September 25, 2020

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Families can call on Mary’s help in fighting life’s battles

Sean GallagherMy love of history and of the Catholic faith come together in October, which the Church has observed for centuries as the month of the rosary.

That’s because this observance is linked specifically with the Battle of Lepanto, a naval conflict between hundreds of ships of the Ottoman Empire and those of countries in western Europe.

It took place on Oct. 7, 1571, off the western coast of Greece at a time when the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim country based in present-day Turkey, was seeking to expand its territory into western Europe.

The Ottoman forces easily outnumbered the Europeans in the battle. Yet the European coalition scored a stunning victory, bringing to a decisive end the Ottomans’ western expansion.

Pope St. Pius V played a critical diplomatic and financial role in assembling the European coalition, which was called the “Holy League.”

In addition to rallying the military might of various European countries, he also spread forth the faithful’s spiritual forces on the eve of the battle. Churches across Rome remained open, and Pius called on the faithful to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through praying the rosary.

Additionally, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who had appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico 40 years before the Battle of Lepanto, was on the flagship of the European forces during the conflict.

After the Holy League’s victory, St. Pius declared that Oct. 7 be observed in the Church as the feast of Our Lady of Victory, which was later re-named Our Lady of the Rosary. The Church continues to celebrate this feast today at the end of the first week of the month of the rosary.

Maybe the background story of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary isn’t of interest to people who don’t have a penchant for history like I do. But it can still encourage Catholic families nearly 450 years after the Battle of Lepanto. That’s because all of us, and perhaps especially Catholic families, are engaged in spiritual battles every day.

The growing secularization and commercialization of our culture stands squarely against the Gospel values that Catholic parents are called to live out and instill in their children.

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged families in many ways. The greater togetherness that families have experienced in a time of social distancing can bring about emotional and relational struggles. On the other hand, the pandemic has often kept families apart at important moments like funerals, first Communions, birthdays and baptisms.

Finally, the incivility and divisiveness can often rule the day in social media, and political discourse has taken its toll on families as well.

In the face of all these forces arrayed against them, Catholic families might lose hope, thinking that they’re woefully outnumbered like the European naval forces were at the Battle of Lepanto.

But the light of hope can always be found, even when life is at its darkest, when we call on the help of our Blessed Mother. Her love for us is a sweet consolation, and her prayers for us wield great power in our daily spiritual battles.

Trust, then, in Mary’s care for your family and have confidence that she can lead us to victory here and now just as she has done for her children throughout the centuries. †

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