Saturday, October 06, 2012
Our Lady of Victory (Homily)
Tonight I offered Mass at Our Lady of Victory Parish on the west side of Cincinnati. As tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (the newer name), it is a feast for the parish, superseding the Sunday observed by everyone else. That means different readings as well.
In short, my friend the pastor snookered me into having two homilies to write for this weekend!
Oh well, it gave me a the privilege of preaching about this noteworthy feast. Here's the homily I gave tonight. (I'll be there again at 8 am tomorrow, then back to Saint Rose for 10:30 am Mass.)
What is this feast we celebrate today?
This involves a trip into history.
If you remember the Bulwinkle cartoon,
they had a “Wayback machine.” Let’s step in!
We go back to the year 1571, 431 years ago.
Not only did our nation not exist, the first settlement—
at St. Augustine, Florida, wouldn’t happen for another 11 years.
But Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East
were embroiled in what might, in later years,
have been termed a “world” war.
At the center of the war was the superpower of the day,
the Muslim, Ottoman Empire, which was expanding
at the expense of Christian nations
of north Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The Ottoman Empire, at this time,
Dominated the Middle East, North Africa,
and already owned a huge chunk of Europe--
and was preparing to gobble up another big bite:
most likely Italy and Germany.
With its navy holding sway over the Mediterranean Sea,
it seemed nothing could stop them.
That is why Pope Saint Pius V felt it necessary
to join with as many Christian princes of Europe
to form a “Holy League” to defeat the menace.
By the way, if you are interested
in reading more about these times,
may I suggest you check out Louis de Wohl,
who wrote two books about the battle,
and the hero, Don John of Austria.
De Wohl wrote dozens of such books,
and they are terrific fun to read,
all about heroes and battles and great moments in history.
In our day, when we send off our armed forces,
the President will give a speech to Congress.
Then, the pope made various entreaties to the people of Europe,
asking them to make holy hours, and to recite the Rosary.
The morning of October 7, the pope himself
was praying the rosary in the basilica of Saint Mary.
What he did not know—could not know—
was that the Christian fleet, hundreds of miles away,
had engaged the Turkish navy in battle,
off the coast of Greece, in the Gulf of Lepanto.
This was the Battle of Lepanto,
and it happened on this very day.
The Christian forces prevailed;
and by a miracle, Pope Pius, far away in Rome, knew it instantly.
In gratitude to our Lady,
he declared this day “Our Lady of Victory”—
which later was changed to Our Lady of the Rosary.
But if you know anyone who has played football,
they like that title, “Our Lady of Victory.”
The readings are all about victory—
the victory the Lord won, for us, over sin and hell.
The first defeat came in the Garden, so long ago.
When the time was right, God sent Gabriel to Mary,
to ask her help—just as Pius V asked her help, 1,500 years later.
Whenever we ask Mary’s help, she always says “yes.”
Today we face some battles every bit as intimidating
as what Don John and his forces faced at Lepanto.
Make of it what you will, but Christians still face persecution
at the hands of militants acting under the banner of Islam.
Meanwhile, we face increasing opposition
under the banner of secularism
and even, bizarrely, “freedom.”
The “freedom” to destroy an unborn child
and the so-called “freedom” to force Catholic institutions
to pay for contraceptives,
despite that violating our religious liberty.
In Pope Pius’s time, many said that Islam’s victory was inevitable;
his crusade was foolish; he was fighting the inexorable hand of history.
They were wrong;
they didn’t reckon on the power of Our Lady’s intercession
to turn the course of history.
The same thing happened in the 20th century, when at Fatima,
Mary asked the world to pray the Rosary to convert Russia.
People, not so long ago,
said communism was the wave of the future,
there was no stopping it.
The Rosary stopped it—without firing a missile.
Whatever battles we face today—
whether in our society or in our own lives—
we will hear the same voices, telling us to give up.
Yet we have the same weapon, Mary’s Rosary.
And she will win the Victory!