Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (and October is the month of the Rosary). This feast was first known as Our Lady of Victory, for it commemorates the great victory of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. As C.N.A. explains:
On October 7, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the yearly feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Known for several centuries by the alternate title of “Our Lady of Victory,” the feast day takes place in honor of a 16th century naval victory which secured Europe against Turkish invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe.
The feast always occurs one week after the similar Byzantine celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, which most Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics celebrate on October 1 in memory of a 10th-century military victory which protected Constantinople against invasion after a reported Marian apparition.
G.K. Chesterton wrote a narrative poem about this day:
White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.
The topic for October is: “In Defense of Christendom: The Battle of Lepanto”
For centuries, Christian lands had been attacked and gobbled up by Islamic conquerors. The Holy Land, Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Africa, even Spain. As if things could not get worse, the Turks then conquered the Anatolian Peninsula. In 1453 the Byzantine capital city of Constantinople fell into Islamic hands, where it remains even today known as Istanbul. By the 16th century the Turks were pressing into the European heartland, determined to take that too. Until God intervened through a great pope -- Pope St. Pius V, who called for a final Crusade and for the Rosary to be prayed throughout Europe -- and a great warrior -- Don Juan of Austria, who was appointed by the Pope to lead the Holy League in battle against the attackers. Learn about this amazing battle and period of history and its continuing importance today.