Category Archives: Prayer

O Sacrum Convivium

One of my favorites….

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
Alleluia.

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.
Alleluia.


-by Br Linus Martz, OP

“If the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324), then it matters how we think and pray about it.  Repeated prayers, such as the Our Father, teach us how to pray (cf. Luke 11:1) through the repetition of familiar words and postures. And so, several times a day, the friars recite the above antiphon, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. How might these words of Saint Thomas Aquinas teach us?

O Sacred Banquet. The banquet is a common image, ideally calling to mind the Wedding Feast in Revelation 19.  In the Mass itself, the priest says, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Still, given present circumstances, we might balk at this opening. It seems too much talk of a meal among friends could reduce the altar of sacrifice to a table, the Sacrament to a symbol, and the supernatural reality to a self-enclosed communion of attendees. Since last year’s poll projected that only a third of U.S. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, we urgently need clear Eucharistic teaching. Haven’t we heard enough about banquets and tables?

First, the O Sacred Banquet seems designed to teach; it’s a mini-creed of Eucharistic faith. In four steps, it clarifies what (or Who) this Sacred Banquet is:

Christ becomes our food. Aquinas writes: “The effect of this sacrament [here, grace] ought to be considered, first of all and principally, from what is contained in this sacrament, which is Christ” (ST III q.79 a.1). Only the doctrine of transubstantiation accounts for Christ’s sermon at Capernaum (John 6:22-59) and his unqualified words: “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26). The memory of his Passion is celebrated. The Mass is a re-presentation, in an unbloody mode, of the One Sacrifice on Calvary, when the same “blood of the covenant” was “poured out” for our sins (Matt 26:27-28). The soul is filled with grace. Through the sacraments the Holy Spirit makes us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:3-4), even in this life. But the pledge of future glory is given to us: while we await “the glory that is to be revealed” (Rom 8:18), we possess here a foretaste of Heaven.

Notably, the O Sacred Banquet puts all four of its verbs in the present tense: through the unique efficacious signs instituted by Christ, past, present, and future are signified, now, for our sanctification (ST III q. 60 a. 3). Again, there’s a whole theology in this one prayer.

Lastly, the “sacred banquet” language is not just a cliché.  Aristotle famously wrote that human friendship takes a certain amount of “eating salt together,” that is, of time and familiarity around a shared table (Nicomachean Ethics VIII.3). But when the Church speaks of the supper of the Lamb, she means primarily our communion with God, which is the basis for (and inseparable from) our communion as believers.

This idea, divine friendship, seemed foolish to the Philosopher. He thought there was such inequality between gods and men that they cannot be friends, and “do not even expect to be so” (Ethics VIII.7). True: God and human beings are not equals. But Jesus has revealed a new vocation for us: “No longer do I call you servants … but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). This charity which He offers, this “friendship of man for God” (ST II-II q.23 a.1), fulfills all true communion in the one Body of Christ.

Because the Eucharistic gift of divine friendship is the source of our human friendship in religious life, we friars need to turn to our Lord with these words throughout the day. But, in today’s world, a more widespread use of this devotion could “teach us how to pray.” It would be a constant reminder of the con-vivium, the life shared between God and man, given to us in this Sacred Banquet.”

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ. . . . They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” –St Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).

“We call this food Eucharist. . . . For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” –St Justin Maryr (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

Love, and His grace,
Matthew

Oct 7 – The Battle of Lepanto


-Battle of Lepanto, by Lucas Valdez (1661-1725), Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena, Seville, Spain, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Christopher Check

Americans know that in 1492 Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue,” but how many know that in the same year the heroic Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the Moors in Grenada? Americans would also probably recognize 1588 as the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Francis Drake and the rest of Queen Elizabeth’s pirates. It was a tragedy for the Catholic kingdom of Spain and a triumph for the Protestant British Empire, and the defeat determined the kind of history that would one day be taught in American schools: Protestant British history.

As a result, 1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval contest in human history, is not well known to Americans. October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrates the victory at Lepanto, the battle that saved the Christian West from defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

That this military triumph is also a Marian feast underscores our image of the Blessed Virgin prefigured in the Canticle of Canticles: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” In October of 1564, the Viziers of the Divan of the Ottoman Empire assembled to urge their sultan to prepare for war with Malta. “Many more difficult victories have fallen to your scimitar than the capture of a handful of men on a tiny little island that is not well fortified,” they told him. Their words were flattering but true. During the five-decade reign of Soleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire grew to its fullest glory, encompassing the Caucuses, the Balkans, Anatolia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Soleiman had conquered Aden, Algiers, Baghdad, Belgrade, Budapest, Rhodes, and Temesvar. His war galleys terrorized not only the Mediterranean Sea, but the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf as well. His one defeat was at the gates of Vienna in 1529.

The Defense of Malta

Malta was an infertile, dusty rock with so few natural springs that the Maltese had to collect rainwater in large clay urns. The island could sustain only the smallest population. Yet this little island guarded the Mediterranean passage from the Islamic East to the Christian West.

From its excellent natural harbors, the galleys of the Knights of Saint John could sail forth and disrupt any Turkish assault on Italy. They could also board and seize Turkish merchantmen carrying goods from France or Venice to be hawked in the markets of Constantinople. The ladies of Soleiman’s harem, who accumulated great wealth speculating in glass and other Venetian luxuries, nagged the sultan to take Malta.

