Non virtus, non arma, non duces…
It was not courage, not arms, not leaders…
sed Maria Rosari, victores nos fecit.
but Mary of the Rosary that made us victors.
“Non virtus, non arma, non duces, sed Maria Rosari, victores nos fecit.” “It was not courage, not arms, not leaders, but Mary of the Rosary that made us victors.” These words were written on a panel and placed in the meeting chamber of the Venetian senators following the Catholic armada’s defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the naval battle of Lepanto, which took place on this day in 1571. This important victory for Christian Europe was the result of prayer and courage – prayer by the Pope, Pius V, and the kings and peoples of the west, and the courage of those nations who, not distracted or indifferent to the advances of the Ottoman forces, were willing to heed Pius V and join his alliance (The Holy League) and go into battle. They understood that they had everything to lose if they met with defeat, and so, lead by Pope St. Pius V, they stormed heaven by praying the Rosary.
Today we are in no less need of prayer, courage, and holiness.
Today millions of Poles joined together in an organized Rosary campaign asking God to protect and preserve their country and their Christian heritage. They haven’t forgotten history. They understand, having suffered grievously throughout the centuries, and particularly in the last century, the supreme importance of remaining faithful to the Christian values and morals which are an inherent part of their culture, and not just their own, but of Europe and the West. Sadly, many today have no idea what has been lost in the turn from God-centered Christian values to the self-centered Enlightenment ideals which place self at the center of the universe. But, just as at Lepanto the Catholic army was outnumbered, our numbers don’t matter as much as our fidelity. The only thing each of us have control over today is ourselves – our own behavior, our own actions, our own response to God’s grace. The fruit of our own personal holiness will be grace for the world, but we can leave that part to God’s Wisdom.
The call to prayer and penance which Pope St. Pius V put forth to all the faithful is the same thing Our Lady of Fatima asked us for 100 years ago in Portugal. World War I was underway, and she warned that if we didn’t heed her message a worse war would follow, many would be lost. The recipe for victory hasn’t changed since Our Lord’s Crucifixion, it is always the same, it is always following in His footsteps along the way of the Cross: prayer and suffering, prayer and penance. We can only join in His Resurrection if we first imitate Him in His suffering and death. If that seems overwhelming or impossible, don’t be discouraged. We can begin today to follow these mysteries of His Life through meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, where we enter Our Lady’s school of holiness and learn from the one who first (and most closely) followed the Savior in all the sufferings and joys of His earthly life, to the glories of His Resurrection. As we are conformed more and more to Our Lord through the motherly care of Our Lady we will find ourselves victorious, too, over sin, satan, and everything that keeps us from carrying out the Will of God in our lives.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
There is a great account of the Lepanto battle here, which includes some interesting details which we hadn’t heard before.