The air is rent with shouted orders, the clatter and clamor of a fleet being prepared for battle. Soldiers and sailor alike prepare themselves, checking the sharpness of weapons, tying off this rope, reefing that sail. But the readiness of the ships is not all that wins a battle. The men know this well. Whispers are heard, in voices ranging from the highest tenor to the lowest bass. Under many breaths strings of Ave Marias are murmured, weaving the many prayers into a rope of roses petitioning up to heaven.
The men are praying the rosary, a prayer old in their time, ancient in ours. Perhaps its earliest roots sprouted from the early Christian’s desire to live holier lives. Upon asking their religious leaders how they could advance in their spiritual lives, they were told to “meditate upon the mysteries of God’s love.” Since telling time was very difficult at the time, they were told to meditate thus for the time it took to pray one Our Father and ten Hail Marys. But even if this was its beginning, it was only after the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic and presented him with a rosary that the practice of praying it daily spread. She promised him that whatever anyone asked through the rosary, it would be granted to them.
It was in this very promise that the afore mentioned warriors were putting their trust. It was well placed. The struggle that they were to take place in against the Turks was the Battle of Lepanto. It fell in their favor, partially due to a miraculous change in the wind, which went from filling the Turkish sails to swing completely around and speed the Christians into battle. The victory was attributed to the men’s reverent prayers to their heavenly Queen. St. Pius the fifth, who had received a vision of the victorious battle even as it was taking place, instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory in honor of her intercession for the Christians during the battle.
Over time, in light of other victories and intercessions, the name of the feast was adjusted and raised to the level of a second-class feast. The Battle of Lepanto was not the only military miracle attributed to the rosary. Many others have occurred all throughout history. From the battle of Muret, at which St. Dominic himself was present, to the Battle of New Orleans, Our Lady has poured out her graces onto all who faithfully use this choice weapon she has provided for us: the rosary. The devotion grew so efficacious that the Church added the invocation, “Queen of the most Holy Rosary, pray for us” to the Litany of Loretto. Truly, our Blessed Mother is always interceding for us. These miracles are not just history, they are happening even today as the Blessed Mother pours her graces out on her children. Her heart is always open to receive our petitions, especially those offered to her through the recitation of the Holy Rosary. It is this feast, in honor of our Lady of the Rosary, that we celebrate today.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!