Soleiman had bigger goals than pleasing these matrons, and he knew that, in Turkish possession, the harbors of Malta would afford him a base from which to continue his raids on the coast of Italy. With the greater control of the sea that it would afford him, he would be able to bring Venice to heel. An invasion of Sicily would be possible. Soleiman’s greatest dream, however, the dream of all Turks, the dream his soldiers toasted before setting off on every campaign, was the conquest of Rome. There the Turks could transform Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s, then under construction, into a mosque, just as they had Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia more than a century before.

Although the sultan had led his army on twelve major campaigns, this time his age would keep him home. The Turks sailed for Malta in the spring of 1565, and on May 18, their fleet was spotted offshore. That night, Jean de la Valette, the seventy-one-year-old Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John, led his warriors into their chapel where they confessed and then assisted at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“A formidable army composed of audacious barbarians is descending on this island,” he told them. “These persons, my brothers, are the enemies of Jesus Christ. Today it is a question of the defense of our Faith. Are the Gospels to be superseded by the Koran? God on this occasion demands of us our lives, already vowed to His service. Happy will be those who first consummate this sacrifice.”

Many of Valette’s 700 knights and their men-at-arms did just that. While Europe stood idly by, expecting the fortress to fall, the knights held their island against an Ottoman army of 40,000, including 6500 of the sultan’s elite Janissaries. Three-quarters of the Turkish army were killed over the four-month siege, before the Ottoman survivors turned and straggled back to Constantinople.

Slaughter in Szigetvar

Soleiman was outraged. “I see that it is only in my own hand that my sword is invincible!” exploded the sultan, and by May of the following year he was leading an army of 300,000 men across the plains of Hungary, bound for Vienna.

When the Hungarian Count of Szigetvar, a fortress city on the eastern frontier of the Holy Roman Empire, led a successful raid on the Ottoman supply trains, Soleiman wheeled his massive army and swore to wipe the city off the map. Turkish engineers prepared flotillas and bridges to span the Drava and Danube rivers to lay siege to Szigetvar. To greet the sultan and to inspire his men, who were outnumbered fifty to one, Count Miklos Zrinyi raised a large crucifix over his battlements and fired his cannons in defiance. But Zrinyi knew that in a Hungary infested with Protestantism, hope of relief was even fainter than any the Knights of Malta had entertained the previous year.

For nearly a month, wave after wave of Turkish infantry were thrown back from the walls. Soleiman offered Zrinyi rule of all Croatia if he would yield his city, but he answered, “No one shall point his finger on my children in contempt.”

When the breaches made by the Turkish artillery were too large to defend, the Catholic count assembled his last 600 men. “With this sword” he shouted as he held the bejeweled weapon aloft, “I earned my first honor and glory. I want to appear with it once more before the eternal throne to hear my judgment.” Charging out of the remains of their stronghold, the courageous band was swallowed by a sea of Turks. To the last man the Hungarian knights died defending the Christian West. The Turks, furious at the losses their army had suffered, consoled themselves according to their grisly custom: they slaughtered every Christian civilian who had survived the siege.

Soleiman the Magnificent did not live to witness the massacre. He had died of dysentery four days earlier. Had he survived, however, this victory would have given him no comfort. The capture of Szigetvar was Pyrrhic. The Ottoman army had exhausted itself and was in no condition to carry on the campaign. Though they all died, Count Zrinyi and his heroic band were the true victors.

Back in Constantinople, Soleiman’s son ascended the throne by the usual Ottoman method: a complex harem intrigue designed to eradicate his worthier brothers. Unlike every previous sultan, Selim II, nicknamed “the Sot,” had little interest in warfare. His enthusiasms were for wine, his extraordinarily deviant sexual appetite, wine, poetry, and wine. Nevertheless, he sensed that without a decisive victory, the mighty empire his father had left him would be eclipsed.

The Attack on Cyprus

Selim II invaded Cyprus, the source of his favorite vintage. Half the population were Greek Orthodox serfs laboring under the exacting rule of their Venetian Catholic masters, and they offered little resistance. The Venetian senate was half-hearted about fighting for the island; upon receiving word of the invasion, senate members voted by the very small margin of 220 to 199 to defend it.

The Turks rolled through Cyprus, and after a forty-six day siege, the capital city of Nicosia fell on September 9, 1570. The 500 Venetians in the garrison surrendered on terms, but once the city gates were opened, the Turks rushed in and slaughtered them. Then they set on the civilian population, massacring twenty thousand people, “some in such bizarre ways that those merely put to the sword were lucky.” Every house was plundered. To protect their daughters from rape, mothers stabbed them and then themselves, or threw themselves from the rooftops. Still, “[t]wo thousand of the prettier boys and girls were gathered and shipped off as sexual provender for the slave markets in Constantinople.”

Then God intervened and sent one of history’s greatest popes, St. Pius V, who declared, “I am taking up arms against the Turks, but the only thing that can help me is the prayers of priests of pure life.” Michael Ghislieri, an aged Dominican priest when he ascended the Chair of Peter, faced two foes: Protestantism and Islam. He was up to the task. He had served as Grand Inquisitor, and the austerity of his private mortifications was a contrast to the lifestyles of his Renaissance predecessors. During his six-year reign, he promulgated the Council of Trent, published the works of Thomas Aquinas, issued the Roman Catechism and a new missal and breviary, created twenty-one cardinals, excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, and, aided by St. Charles Borromeo, led the reform of a soft and degenerate clergy and episcopacy.

