It was in the year 1571. St. Pius V. sat in the chair of St. Peter, and with a gentle firmness ruled the Christian world. The aim of his life as Pope had been to promote peace and harmony among Christian princes and to spread the kingdom of God on earth. He well knew the dangers to which the Church was exposed, and hence, like a faithful shepherd, he kept constant watch lest the wolf should enter the fold. And he had good reason to be on the alert. As he stood in the watch tower of the Vatican, his vigilant eye scanning the horizon, he beheld in alarm and almost dismay a dense cloud appearing. As it drew nearer and nearer it grew in density till it well nigh obscured the light of the sun, and threatened to burst and deluge the earth with another flood.
Selim the Second, the conqueror of the unruly Turks, was in the noon-day splendor of a victorious reign. His onward march had suffered no serious check, and the dead lay strewn in his wake like the wheat that the scythe of the reaper has laid low. And now he turned his haughty eye towards Christendom, and he swore a terrible oath. He swore to subjugate the Christian world —dethrone its Christ and place Mohammed in His stead: “The cross shall fall, and in its place the crescent shall proclaim that Christ is dead and Allah is our God.” Onward he rushed with his Moslem host like a cloud that portends a deadly and destructive storm. The Mediterranean Sea was covered with his fleet. Greece and Hungary had capitulated, and he descended upon the Island of Malta. But his first attempt was defeated by the heroism of the Grand Master of the Knights, La Valette. Enraged at this defeat and mad with the desire of revenge, the Turks attacked the Island of Cypress and sated their fiendish rage in torrents of human blood. A Christian legate was sent to treat with their commander. He was spurned and spat upon and taunted with the words: “Where is now your Christ, and why does He not free you from our hands?” They treated him with a cruelty too barbarous to describe, until death came to his relief. The last words on his dying lips were: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lu. xxiii, 24).
And now Pius V. sounded the note of alarm. He called upon the princes of the Christian world to rally round the standard of the cross and fight to save their altars and their homes. But, sad to say, there were but few who volunteered to stem the tide of Moslem invasion and save the Christian world. Only the Venetians and the Spaniards came and joined their forces with the little army of the Pope. Don Juan of Austria was placed in chief command. Prayer and fasting were prescribed throughout the world, and the Sovereign Pontiff himself, like another Moses on the mount, stretched out his arms in fervent supplication that God might lend His aid to those who were battling in a righteous cause.
At sunrise, on the 7th of October, 1571, the Turkish fleet was drawn up in battle array in the form of a crescent, the emblem of Mohammed. They numbered in all 254 galleys and 84 ships of every class. At the sight of this terrible array the commander of the Christian forces raised his standard aloft and displayed a picture of the Redeemer of the world. “Christian soldiers,” he cried out, “you are come to fight the battle of the cross, to conquer or to die. But be the issue victory or death, do your duty well and win a glorious immortality.” Then, falling on their knees, they begged the God of armies to assist them and crown their efforts with success. They closed in on the Turks, and the terrible battle began. For six long hours it raged with fury and with dreadful loss. For a time it looked as though the Turks would win. The left wing of the Christians began to yield; eight galleys of Venetians were sunk, and the right wing was in imminent danger. But suddenly the tide of victory turned. In the very heat of the conflict the two flagships were engaged in a fierce encounter. Twice the Christians were driven back, but in a third attempt, the Turkish commander fell. Ali Pasha was slain and his head raised aloft on a Christian galley. The defeat of the Turks was complete and the power of Mohammed broken. Two hundred and ten Turkish galleys were either captured or sunk. Twenty-five thousand infidels were slain and twelve thousand Christian slaves were freed from the Turkish galleys. The Christians had lost fifteen galleys and eight thousand men.
On the very day of the famous battle Pope Pius was holding a council with his advisers in Rome. Suddenly he rose up, went to the window and gazed intently toward the sky. Then closing the window he turned towards the Cardinals and said: “This is no time to talk of business; let us go and give thanks to God in His temple; our arms have just been blest with victory.” And the Holy Pontiff, shedding tears of joy, fell on his knees in his oratory and poured forth the gratitude of his heart to his good and bountiful Lord. A few days later it was learned that at the very same hour the Christians had defeated the Turks and the cross of Christ had triumphed over the crescent of Mohammed in the Gulf of Lepanto. In gratitude for this signal victory Pope Pius decreed that throughout the Christian world the Feast of the Holy Rosary should be solemnized on the first Sunday of October, and to the litany of the Blessed Virgin he added the invocation: “Help of Christians, pray for us.”
Christian reader, this remarkable incident speaks for itself. It were superfluous to point out the lessons it should teach. But while wreathing the garland of roses for the fair brow of the Mother of God, for this we do when we “tell our beads,” remember that “the arm of God is not shortened”; it is as strong to-day as in the days of long ago, and
When clouds of adversity gather,
And hope to all seeming has fled,
Pray God with more earnest pleading,
He will help you, for so He has said.
THE LOYAL CATHOLIC -SOME TOPICS OF INTEREST
TO THE DEVOTED SONS AND DAUGHTERS
OF HOLY MOTHER CHURCH
By the Rev. Cornelius J. Warren, C SS. R.(1912)
¶ Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.
For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. (Mt:7:7-8)
The suppliant who prays fervently is wont to repeat over and over again words which come from the depth of the heart. Our Lord did this on Mount Olivet ; David in (Ps:136), exclaims no less than twenty-seven times ” His mercy endureth forever,” and St. Francis of Assisi spent whole nights repeating : “My God and my all.” The devout servants of Mary used to address her frequently in the words of the archangel, adding one Ave Maria to another, as one places roses in a wreath.
