The Battle of Lepanto on Sunday 7 October in 1571 was not the only military engagement in which widespread praying of the Holy Rosary is believed to have granted victory to Catholic forces. That particular decisive victory for subsequent European history gave rise to the feast we know today as Our Lady of the Rosary, though it was previously known as Our Lady of Victory and the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.
Another such victory was that of Spain in 1646 over the Dutch in the naval conflicts known as the Battles of La Naval de Manila.
The Philippines at that time could only be very poorly defended and the small force of Spanish and Filipino seamen should have been seriously overpowered by the much larger Dutch naval forces sailing from what is now Indonesia, being determined to wrest the Philippines from Spanish control. Yet in each of the five naval engagements in 1646 the Spanish and Filipino seamen managed to repulse the Dutch.
Rosaries were being prayed aplenty and Spanish officers were vowing to offer their homage to Our Lady in the Sto. Domingo Church of the Dominican friars, then located in the walled city (Intramuros), if she would make victory theirs. In that church was the ivory figure we see above, that of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. It was later, in 1652, held by Church authorities in Manila that the victory must have been, in fact, miraculous.
Unfortunately the Sto. Domingo Church in Intramuros was destroyed in aerial bombings during the Second World War, although the figure was saved and stored securely at the (Dominican) University of Santo Tomás.
She got a new home after the Dominicans rebuilt their Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, adjoining Manila, in 1954. Our Lady actually arrived in her new shrine there in 1957. Every year there are novenas, Masses, rosaries and processions for the days leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, when she is also crowned. She is looking well for her approximately 420 years.
Our Filipino Catholic brothers and sisters are very very devoted to our Lord and His mother, as we see each year in their very dedicated participation in such feasts as Santo Niño, the Black Nazarene and this feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila. She is like a most wonderful jewel treasured very deep in their hearts.
Here is a rather nice song written by suitable professionals for the centenary in 2007 of the Canonical Coronation by Pope St Pius X of the image of Our Lady and her Divine Son in Manila, who are both presenting to us the Rosary; actually, they look to us as the Rosary feels to us; they are the truest of kings and queens. A good way, then, to see off October today, Month of the Holy Rosary, and to look forward to next October.
With special thanks to Mr Mario de Guzman of the Philippines, who kindly provided the English translation of the song from the original Tagalog language of the Manila region and nearby provinces on the island of Luzon. I’ve only touched it up minimally. Mr de Guzman mentioned to us that he has very great devotion to the mother of the Lord. He even bears the masculine form of Our Lady’s name. And the surname of St Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. Again, sincere thanks, Mario, dear friend.
A brief word on the composition of the song. It is, of course, very professionally done, in a popular vein. What I particularly like is the evocation in the first two verses of the suffering and woes of us ordinary folk throughout our lives. The refrain (Salamat Maria) goes to the higher notes and expresses a serene, loving mood of deep gratitude for, and confidence in the love and care for us of Christ’s holy mother in our daily trials. Actually, it looks very much like the Memorare.
Sa lawak ng dagat na aking tinatawid
Sa araw-araw na paglusong ko sa buhay
Salamat Maria, sa iyong pagpisan
Kami’y patuloy na magmamahal sayo.
As I cross the vast oceans
Every day as I face life’s challenges
Thank you, Mary, for staying among us;
Thanks to you for all your care for us;
I forgot to mention . . . and pray the Rosary!