The confrontation between Europe and Islam happened as early as the seventh century.
Arabia conquered the Holy Land, Spain, North Africa and much of the Byzantine Empire.
In 1570 Pope Pius V contacted the chief rulers of the West to unite against an enemy that threatened them and the Catholic church.
The allied states, known as Holy League, was headed by Don Juan of Austria, the half brother of Philip II of Spain.
Giovanni Andrea Doria, a Genoese admiral, carried a picture of an image of Mary. It was sent by Philip II of Spain that was given by the Archbishop of Mexico which appeared on the cloak of Aztec Indians in 1531.
The image was displayed in one of the ships of the Holy League.
The pope sought Mary’s intercession, too. All the soldiers carried their rosaries and the entire people of Europe were asked to pray the rosary.
The ships sailed off from the Sicilian port of Messina on September 16, 1571, for the Battle of Lepanto, off the coast of Greece, at a place now called Naupactos.
The 300 vessels of Islam with 30,000 men outnumbered the Christian fleet. Even the winds in the morning of October 7, favored the Turks that blew their ship forward to the Christian vessels until the wind shifted.
It was said that Pope Pius “supernaturally enlightened,” watched the battle from the Vatican.
At the end of the day, the battle was over. The Holy League lost 8,000 men with 16,000 wounded and a dozen ship destroyed.
On the Turk’s side, about the same number of soldiers died, thousands were captured, 50 ships were destroyed and 117 vessels captured.
Christian slaves who were forced to row the ships surfaced and were freed.
Pope Pius credited the victory of the long Christian resistance to Muslim conquest to the intercession of Mary and “ended any major Turkish attack on the Mediterranean.”
He declared October 7 the Feast of Our Lady of Victory and later changed it to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The Battle of Lepanto was chronicled in Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know by Diane Moczar.
Like the Battle of Lepanto, the defeat of the “formidable flotilla” of Dutch Protestant ships in Manila in 1646, was attributed as “victory for the rosary” by Fr. Jean de Conca, OP, who taught the sailors to pray the rosary in chorus during the encounters.
Christians’ powerful weapon
Angels, saints and divine souls unite to praise God. Our Lord, recommending praying together, said in Matthew 18:20 that whenever two or three are gathered in His name He would be in their midst.
In the 12th century, the religious orders recited together the 150 Psalms in the Bible everyday. Those who were unable to read, made the 150 knots in a string to pray the Psalms which was called the Psalter.
Pope Urban VIII, in Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam in 1626 decreed that every time the rosary is recited in two groups, every participant gains a hundred days extra indulgence.
When one prays the rosary, the merits one gains in praying is equivalent to the number of people in the group.
Saint Louis de Montfort, in The Secret of The Rosary, explained that “when we pray in common, the prayer of each one belongs to us all and these make but one great prayer together.” So when one person does not pray well, the one in the group who prays better make up for the deficiency.
The rosary was revealed to Saint Dominic in 1214, while he was in a forest near Toulose, France, for three days of prayer and penance.
His concern was how to convert the heretical sect of Albigenses, who believe the “duality of good and evil.”
Jesus was considered as a rebel against the cruelty of an omnipotent God. He wept and performed harsh penance, with His body so lacerated that He lapsed into coma.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, accompanied by three angels, appeared and said: “Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?”
Mother Mary said it’s the Psalter or the rosary, which is the “foundation stone of the New Testament.”
The rosary is a gospel prayer that summarizes the redemptive incarnation of Jesus.
Christological in orientation, it includes the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the life of Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 2003, the year of the Rosary, Pope John Paul II added the mystery of light or luminous mystery, which deal with the public life of Jesus.
Each rosary consists of five decades of Hail Mary, prefaced by Our Father and concluded by Glory Be.
Each Hail Mary is considered a rose to form a crown of roses for the Blessed Mother which she returns as a crown of spiritual graces to one who prays the rosary fervently.
At the end of the fifth decade the prayer: “O my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls into heaven, especially those who are most in need of thy mercy,” is a prayer taught by the Blessed Mother to the three children at Fatima in 1917.
The Blessed Mother made 15 promises to those who pray the rosary faithfully, among them, a high degree of glory in heaven.
Damo-Santiago is a former regional director of the Department of Education National Capital Region. She is currently a faculty member of Mater Redemptoris Collegium in Calauan, Laguna, and of Mater Redemptoris College in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.