The Holy League

In a papacy of great achievements, the greatest came on March 7, 1571, on the feast of his fellow Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas. At the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, Pope Pius formed the Holy League. Genoa, the Papal States, and the Kingdom of Spain put aside their jealousies and pledged to assemble a fleet capable of confronting the sultan’s war galleys before the east coast of Italy became the next front in the war between the Christianity and Islam.

The day was not a total triumph, though. Venice refused to join. Though at war with the Turks over Cyprus, the Venetians never failed to consider their economy. They might well lose Cyprus, but a fast peace afterward would lead to the resumption of normal trade relations with the Turks. Moreover, the loss of the Venetian fleet in an all-out battle with the sultan’s galleys would be a disaster for a state so dependent on seaborne commerce. Walking back across the Tiber, the old monk wept for the future of Christendom. He knew that without the galleys of Venice, there was no hope of a fleet strong enough to face the Turks.

The rest of Europe ignored Pius’s call for a new crusade. In fact, the Queen of England, Elizabeth I, through her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, actively enlisted the aid of the Turks in her wars against Spain. France had openly traded with the Turks for years and as recently as 1569 had drawn up an extensive commercial treaty with them. For years the French had allowed Turkish ships to harbor in Toulon, and the oars that rowed Turkish galleys came from Marseilles. The cannons that brought down the walls of Szigetvar were of French design. With Venice at war with Constantinople, markets once filled by Venetian goods were open to France. Redeeming France from utter disgrace were the Knights of Saint John of Malta, who sent their galleys to join the Holy League, eager to do battle with Islam.

As the Pope prayed for Venice to answer a higher call, a new breed of fiery priests led by stirring preachers like St. Francisco Borgia, superior general of the Jesuits, inflamed the hearts of Christian Europeans throughout the Mediterranean with their sermons against Islam. Enough Venetians must have been listening, because on May 25 Venice at last joined the Holy League. By fits and starts, with hesitation and quarreling on the part of a few of the principal players, the fleet of the Holy League was forming.

The man chosen by Pius V to serve as Captain General of the Holy League did not falter: Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the late Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and half-brother of Philip II, King of Spain. The young commander had distinguished himself in combat against Barbary corsairs and in the Morisco rebellion in Spain, a campaign in which he demonstrated his capacity for swift violence when the threat called for it and restraint when charity demanded it.

He was a great horseman, a great swordsman, and a great dancer. With charm, wit, and good looks in abundance, he was popular among the ladies of court. Since childhood he had cultivated a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He spoke Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, and kept a pet marmoset and a lion cub that slept at the foot of his bed. He was twenty-four years old.

Taking the young warrior by the shoulders, Pius V looked Don John of Austria in the eye and declared, “The Turks, swollen by their victories, will wish to take on our fleet, and God—I have the pious presentiment—will give us victory. Charles V gave you life. I will give you honor and greatness. Go and seek them out!”

The Death of Bragadino

In late summer of 1571, as Don John was making his way to the harbor at Messina to take command of his fleet, the situation on Cyprus was growing more desperate. The Venetian colonists had claimed the lives of some 50,000 Turks with their intrepid defense of Famagusta, but when their gunpowder and supplies were exhausted, when they had eaten their last horse, their shrewd governor, Marcantonio Bragadino, sent a message to the Turkish commander, Lala Mustafa, asking for terms. The Turks agreed to give the remaining Venetian soldiers passage to Crete on fourteen Turkish galleys in exchange for the surrender of the city. The Greek Cypriots would be allowed to retain their property and their religion.

On August 4, 1571, Bragadino, with a small entourage including several young pages, met with Mustafa and his advisors in the Turkish general’s tent. Mustafa lecherously demanded Bragadino’s page, Antonio Quirini, as a hostage for the fourteen galleys. When Bragadino calmly refused, he and his men were pushed out of the tent by Mustafa’s guards. Bragadino was bound and forced to watch as his attendants were hacked to pieces. The pages were led off in chains. The Turks thrice thrust the Venetian governor’s neck on the executioner’s block and thrice lifted it off. Instead of his head, they cut off his nose and ears. To prevent his bleeding to death, they cauterized the wounds with hot irons.

The Venetian soldiers of the garrison, unaware that Mustafa had broken the terms of the surrender, began their march down to the galleys, expecting passage to Crete. Once aboard, the Venetians were set upon by Turkish soldiers, who stripped them of their clothes and chained them to the oars. From their benches they witnessed some of the horrifying ordeal to which the Turks now subjected Bragadino.

First the Turks fitted the governor with a harness and bridle and led him around the Turkish camp on his hands and knees. Ass panniers filled with dung were slung across his back. Each time he passed Lala Mustafa’s tent he was forced to kiss the ground. Then he was strung up in chains, hoisted over a galley spar, and left to hang for a time. Finally, the courageous governor was dragged into the city square and lashed to the pillory, where the Turks flayed him alive. Witnesses said they heard him whispering a Latin prayer. He died “when the executioner’s knife reached the height of his navel.” The diabolical orgy did not end there. Mustafa had the governor’s skin stuffed, hoisted it up the mast of his galley, and joined the Ottoman fleet headed west.

