Due to the recent Battle of Britain commemorations the speeches of Winston Churchill have entered the album charts. One speech given by Churchill in the Commons, on June 18 1940, and recorded later that day for broadcast, stated that "upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation". This sentiment was echoed by Pope Benedict on his state visit to Britain, when he praised Britain's stand "against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society". Of course Hitler's war machine was not the first, nor sadly the last, threat to Christian society.
In the late sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire was on the point of breaking into Western Europe. In 1570 the island of Cyprus was occupied by Ottoman forces. The Christian Mediterranean powers formed a Holy League, to aid the Venetian defenders of Cyprus. Alas the the fleet was not assembled in time to save Cyprus. Nevertheless a naval showdown in the western Mediterranean between the forces of Christendom and the Turks was inevitable. On October 7th the battle took place. A victory for the Ottomans, who had been invincible at sea for over a century, would give them access to Western Europe and a clear road to invade Rome. The stakes were very high for the people of Europe. Pope Pius V, a Dominican and devotee of the Holy Rosary, turned to the intercession of Our Lady and arranged a rosary procession in St. Peter's Square on the day of the battle. Before the Christian forces engaged, the sailors recited the Rosary with the Papal Legate. Five hours later the Turkish fleet had been defeated and the threat of Muslim forces over-running Western Europe subsided. Pope Pius became miraculously aware of the victory and ordered a solemn Te Deum to be sung at St. Peter's. This victory changed the geopolitical balance. It stopped the Muslim advance into Western Europe and has often been seen as the beginning of the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire.
The Pope instituted "The Feast of Our Lady of Victory" to commemorate the success of the Holy League's naval victory. Over time the name of the feast has been changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. This seems rather apt. Whilst the victory is a good thing, what is more important is the faith that brought it about. The use of the rosary was not and is not a superstitious magical ritual. It is an act of faith. It is entering into the life of Mary and pondering on the Incarnate Word. The rosary is Marian prayer but only because it focuses on Christ. The mysteries of the Rosary allow us to kneel at the manger, hear the Kingdom proclaimed, stand and the foot of the Cross and see the risen Lord. Once again Christian civilization is under attack, not now from a military threat but from indifference. We have forgotten the Christian roots of our civilization and instead replaced them with idols such as liberalism, consumerism, nationalism, socialism, and gaiaism. May we pray through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary that Europe may once again turn it eyes to Truth and to the Christian faith .
Our Lady of the Rosary,
Pray for Us