THE VICTORY OF LEPANTO, GAINED BY THE CHRISTIAN ARMY AGAINST THE INVADING FORCES OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE IS THE IMMORTAL VICTORY NOT ONLY OF CHRISTIANITY; BUT ALSO THE POWER OF PRAYER, SINCE POPE PIUS V, TOGETHER WITH ALL THE FAITHFUL, WAS PRAYING MANY ROSARIES AT THE SAME TIME.
“…During the whole of his pontificate, [Pope Pius V] ceased not to organise the Christian forces to overcome the Turkish power, which at that time had reached its greatest splendour. To such end, he called for prayers and penitential processions, which he personally took part in, notwithstanding his labours and pains caused by his sickness. ‘For many day – says the Cardinal of St Severina – the Holy Father abstained from every external occupation in order to attend to prayer alone.’ And God began to reward the zeal of His Vicar with miraculous facts. These prodigies happened so frequently, that Soliman, aware of the physical and moral cures wrought by the penances of the Holy Father, was heard to exclaim: ‘I fear more the prayers of this Pope than all the soldiers of the Emperor.’
Being thus assured in advance of heavenly assistance, St Pius took up wholeheartedly the organisation of the Crusade. In the final days of the year 1570 all seemed to be compromised, all lost; but then in the month of July 1571 the Holy Alliance was drawn up and on the horizon could be glimpsed the dawn of the great day of Lepanto.
This masterpiece of diplomacy was the work of one man who was not a politician but a Saint and who had never wished to be involved in politics. To bring peace between Venice and Spain was something which seemed impossible, seeing that Spain dominated almost all the rest of Italy and which tolerated, with gritted teeth, the Republic of the Adriatic which dominated the sea. But the Pope, by means of long and difficult labour, was able to do it, and thus on September 15th 1571, the Christian fleet, under the command of Don John of Austria and of the legate Mark Anthony Colonna, sailed from Messina to fight the Turkish fleet.
On the morning of October 7th, the fleet was in the vicinity of the Gulf of Lepanto… [T]hey doubted not the victory and so great was the faith they had in the prayers of St Pius V, that when the wind, which had firstly been against them, changed direction, directing the smoke of the gunners towards the Turks, they took it as a prelude to the divine assistance and as a heralding sign of the fulfilment of the prediction of the Holy Father… Just before midday they prepared themselves for battle which lasted for several hours, until at last the Christian fleet was completely victorious.
It was almost five o’clock in the evening when the battle ended. On October 7th 1571, at the same hour, St Pius, who after the departure of the fleet had redoubled his penances and prayers, was examining with some of the Prelates the accounts of Bussotti, his treasurer. All of a sudden, almost as if by an irresistible impulse, he arose, went to the window and fixed his gaze towards the East as one in ecstasy. Then, returning to the Prelates, his eyes shining with a divine light, he said: ‘Let us do our business works no more – he said – but rather go to thank God. The Christian fleet has obtained the victory.’ He took leave of the Prelates and went immediately to the Chapel, where a Cardinal, having heard the happy news, found him immersed in tears of joy.
The Holy Father Pius V attributed the triumph of Lepanto to the intercession of the Virgin and wanted the invocation ‘Auxilium christianorum, ora pro nobis’ to be added to the Litany of Loreto, establishing a feast in honour of Our Lady of Victories on October 7th.”
– The above are excerpts of the article entitled “The Pope of the Rosary and the Victory of Lepanto” published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly magazine for monasteries), Year VII, Number 5, May 2013.