Don John Takes Command

As Bragadino was losing his life to the Turkish monsters, Don John was inspecting his ships. Of the 206 galleys and 76 smaller boats that constituted the Holy League fleet, more than half came from Venice. The next largest contingent came from Spain, and included galleys from Sicily, Naples, Portugal, and Genoa, the latter owned by the Genovese condottiere admiral, Gianandrea Doria. Not only was Doria renting his services and the use of his ships to Philip at costs thirty percent higher than Philip paid to run his own galleys, he was lending the money to the Spanish king at fourteen percent! The balance of the galleys came from the Holy See.

Don John took charge of his fleet and promptly forbade women from coming aboard the galleys. He declared that blasphemy among the crews would be punishable by death. The whole fleet followed his example and made a three-day fast.

By September 28, the Holy League had made its way across the Adriatic Sea and was anchored between the west coast of Greece and the Island of Corfu. By this time, news of the death of Bragadino had reached the Holy League, and the Venetians were determined to settle the score. Don John reminded his fleet that the battle they would soon engage in was as much spiritual as physical.

Pius V had granted a plenary indulgence to the soldiers and crews of the Holy League. Priests of the great orders, Franciscans, Capuchins, Dominicans, Theatines, and Jesuits, were stationed on the decks of the Holy League’s galleys, offering Mass and hearing confessions. Many of the men who rowed the Christian galleys were criminals. Don John ordered them all unchained, and he issued them each a weapon, promising them their freedom if they fought bravely. He then gave every man in his fleet a weapon more powerful than anything the Turks could muster: a Rosary.

On the eve of battle, the men of the Holy League prepared their souls by falling to their knees on the decks of their galleys and praying the Rosary. Back in Rome, and up and down the Italian Peninsula, at the behest of Pius V, the churches were filled with the faithful telling their beads. In Heaven, the Blessed Mother, her Immaculate Heart aflame, was listening.

In the quiet of night, Don John met with his admirals on the deck of his flagship Real to review once more the order of battle. He had divided his fleet into four squadrons. Commanding the squadron on his left flank was a Venetian warrior named Agostin Barbarigo. The center squadron was commanded by Don John, assisted on either side by his vice admirals, the Roman Marcantonio Colonna, and the Venetian Sebastian Veniero. Directly behind the center squadron, Don John stationed the reserve squadron, commanded by the Spaniard Don Alvaro de Bazan, the Marquis of Santa Cruz. The right squadron was under the command of the Genovese Gianandrea Doria. Arrayed for battle, the mighty armada of the Holy League looked like nothing if not a Latin Cross.

Doria, despite his mercenary motives, had been the source of sound tactical counsel.

“Cut off the spars in the prows of the fleet’s galleys,” he told Don John. Galleys had been equipped with bow spars or rams since the days of Salamis. “This will permit the centerline bow cannons to depress further and fire their rounds at the waterline of the enemy hulls.” Don John’s famous order to remove these spars was a signal moment in naval warfare, heralding the age of gunpowder.

Doria also advised taking the League’s six galleases and stationing them in the van, two before each of the three forward squadrons. A galleas was a large, multi-decked, Venetian merchant galley that had been outfitted with cannons not only on its bow, but also along its port and starboard sides. Where an ordinary galley was most vulnerable, a galleas packed heavy firepower. Don John increased their lethality by packing the decks with Spanish shooters (arquebusiers), bearing their handheld, smoothbore, heavy guns. Though slow moving, these six galleases would provide a powerful shock at the start of the battle.

Doria was an admiral, but he was also a shipowner. He looked at Don John, raised his eyebrows, opened his palm, and offered, “There is still time, your grace, to avoid pitched battle.”

The young Captain General stood surrounded by men older and with greater seafaring and military experience than he. Silence filled the small stateroom as these men waited to hear his response. He caught their eyes, each one of them, as he looked around.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “The time for counsel has passed. Now is the time for war.”

The Divine Breath

It was. At dawn on October 7, 1571, the Holy League rowed down the west coast of Greece and turned east into the Gulf of Patras. When the morning mist cleared, the Christians, rowing directly against the wind, saw the squadrons of the larger Ottoman fleet arrayed like a crescent from shore to shore, bearing down on them under full sail.

As the fleets grew closer, the Christians could hear the gongs and cymbals, drums and cries of the Turks. The men of the Holy League quietly pulled at their oars, the soldiers stood on the decks in silent prayer. Priests holding large crucifixes marched up and down the decks exhorting the men to be brave and hearing final confessions.

Then the Blessed Virgin intervened.

The wind shifted 180 degrees. The sails of the Holy League were filled with the Divine breath, driving them into battle. Now heading directly into the wind, the Turks were forced to strike their sails. The tens of thousands of Christian galley slaves who rowed the Turkish vessels felt the sharp sting of the lash summoning them up from under their benches and demanding they take hold of their oars and pull against the wind.

