Victory at Lepanto and the Rosary

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/10/10 at 12:00 AM
  • Last Tuesday the Church celebrates the victory of the Catholic naval fleet over Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. That autumn the Catholic Church and all of Europe was facing its most menacing enemy, and the very fate of Christendom was hanging in the balance.
  • Marauding Muslim Turks had been advancing from the East for several years. At this point in history they controlled most of Northern Africa and the Middle East, and the Turks had their eyes set on Venice and the whole of Europe.
  • The Catholics, led by the famous Don Juan, were seriously outnumbered. But Don Juan had something the Muslims didn’t have. He had the blessing of the pope; the help of Jesuit, Dominican and Franciscan chaplains who accompanied the fleet; the prayers of the faithful; and rosaries for all of his men going into battle.
  • Early on the morning of October 7, 1571, the battle of Lepanto began. And throughout the day, in the church of St. Mary Major in Rome, Pope Pius V prayed the Holy Rosary with the Christian faithful for the Catholic naval fleet, imploring our Lady for victory over the Turks.
  • By early afternoon the battle was over. With a loss of only 7500 men, the Catholics – against all odds – emerged victorious, and today, October 7, became known as the feast day of Our Lady of Victory. The Turks were vanquished, and Europe was saved from militant Islam.
  • Later this feast was renamed in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, as it was because of thousands of people praying the Rosary that this victory was secured. It is for this reason that the month of October is especially dedicated to the Holy Rosary.
  • Sadly, Christendom is not done fighting! More enemies abound, and we have more battles to fight today, especially against atheistic secularism. Seeking to excise all religion from public life, secularists are waging what some have described as a “war on God.”
  • At its heart this war is based upon a selfish and proud refusal to submit to a higher authority, much like the non serviam uttered by satan so long ago. Nowhere is this battle more apparent than in issues concerning marriage and the procreation of new life.
  • Not only do secularists refuse to recognize the God-given nature and purpose of marriage and the marital act, and not only do they seek to redefine marriage and the marital act according to their own selfish desires and whims, but they also want the freedom to destroy the beautiful fruit of marriage and the marital act: human life. This is perverse. This is evil!
  • Both our first reading and our Gospel today talk about marriage. Our first reading from Genesis speaks of how it is not good for man to be alone, and how a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
  • In doing so, this passage from Genesis, which is repeated by our Gospel, provides the very foundation for the Church’s teaching on marriage and the conjugal act.
  • As Catholics we believe that marriage and the conjugal act go hand-in-hand and are not to be separated. The marital act is sacred; it’s a holy act of love. Because it is so sacred, the conjugal act is not something we can just enter into as we please and with whom we please.
  • On the contrary, it’s an action that carries serious responsibilities, and thus it should only be entered into by people who have accepted and vowed to live out these responsibilities together: namely a man and a woman who are married to each other.
  • You see, the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children, and the secondary purpose of marriage is the intimate, exclusive, and indissoluble unity of the couple.
  • These fundamental purposes are most perfectly realized in the marital act. Thus, neither purpose should ever be divorced from the marital act because doing so distorts the purpose of the act and breaks down the marriage.
  • Because the primary purpose of marriage and the marital act is the procreation and education of children, we can see that in God’s design, the creation and protection of human life and the institution of marriage are inextricably bound up together.
  • Human life is meant to be created and nurtured within the context of a family, which is naturally formed through marriage. Therefore, we must do everything we can to protect the sanctity of marriage and resist anything that corrupts a traditional understanding of marriage.
  • But we have to do more than just protect the traditional understanding of marriage to protect human life. In today’s society we must also fight the very grave evil of abortion.
  • Since 1973 when abortion was legalized in our country, more than 50 million babies have been aborted in the U.S., and currently 22% of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion (cf. Guttmacher Institute, August 2011 report). Truly, this is the greatest shame of our country.
  • Abortion is a very difficult issue emotionally because so many of us have been affected by it in one way or another. As a priest I’ve heard scores of confessions in which women and men have confessed to this terrible sin. The pain of this sin runs so very deep. But please know that God’s mercy runs deeper!
  • And so I must say: if you have been involved in an abortion in some way and haven’t yet confessed it, please do so. Please come to confession and receive forgiveness. If you are sorry, God will forgive you. So fear not! God wants to give you His mercy!
  • Abortion has also become a tricky political issue in our country because abortion supporters have been successful in framing this issue in terms of a woman’s right to determine if and when she will be mother, and Americans tend to place great value on personal rights.
  • Abortion supporters have also succeeded in categorizing abortion as a form of health care. But honestly I don’t care what President Obama, Hilary Clinton, Kathleen Sebellius, or any other abortion supporter say. Simple logic tells us that ripping an unborn child limb by limb from his mother’s womb is not health care!
  • Moreover, while women may have legal rights to an abortion, women do not have a moral right to kill their children. While abortion is a choice that is currently protected by US law, it is always in every circumstance a wrong choice, an evil choice, and must never be condoned.
  • Thus, abortion is something we must fight! We do this through our prayer, through our fasting, through peaceful demonstration and protest, and through voting for pro-life officials.
  • As this year is an election year, this last way of battling abortion takes on greater importance. While the Catholic Church does not explicitly tell us whom to vote for in any given election, Holy Mother Church does provide principles for us to follow in the voting booth.
  • Specifically, the Church says that when it comes to voting, we must first look to those issues that deal with that which is most important: life, specifically: abortion, same-sex unions, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia.
  • These issues are of the highest importance because they are all intrinsically evil acts, and therefore as Catholics we cannot support candidates who promote or support these evils. To do so is to be complicit in their sins.
  • Moreover, while issues such as health care, immigration reform, and the economy are important and may certainly have a moral dimension to them, they must not be accorded greater value in our decision-making than the life issues because they do not deal with intrinsic evils. They are important, but not as important as the issue of life.
  • So my brothers and sisters, I urge you to study up on the candidates and their positions. And do the right thing by voting only for the viable candidates that best protect life.
  • Let us do this so that life in all its form may be protected and defended, that evil may be exposed and eradicated, that truth and goodness be defended, and that God may be praised.
  • May our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary aid us and intercede for us in this battle for the protection of all human life.

7 October 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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