Homily for October 7, Our Lady of the Rosary
Four hundred and forty years ago today, the ships of the Christian European “Holy League” faced off against the naval forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire at the battle of Lepanto. If the Holy League lost, the Turks would have dominion over the Mediterranean, and they would sail onwards in their conquest of Europe. The future of Christianity in the western world was at risk. Thus, Pope Pius V asked Christians throughout Europe to pray the Rosary for a Christian victory. The ships of the Christian fleet bore a banner honoring Mary, and one of the admirals carried with him an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The battle lasted for five hours, and when it was over, the Holy League’s fleet had won a decisive victory. In honor of the occasion, Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory, which is now called Our Lady of the Rosary, and we celebrate it today, on the anniversary of the battle. It is because of this celebration that October is considered the “month of the Rosary”.
We all face our own battles, the greatest of which is our personal struggle to reject sin and embrace a life of holiness through self-sacrificing love of God and neighbor. This may not seem as important as a battle for the future of Europe, but our personal spiritual battles truly are of great and eternal significance for our own salvation and for all those whose lives we touch. We should never try to win these conflicts alone. We need someone to strengthen us, protect us, and stay at our side. Of course, God is always with us, but He also likes to work through human instruments.
The Virgin Mary, who remained free from sin all her life, and gave birth to the Savior who crushed the head of the serpent, Satan, is always there to intercede for us in heaven. We have but to ask in order to receive Her help. She needs little convincing; her Son died for us, and gave us to her in His own place, so she loves us as her own children. One “Hail Mary” can often be enough to help us feel Her assistance. However, Christ teaches us to persevere in prayer, and more prolonged prayer can increase our desire and readiness to receive God’s gifts. It also helps us to contemplate the mysteries of God’s goodness. It is in this spirit that we pray the Rosary, with it’s repetitions and mysteries. It continues to be a powerful form of prayer that can help us through difficult times in our life, as it helped the Christians in the battle of Lepanto.
May Mary be close at our side this month and all year round, and may we always remember to turn to Her for protection and intercession as we fight our daily battles to free our souls of sin and spread Christ’s kingdom in our hearts and in our world.