Don John knelt on the prow of Real and said a final prayer. Then he stood and gave the order for the Holy League’s battle standard, a gift from Pius V, to be unfurled. Christians up and down the battle line cheered as they saw the giant blue banner bearing an image of our crucified Lord.

The fleets engaged at midday. The first fighting began along the Holy League’s left flank, where many of the smaller, swifter Turkish galleys were able to maneuver around Agostin Barbarigo’s inshore flank. The Venetian admiral responded with a near impossibility: He pivoted his entire squadron, fifty-four ships, counterclockwise and began to pin the Turkish right flank, commanded by Mehemet Sirrocco, against the north shore of the Gulf of Patras. Gaps formed in Barbarigo’s line and Ottoman galleys broke into the intervals. As galley pulled up along galley, the slaughter brought on by cannon, musket ball, and arrow was horrific, but the Venetians in time prevailed. Barbarigo took an arrow to the eye, but before he died he learned of the death of Sirrocco and the crushing defeat of the Turkish right line.

In the center of the battle, breaking a convention of naval warfare, the opposing flagships engaged—Don John’s Real with Muezzinzade Ali Pasha’s Sultana. Twice Spanish infantry boarded and drove the Sultana’s Janissaries back to the mast, and twice they were driven back to the Real by Ottoman reinforcements. Don John led the third charge across Sultana’s bloodied deck. He was wounded in the leg, but Ali Pasha took a musketball to the forehead. One of Real’s freed convicts lopped off the Turkish admiral’s head and held it aloft on a pike. The Muslims’ sacred banner, with the name of Allah stitched in gold calligraphy 28,900 times, which Islamic tradition held was carried in battle by the Prophet, was captured by the Christians. Terror struck the Turks, but the fight was far from won.

On the Holy League’s right flank, Doria was forced to increase the intervals between his galleys to keep his line from being flanked on the south by the larger Ottoman squadron under the command of the Algerian Uluch Ali. When the space between Doria’s squadron and Don John’s grew large enough, Uluch Ali sent his corsairs through the gap to envelop the galleys of Don John’s squadron from behind. Don Alvaro de Bazan, commanding the Holy League’s reserve squadron of thirty-five galleys, had carefully kept his ships out of the fray until the moment came when he was most needed. Now he entered the fight, rescuing the center of the Holy League from the Turkish vessels that had surrounded them before turning his squadron south to aid the outmanned Doria.

The fighting lasted for five hours. The sides were evenly matched and well led, but the Divine favored the Christians, and once the battle turned in their favor it became a rout. All but thirteen of the nearly 300 Turkish vessels were captured or sunk and over 30,000 Turks were slain. Not until the First World War would the world again witness such carnage in a single day’s fighting. In the aftermath of the battle, the Christians gave no quarter, making sure to kill the helmsmen, galley captains, archers, and Janissaries. The sultan could rebuild ships, but without these men, it would be years before he would be able to use them.

The news of the victory made its way back to Rome, but the Pope was already rejoicing. On the day of the battle, Pius had been consulting with his cardinals at the Dominican Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. He paused in the midst of their deliberations to look out the window. Up in the sky, the Blessed Mother favored him with a vision of the victory. Turning to his cardinals he said, “Let us set aside business and fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God, for he has given our fleet a great victory.”

SIDEBARS

Interesting Facts about the Battle

  • A young contemporary of Don John’s, Miguel Cervantes, fought with abandon and lost his left hand to a Turkish blade. With his remaining hand, he later penned Spain’s greatest novel, Don Quixote.
  • On another galley, a soldier of the Holy League, his soul torn with despair, took his sword to the ship’s crucifix. The blade instantly shattered. Many years later, an attempt to re-forge the sword was made, but when the new blade was pulled from the fire, it fell to pieces.
  • The crucifix on board the Real, which twisted itself to avoid a Turkish cannonball, is displayed in a side chapel of the cathedral of Barcelona.
  • Gianandrea Doria carried on his galley a gift from the king of Spain, an image that is now displayed in the Doria chapel in the cathedral in Genoa. Exactly forty years before the battle of Lepanto, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a peasant boy leaving a miraculous image of herself on his smock. The bishop of the region immediately commissioned an artist to paint five copies of the image, and he touched each one to the original. Our Lady of Guadalupe was present at Lepanto.

Timeline for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

  • In thanksgiving for the victory at Lepanto on the first Sunday of October 1571, Pope St. Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the Rosary should be made on that day.
  • At the request of the Dominican Order, in 1573 Pope Gregory XIII allowed the feast to be kept in all churches with an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary.
  • In 1671, the observance of the feast was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain.
  • Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on August 6, 1716, the feast of our Lady of the Snows, at Peterwardein in Hungary.

Other Feasts That Celebrate Military Victories

  • May 24, Our Lady Help of Christians, commemorates the defeat of one of history’s greatest generals (and most wicked men), Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • August 6, The Transfiguration of Christ, was extended to the Universal Church by Pope Calixtus III to celebrate legendary Hungarian general János Hunyadi’s victory over the Turks at Belgrade in 1456. This feast has great significance for Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic churches.
  • September 12, the Holy Name of Mary, celebrates the victory of John Sobieski and his Polish warriors over the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

Further Reading

  • Lepanto by G. K. Chesterton (Ignatius, 2004)
  • The Galleys at Lepanto by Jack Beeching (Scribner, 1983 – out of print; used copies available online)
  • Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know by Diane Moczar (Sophia Institute, 2006)

Prayer to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, in these times of such brazen impiety, manifest thy power with the signs of thine ancient victories.

