On Saturday, October 7, up to one million Poles are expected to line the country’s border to pray the rosary. They will be joined in prayer by many others in Poland and throughout the world.
This extraordinary display of public faith is perhaps not imaginable in any other country in the 21st century — but it has a specific purpose and takes place on a profoundly significant date.
Encouraged by the nation’s Catholic bishops, the mass rosary is to pray for “the country’s salvation” and takes place on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, fought in 1571. Why pray the rosary on the border for the “salvation” of the nation of Poland? The answer has everything to do with the date chosen for the event and the battle it commemorates.
It is a sad and perhaps telling fact that most college graduates would not be able to provide any information about the Battle of Lepanto; most would probably say they’ve never heard of it.
Considered by many historians to have been the greatest naval battle in human history, the victory of the Christian forces, or the Holy League, over the Islamist forces of the Ottoman Empire saved Western civilization, it can be argued.
Aboard the ships of the Christian navy were an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Empress of the Americas, and the great novelist Miguel de Cervantes, among other Christian religious items. The victory was by no means assured; in fact, the Turks had greater strength and looked poised for victory.
If the Christian ships failed in their endeavor, Christian Europe and the entire civilization it had spawned would have been lost to an Islamic dark age that might never have been defeated.
In Rome, Pope Pius V, who would be later canonized a saint, asked Christian Europe to pray the rosary. He begged the help of the Mother of God to save her people from the enslavement of the followers of the prophet of Islam.
Ordinary people feel they’re being ignored — and that truth-telling is outlawed.
On October 7, 1571, the battle commenced. Miraculously, the Turks were defeated and 15,000 Christian slaves were freed from their shackles aboard the Turkish vessels. When news reached Pope Pius, he ordered that the church bells ring across Rome and proclaimed the day the “Feast of Our Lady of Victory” — later known as the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
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The European Union — that sclerotic and despotic body that seeks to govern a “United States of Europe” despite the overwhelming desire of the people to remain as nation-states — is threatening the nations of Poland and Hungary with severe penalties unless they accept thousands of immigrants.
After the invitation of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for all who wished to “come on down” and repopulate Europe, the flood of migrants from mainly Muslim countries is changing the entire demography of Western Europe. Hardly a week goes by without a terrorist attack in France, Belgium, or the U.K. Indeed, so frequent are the attacks that the recent mortal stabbings of two French women in the city of Marseilles barely registered as a headline — it is, as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said, merely part of life now in a big Western city.
The nation of Poland, the nation of Hungary, and the nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic do not accept that the Christian heritage of Europe, defended for centuries and costing the blood of countless heroes, can be so easily and casually surrendered. The Polish prime minister, Beata Szydlo, speaking to European leaders, told them to “rise from your knees, from your lethargy, or you will be crying over your children every day.”
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary and one of the most outspoken champions of the Christian culture of Europe, described Europe’s response to the massive influx of migrants as “madness.” He pointed out the politically incorrect truth that most of the migrants were Muslims, adding that “Europe and European culture have Christian roots. Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?”
Europe said Pope Francis is suffering from a “vacuum of values” and yet, intriguingly, every time there is a terrorist attack the mantra is repeated, ad nauseam, by vacuous politicians that the terrorists will not “destroy our values.”
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European values are Christian values — or they are no values at all. The reality is that the totalitarianism of secular liberals, both in Europe and in the U.S., is fueling the rise of the extreme right. When championing the Christian culture and heritage of Europe is condemned as “hate speech” and in the name of tolerance and diversity actual hate preachers use the texts of the Koran to incite violence and bigotry, it is not surprising that ordinary people feel they’re being ignored — and that truth-telling is outlawed.
Poland is not willing to commit cultural suicide. Nor are the other countries that suffered under the oppression of atheistic Communism and recognize a clear and present danger better than the lazy and spiritually vacuous West. The “spirit of Lepanto,” which once saved Europe, is rising again in the East — and it might be the only hope of salvation for the West.
Fr. Benedict Kiely is a Catholic priest and founder of Nasarean.org, which is helping the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.