew it; he, therefore, called upon all of Europe to pray the rosary to prevent the Islamic invasion of Europe. At the time of the victory, the Pope, who was miles away in Vatican City, rose from a meeting and with tears in his eyes, went to the window to announce the news that the fleet was victorious and encouraged thanksgiving to God. The feast that developed was first called Our Lady of Victory, and has subsequently been changed to the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. It is a focus of this month.
Also of interest, however, is today’s anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. You will remember that Our Lady appeared to the three children at Fatima in Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months (May thru October) in 1917. Blessed Pope John Paul II was shot on 13 May 1981. After his recovery he went on pilgrimage to Fatima to give thanks to Our Lady and had the bullet that could have killed him placed in her crown. Yesterday, during his Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted the youth of the world to Our Lady of Fatima in honor of this anniversary so that they might respond to God’s call in their lives.
It is interesting to note further that the city of Fatima was named after the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter since Islamic forces once occupied Portugal. The Prophet once remarked, when speaking of his daughter: “She has the highest place in heaven after the Virgin Mary.”
Mother Mary is held in high esteem in the Islamic world. It is not by accident that She holds such sway—God has ways that are mysterious to us. Another time we will consider one of those great Marian mysteries that is a little bit closer to home: Our Lady of Guadalupe—yet another Islamic appellation for Our dear Mother.
Our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II and our current Pope Benedict XVI are once again calling us to arm ourselves with our Mother’s weapon of peace: the holy rosary. She will prevail upon her Divine Son for peace and justice in our troubled and fretful world. She has done so in the past, she will do so again. Pray the rosary for peace!
… and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.