From thy throne whence thou dispense pardon and grace, mercifully regard the Church of thy Son, His Vicar on Earth, and every order of clergy, religious, and laity, who are oppressed in this mighty conflict.

Thou who art powerful, the vanquisher of all heresies, hasten the hour of mercy, even though the hour of God’s justice is every day provoked by the countless sins of men, the sons and daughters of Adam.

Obtain for me, the least of men, kneeling before thee in supplication, the grace I need to live righteously upon earth, in order to be numbered among the just in heaven.

In the company of all faithful Christians throughout the world, I salute thee and acclaim thee as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary pray for us.

Amen
(indulgence of 500 days; Raccolta, no. 399)

Love,
Matthew

The scandal of the rosary – how many times do you say to someone you love, “I love you!”

Teenage boy praying with a rosary

The point is not repetition. We know the prayers. Repetition is boring and pointless.  Mt 6:7.  We contemplate the mysteries of the rosary recalling moments in the life of the Lord on each decade.  We intentionally distract the senses through giving the fingers, the lips, the cerebrum something simple, repetitious, to do to focus contemplation and prayer, like chant.


-by Edward Sri

“For many non-Catholics, the rosary can be quite perplexing, even scandalous. In this prayer, Catholics recite five sets of ten Hail Marys. Each set, called a “decade,” is introduced by the Our Father and concluded with praise of the Holy Trinity in the Glory Be. From an outsider’s perspective, the score at the end of each decade seems to be:

God the Father: 1

The Holy Trinity: 1

Mary: 10

Looked at this way, the rosary seems to be primarily about Mary. At best, this repetitive attention to Mary can seem unbalanced, distracting us from a relationship with Jesus Christ. At worst, this prayer may seem idolatrous, treating Mary as if she were more important than God.

But the Hail Mary is centered on Jesus Christ, and the rosary, far from being unbiblical, is actually a beautiful scriptural way of praying that leads us closer to Him. In his apostolic letter on the rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II emphasized that this prayer is meant to focus our attention on Jesus Christ:

“Although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed (RVM 26).”

God’s Own Wonderment

The opening of the Hail Mary is drawn from the words the angel Gabriel (and later her relative Elizabeth) used to greet the Mother of the Messiah.

In awe that the Almighty God he has worshiped from the beginning of time was about to become a little baby inside Mary, Gabriel greeted the chosen woman from Nazareth with wonder over this profound mystery: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Similarly, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and given prophetic insight into this Child’s identity. In response to the profound mystery of Christ taking place inside Mary’s womb, she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42). These words focus not on Mary herself but on the mystery of the Incarnation taking place inside her. In fact, John Paul II noted that every time we pray the Hail Mary, we participate in “the wonder of heaven and earth” at the mystery of God becoming man. Gabriel represents the wonder of heaven, while Elizabeth represents the wonder of earth.

When we repeat Gabriel’s and Elizabeth’s words, we participate in the joyful response to the mystery of Jesus Christ—the mystery of God becoming man. You can’t get much more Christ-centered than that!

As John Paul II explained:

“These words . . . could be said to give a glimpse of God’s own wonderment as He contemplates His masterpiece—the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary. . . . The repetition of the Hail Mary in the rosary gives us a share in God’s own wonder and pleasure: In jubilant amazement we acknowledge the greatest miracle of history (RVM 33).”

As a model disciple of Christ, Mary consented to God’s will when the angel Gabriel appeared to her (Luke 1:38), and she persevered in faith throughout her life (John 19:25–27; Acts 1:14). When we say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” we ask Mary to pray for us to be faithful in our walk with the Lord, every day. She is the ideal person to intercede for us, to pray that we may walk in faith as she did. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

“She prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done” (CCC 2677).”

Jesus Is the Center of Gravity

But at the heart of the Hail Mary is the holy name of Jesus: “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” John Paul II says that Jesus’ name not only serves as the hinge joining the two parts of the Hail Mary but is also this prayer’s “center of gravity.” The Hail Mary leads us to the person of Jesus (Ed. as does Mary!!  Star of the Sea, Ave Maris Stella, the guiding star which navigates us to Jesus!!!  No Mary, no Jesus!!  Know Mary, know Jesus), and at the center of this prayer we speak His sacred name with reverence and with love.

Christ’s name is the only name under heaven through which we may hope for salvation (Acts 4:12). That we can even call upon the name of Jesus is astonishing. In the Old Testament the Jews approached God’s name (“Yahweh”) with so much reverence that they eventually avoided speaking it. Instead, they often used the less personal title “Lord” when calling on God in prayer. But since God entered into humanity in Christ, we have the privilege of calling on the personal name of the Lord: “Jesus” (CCC 2666). Christians throughout the centuries have found in the name of Jesus a source of strength and meditation. As we utter the sacred name at the center of this prayer, the Hail Mary leads us to that divine source.

Vain Repetition?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matt. 6:7–8).”