The hermits of the first centuries, who could not read the psalter, used to recite one Our Father and one Hail Mary in the place of every psalm; and in order to note the number they had said, they made use of small stones, or of seeds strung on a cord. St. Dominic was the first who made the custom general of substituting one hundred and fifty Hail Marys for the one hundred and fifty psalms; hence the rosary used to be called the Psalter of Mary. When, about the year 1200, the heresies of the Albigenses wrought great mischief in the south of France and the north of Italy, St. Dominic was commissioned by the Pope to preach in refutation of their erroneous tenets. His efforts availed little, and he besought the aid of the Mother of God. She appeared to him, and bade him make use of the rosary as a weapon against her enemies. He accordingly introduced it everywhere, and before long it had effected the conversion of more than a hundred thousand heretics.
The use of the Rosary soon spread throughout Christendom, and it became a most popular devotion. It is a method of prayer at once simple and sublime; the prayers are so easy that a child can repeat them, and the mysteries. are so profound that they supply a subject for meditation to the most learned theologians. It is a prayer of contemplation as well as a prayer of supplication, for it places before the mind the principal truths of the faith. The Rosary is a compendium of the Gospels; a complete and practical manual of instruction wherein the chief points of Christian doctrine are presented under the guise of prayer. By meditation on the events of Our Lord’s life faith and charity are increased; from the example of our divine Redeemer we learn to be humble, gentle, obedient; we are incited to imitate the virtues which the mysteries teach, to strive after what they promise us.
Moreover the union of vocal and mental prayer makes the Rosary easy, pleasant, and profitable. As a method of prayer it is unrivaled; the longer and more devoutly it is practiced, the more one appreciates its excellence and becomes convinced of its supernatural origin. The Rosary is well pleasing to God, because of its humility, and because it is an imitation of the unceasing song of praise sung by the angels.
The Rosary is the prayer of the humble, for in it well-known truths. are simply stated and constantly repeated. The proud despise it, but God, Who looks down on the low things (Ps:113:6), approves it. It is an imitation of the angel’s song: we read in Holy Scripture that the angelic choirs cry to one another: ” Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; all the earth is full of His glory” (Is:6:3). And when we recite the Rosary, we praise the Mother of God in a similar manner. It is beyond a doubt that this form of prayer is most acceptable to the Mother of God, for when she appeared at Lourdes she had a rosary in her hand. Pope Pius IX unhesitatingly asserts that it is her gift to men, and she loves no other prayer as well.
The Rosary is a most useful devotion, for by it we obtain great graces and sure help in time of trouble; many indulgences are besides attached to it.
The Rosary is a very treasury of graces. Many sinners owe their conversion to it. It possesses marvelous power to banish sin and restore the transgressor to a state of grace. By it the just grow in virtue. All the saints who have lived subsequently to the institution of the Rosary have been assiduous in its use, and this may have contributed largely to their sanctification. Several holy bishops and servants of God are known to have pledged themselves by vow to recite it daily; St. Charles Borromeo, despite the numerous and pressing duties of his position, recited it every day with the seminarists and the members of his household. Blessed Clement Hofbauer was accustomed to say the Rosary while passing through the streets of Vienna, and rarely did he recite it in vain for the conversion of a sinner. It is recorded of several distinguished officers and victorious commanders that they never engaged in battle without first saying the Rosary, and to this they attributed their military successes.
The Rosary has been called “the thermometer of Christianity,” for the reason that where it is diligently recited faith is ardent, and good works are manifest; and where it is neglected religion is at a low ebb. In seasons of general calamity, miraculous aid has been granted to Christendom by means of the Rosary; this was especially the case in wars with the Turks, the victory of Lepanto (October 7, 1571), the deliverance of Vienna (September 11-12, 1683), the Siege of Belgrade (July 4 – 22, 1456) were all owing to the power of the Rosary. It was said that the beads of the chaplet did more execution than the bullets of the soldiers. It was in thanksgiving for these victories that the Holy See instituted the Feast of the Holy Rosary on the first Sunday in October. Pope Sixtus IV declared that many dangers which threatened the world are averted, and the wrath of God is appeased by the prayers of the Rosary.
Our Holy Father Leo XIII. says that, as in St. Dominic’s time the Rosary proved a sure remedy for the evils of the age, so it may now effect much towards the amelioration of the ills that afflict society. Every one who recites the Rosary must feel its supernatural power; there is no prayer which affords more consolation in affliction, more tranquility to the troubled breast. It soothes in sorrow, it imparts the peace spoken of in the Gospel.
Another proof of its excellence is the hatred and contempt wherewith unbelievers regard it. The devil incites them to decry what is a fruitful source of grace to the Christian, and by which souls are wrested from his grasp.
The Rosary has been richly indulgenced by the Holy See, and the recital of it strongly urged upon the faithful. An indulgence of a hundred days may be gained for every Pater and Ave, if five consecutive decades be said, on a properly indulgenced rosary. Our Holy Father Leo XIII. has decreed that every day during the month of October, the Rosary, together with the litany of Loretto, be said in church either during the parish Mass, or in the afternoon, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. For every time of assisting at this devotion seven years and seven quarantines are granted. Pope Pius IX. bequeathed, as a legacy to the faithful, this admonition:
“Let the Rosary, this simple, beautiful method of prayer, enriched with many indulgences, be habitually recited of an evening in every household. These are my last words to you; the memorial I leave behind me.” Again he said: “In the whole of the Vatican there is no greater treasure than the Rosary.”
The Catechism Explained -An Exhaustive Exposition of The Christian Religion
Rev. FRANCIS SPIRAGO (1899)