Pastor’s Column October 6-7, 2018
Our Lady of the Rosary and Respect Life Sunday
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
On October 7, 1571, a fleet of the Holy League, which was a coalition of European Catholic maritime states arranged by Pope Pius V, financed by King Philip II of Spain, led by John of Austria, with the Republic of Venice contributing most of the ships, inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Muslim Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, marking the turning point of the Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean. Almost like a World War fought on the seas, it was the largest naval battle in Western history and was the last major engagement of the Western world fought almost entirely between rowing vessels called galleys. The fleet of the Christian alliance consisted of 206 galleys which was manned by 40,000 sailors and oarsmen. In addition, it carried approximately 20,000 fighting troops. The Ottoman force had 222 war galleys with 37,000 oarsmen many of whom were captured Christian slaves, 13,000 experienced Turkish sailors, and 34,000 soldiers. Despite a numerical disadvantage, at the end of the battle the Christians had taken 117 galleys and sunk or destroyed some 50 other ships. About 10,000 Turks were taken prisoner, and thousands of Christian slaves were rescued. The Christian side suffered around 7,500 deaths, the Turkish side about 30,000.
The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. Pope Pius V instituted a new Catholic feast day to commemorate the battle, which was originally known as Our Lady of Victory and which is now celebrated on October 7th as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The Rosary remains a powerful weapon in our fight against evil which is needed now more than ever. In addition to being the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, this Sunday is also Respect Life Sunday. This year’s theme is Every Life Cherished, Chosen and Sent. Our Old Testament reading from the Book of Genesis speaks of how God created woman to be a suitable partner for man, and in our Gospel reading Jesus teaches that “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh … Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” And later we hear that Jesus became indignant when his disciples tried to prevent the children from coming to him and said, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
But rather than respecting life, we live in a time that Pope St. John Paul II liked to call a culture of death. Today we see traditional marriage under attack and the dignity of human life discarded. Unborn children are destroyed through abortion, and ill people are encouraged and assisted to take their own lives. And during these last years and months, even we in the Church have lived through difficult situations, among these abuses of sex, power and conscience on the part of clergy, consecrated persons and lay people. Added to these are internal divisions in the Church. Certainly all of these are abetted by the evil spirit. But the essence of our human identity is that we are created in God’s image and likeness and loved infinitely much by Him. Nothing can diminish the priceless worth of any human life. Every person is indeed cherished, chosen and sent.
During this month of October, our Holy Father Pope Francis asks us and all the faithful for a greater effort in our personal and community prayer. He invites us to pray every day the Holy Rosary with the intention that the Virgin Mary help the Church in these times of crisis, and to pray each day to St. Michael the Archangel that he defend us against the attacks of the Devil. At all the Masses this weekend we are distributing a prayer card titled The Rosary, My Daily Devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. Please take it, and pray the Rosary often!
-- Fr. Bob