With Hail Mary after Hail Mary after Hail Mary, the rosary appears to some people to be the kind of repetitious prayer Jesus condemned—a superficial, mechanical way of praying to God that can be boring and empty of life. It is sometimes said to be “vain repetition” rather than true, intimate prayer flowing from the heart. Shouldn’t Christians, some ask, speak openly to Jesus rather than relying on a repetitious formula?

Jesus, though, was not condemning repetitive prayer. Rather, He was criticizing the Gentiles’ practice of reciting endless formulations and divine names in order to say the words that would force the gods to answer their petitions. Magical formulas were not the way to get God to answer prayers. Jesus challenged us to approach our heavenly Father not the way the pagans do their deities but rather in confident trust that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Indeed, He knows what we need better than we do and is providing for those needs even before we realize them ourselves (Matt. 6:25–34).

Moreover, in the very next verse, Jesus gives us a new prayer to recite: the Our Father. Jesus says, “Pray then like this: Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” (Matt. 6:9).

Holy, Holy, Holy

If it were wrong to use repetitive prayers, Jesus certainly would not have done it. Yet in the garden of Gethsemane, He spoke the same prayer three times: “Leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words” (Matt. 26:44). We cannot think of this repetition as anything but heartfelt.

Similarly, in the Old Testament, parts of Psalm 118 are structured around the repeated phrase “His steadfast love endures forever,” and the book of Daniel presents the three men in the fiery furnace constantly repeating the phrase “Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him forever” (Dan. 3:52–88). God looks favorably on their prayers and answers them in their time of need (Ps. 118:21; Dan. 3:94–95).

In the New Testament, the book of Revelation describes how the very worship of God in heaven includes words of holy praise that are repeated without end. The four living creatures, gathered around God’s throne, “never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’”(Rev. 4:8). Although trying to manipulate God by vain repetition is always wrong, proper repetitious prayer is very biblical and pleasing to God.

We may still wonder why there is so much repetition in the rosary. John Paul II noted that it is similar to the “Jesus Prayer” that people have recited for centuries: Christians slowly repeat the words “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us,” often in rhythm with their breathing. Whispered over and over again, this prayer calms the mind so that we may be more disposed to meet God Himself in prayer. It helps us follow the admonition of Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The succession of Hail Marys in the rosary achieves the same purpose. Anyone who prays the rosary knows that the peaceful cadence created by the repetition of the prayers slows down our minds and spirits and focuses our attention so that we can prayerfully reflect on different aspects of Christ’s life.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

On another level, John Paul II encouraged us to think of the repetition of Hail Marys within the context of a relationship of love. I may tell my wife “I love you” several times a day. Sometimes I say these words to her as I am going out the door for work in the morning. Other times I whisper them just before we fall asleep at night. On special occasions, I may write these words in a card. When we are out to dinner, I may look her in the eyes as I say, “I love you.” Although she has heard me repeat these same words to her thousands of times, never once has she complained, “Stop saying the same thing over and over again!”

In an intimate, personal relationship such as marriage, two people may repeat to each other certain expressions of love, but each time the same words express anew the heartfelt affection the people have for one another. Indeed, repetition is part of the language of love.

We have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. By reciting the Hail Mary throughout the rosary, we participate over and over again in the wonder-filled response of Gabriel and Elizabeth to the mystery of Christ. Bead after bead, we ask Mary to pray for us that we may be drawn closer to her Son  (Ed.  who better to ask than the mother of the One Who can grant the favor?  Jn 2:3). And most of all, prayer after prayer, we affectionately speak the name of our Beloved at the very center of each Hail Mary: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . . Jesus . . . Jesus.” The holy name of Jesus, repeated with tender love, is the heartbeat of the entire rosary.”

Love,
Matthew

Prayer is hard work – James 5:16

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16


-by Karlo Broussard

“As many saints have testified, and many Christians affirm, the life of prayer is not a piece of cake. It’s hard work. It requires great effort to keep a prayer routine in the midst our daily activities. It can also be a very humbling experience to be faced with God’s silence in response to our prayer, realizing our requests are sometimes not in accord with His will.  [Ed. or, that His will is that we trust and have faith and all will be made plain.  Even those things we think at the time, the suffering, are His answer to our prayers, but it may take time to see this:  wisdom.  And, His gift, His response is better than anything we could possibly have prayed for then, now, at any time in our lives.  Praise Him!!]

Some choose a life without prayer, because it doesn’t seem reasonable to them to pray in the first place. Questions abound: Why should we pray if God is all-knowing? Doesn’t he know our requests before they are even made? If God were eternal and unchangeable (immutable), then wouldn’t our prayer requests be worthless, since God’s action in response to them would imply a change in God’s mind? And finally, wouldn’t it be more befitting for an all-good and generous God to give benefits without our asking?

God knows all things

With regard to the first question, it’s true that God knows our petitions before we make them. However, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains, prayer is not for God, but for us:

“We need to pray to God, not in order to make known to Him our needs or desires but that we ourselves may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to God’s help in these matters (Summa Theologiae, II-II:83:2).”  [Ed.  He may give us His grace and peace and consolation.  2 Cor 12:9, Jn 14:27]

The continued act of turning our hearts and minds to God in prayer creates within us a habitual disposition of humility, thus dispelling the myth of self-sufficiency. Indeed, that is a good for us.

The immutable God

What about the question of God’s immutability and our prayers changing God’s mind?

