On Saturday, October 7, we celebrated the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
And on Friday, October 13 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the final appearance of Our Lady in Fatima.
Those two celebrations speak to us of the guidance of Mary through the ages.
Pope St. Pius V established the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1571. At that time, the Ottoman Empire’s navy dominated the Mediterranean Sea and threatened an invasion of Italy. Pope Pius V persuaded the leaders of the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Venice, and Genoa to join their naval forces, along with his, under the leadership of Don John of Austria. This combined fleet confronted the fleets of the Ottoman Empire outside a Greek port called Lepanto on October 7. During the weeks leading up to the battle, Pope Pius V asked Catholics throughout Europe to pray the Rosary for the defense of their lands. And, with the skill of the Christian offices, the courage of their soldiers, a sudden shift of winds at the last moments, and the seemingly inexplicable escape of many Christian captives who were forced to row Ottoman ships, Don John won a spectacular victory that ended the threat to Europe by sea. Pope Pius V then established this memorial so that Christians would continue to recognize the guidance of Our Lady through all of the threats and storms of life.
Three and a half centuries later, the powers of Europe, ignoring the pleas and warnings of Pope Benedict XV, entered into the colossal fight now called World War I; they were quite confident in their plans to dominate the future. In the third year of that war, and as America was just entering, Mary appeared to three shepherd children from a small village in Portugal, which all of the experts thought would play little role in the 20th century. She gave them a message that repentance, prayers (especially the rosary), and reverence for the Eucharist and the Church, would be the path to a better and more peaceful world. On October 13, she then gave to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered outside of Fatima the image of the dancing sun pouring forth many colors upon earth without blinding those who saw it. And, during the century since then, prayer, penance, Mary’s intercession, and the Eucharist, have guided the Church with the beautiful rays of grace through the cataclysms that shook and often destroyed the earthly powers.