Know the Power of PrayerLaurence Tiblis
The Power of Prayer
Most of the feast days in our Church celebrate Jesus, Mary, and the saints, but the Feast of the Holy Rosary actually honors an event that dates back to 1571. It shows us the power of the Rosary, especially when the faithful gather to pray for Our Lady’s intercession.
The Fight for Rome
The event was the Battle of Lepanto, and it was a crucial fight to protect Rome from being taken by the Ottoman Empire. Pope Pius V, who was a Dominican, understood that the stakes were far greater than the loss of land or buildings. Losing this battle could well mean the end of Christianity, so he implored all of Christendom to pray for a victory. He kept the churches open throughout the night so people could go in, pray their Rosary, and ask for Mary’s intercession. The soldiers fasted and knelt on the decks of their ships, praying their Rosaries before fighting—and priests aboard the ships offered Mass and Confession. One of the ship’s commanders, Giovanni Andrea Doria, carried a small image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
At midday on October 7, 1571, battle was waged off the coast of Greece. It was “the last major engagement in the Western world to be fought almost entirely between rowing vessels.”1 Approximately 500 vessels were engaged, and the Christian fleet was outnumbered. Initially, the Christian ships were rowing into the wind, facing their formidable opponents.
But then our Blessed Mother intervened, and the wind changed direction. The Christian armada raised their flag, on which a Crucifix was displayed, and what had looked like an impossible fight became a victory. Not only had everyone’s prayers spared Rome, but more than 10,000 Christians who were galley slaves on the Ottoman ships were freed.
Pope Pius, who had prayed the Rosary throughout the battle, attributed the victory to our Blessed Mother’s intercession. He declared October 7 as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, and made the day an obligatory Memorial on the Church’s calendar. In 1716, Pope Clement XI changed the name of the feast to “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
The Fight for New Orleans
Something similar happened on our own shores in 1815. Although the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1814 (which officially ended the War of 1812), news did not cross the Atlantic in time for the British to cancel their attack on New Orleans. On January 8, British ships were poised for battle—armed with seasoned veterans who doubled the size of the American “relatively untrained militia”2 that had few weapons to defend themselves. The British were so assured of their victory, they had already appointed civic officials to rule the city.
But they didn’t realize that the Americans were armed with a greater weapon: prayer to our Blessed Mother. The night before, when the residents of New Orleans learned of the British ships, the people who weren’t going to fight in battle gathered in the chapel of the Ursuline Sisters’ Convent. The sisters took their beautiful wood-carved statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor and placed it above their chapel entrance. The Mother Superior vowed that a Mass in Mary’s honor would be offered every year if Americans were spared. Throughout the night, everyone prayed to the Blessed Mother, begging her intercession. They were still in the chapel the morning of January 8 when a messenger arrived, announcing the triumph of General Andrew Jackson. The Sisters brought the wounded American and British soldiers into their convent and cared for them, and on January 23, 1815, a Mass of Thanksgiving in Mary’s honor was celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral. General Jackson attended and thanked the Sisters for their role, crediting the amazing victory to the prayers they and the people offered. (Jackson visited them whenever he was in New Orleans – even after he became president.)
We needn’t be surprised at these remarkable events. Prayer to Our Lady is powerful. Mary, herself, told us at Fatima to “Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world.” So, even amidst the battles we experience in this life, with Mary, her Miraculous Medal, and our daily Rosaries united for her intercession, we too, will be victorious.
Our Lady of Victory, pray for us. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, pray for us. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, pray for us.
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