It is true our prayer requests cannot change God’s mind. Prayer doesn’t move God to say, “Oh, I didn’t plan on doing this, but now that Karlo has prayed for it, I’ll do it.”

We know this is true because God, who is pure act (Ed.  no potency/potential, no power held back. The universe is because God wills it to be.  If God did not will it to be, it would cease to exist.  The old language would be if God forgot about us, we would cease to be.), is infinitely perfect. There is no perfection He can acquire or lose, which would have to be the case if God “changed his mind.” This is why God says in Malachi 3:6, “For I the LORD do not change.”

But if the Lord can’t change, then what is the point of praying?

Perhaps we can shed some light on the dilemma by understanding that God’s providence involves not only willing certain effects to take place but also the causes from which those effects will be brought about—that is to say, God wills a pattern of cause-effect relationships.

Now, the eternal decree that determines which causes will bring about which effects includes human acts. These actions do not change God’s plan, but they are an essential part of it. In the words of Aquinas, “[They] achieve certain effects according to the order of the divine disposition” (Summa Theologiae, II-II:83:2).”

Consider an example. God decreed from all eternity that I would have a fried egg for breakfast this morning. However, this eternal decree also involved the egg being produced in the usual way—namely, my wife cracking the egg (she’s so sweet), putting it into the frying pan, and heating the frying pan on the gas stove. My wife’s actions did not change God’s eternal plan but were willed by God to be a part of the cause-effect pattern.

The same is true with prayer, whether it’s for a miracle or for something as simple as a beautiful day. Prayer is simply one human action among many (e.g., my wife cooking the egg) that God wills to be a cause of certain effects in his divine plan.

Prayer doesn’t change God’s mind but requests from Him that which He has willed from eternity to be bestowed by our prayer. As Brian Davies explains, “God may will from eternity that things should come about as things prayed for by us” (Thinking About God, 319).

In other words, it’s possible that God wills some events to occur only as a result of our prayer. For example, God may have eternally decreed to heal the cancer of a loved one, but only on condition persistent requests for a miracle are made. God may even have willed a beautiful day in Southern California on condition I make the request.

Whether we know the effect is conditioned by the request or not doesn’t matter. The point is, it’s possible, so we make the request hoping that God wills our prayer to be a cause of the effect. If it turns out He did not will it so, then we trust God has good reasons for His choice. This is why Christians pray “Thy will be done.”

But if God wills our prayer request to be the cause of the desired effect, then it would be true to say our prayer makes a real difference. It would not have made a difference by changing God’s mind but by being an essential part of the cause-effect pattern God has eternally decreed.

The real causal power that our prayers have in God’s eternal plan is no different than the real causal power my wife’s actions had in producing a fried egg this morning. Her actions were essential for the fried egg, because that is how God arranged it to be from all eternity. God has created a world in which fried eggs come to be in a specific way.

Similarly, with regard to prayer, some events will occur only as a result of prayer, because that is the specific way God has arranged it. God has created a world in such a way that our actions, including prayer, serve as real game-changers in the history of the world.

The bottom line is this: there is nothing in the act of prayer that is incompatible with God’s changeless and eternal decree. Our petitions are arranged by God to be part and parcel of his divine plan—a great honor God bestows upon human beings.

The generous God

Finally, there is the issue of God’s generosity. Why should we have to ask for certain benefits? Isn’t it more fitting for an all-good God to bestow benefits upon us without us asking for them?

There are many gifts God gives us without our petitioning for them. Such gifts range from the act of existence to the gift of salvation won for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. You can fill in the gap with your own life’s blessings that you didn’t ask for.

Secondly, along the same vein as the first dilemma—God’s choice to make certain gifts contingent on our asking for them is for our own good. What good might that be? For Aquinas, it’s “that we may acquire confidence in having recourse to God and that we may recognize in Him the author of our goods” (Summa Theologiae, II-II:83:2).

Other forms of prayer

A final thought: the questions at hand imply a limited understanding of prayer—they all have to do with petitionary prayer. Although important, petitionary prayer is not the only kind of prayer. There are other kinds of prayer—such as those of blessing, adoration, thanksgiving, and praise (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2626-2643)—that would not be subject to the dilemmas manifest in the above questions. Thus, even if we couldn’t provide adequate answers to the above questions, one would still have good reason to begin a life of prayer.

As demonstrated above, I do think there are adequate answers to the dilemmas. Rather than God’s eternal and unchangeable nature being a good reason to avoid starting a life of prayer, I think it’s the reason to begin. If we don’t, then it’s possible we won’t receive our desired outcomes.”

Love, pray for me, please,
Matthew

Let nothing disturb you – nada te turbe, Jn 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -Jn 14:27

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
St Teresa of Avila, found in her breviary written in her own hand.

Love, peace, trust in Him, all will be well,
Matthew

Rosary: does the Bible really condemn repetitious prayer?

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that the rosary is a legitimate prayer when the Bible forbids repetitious prayer?

The rosary is a popular Catholic devotion that the Catechism endorses as a “form of piety” that expresses the “religious sense of the Christian people” (1674).  [It is a prayer form that developed for the illiterate, ordinary people as only clerics were taught to read and write.  Those same clerics were required to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a formalized way of singing the Psalm twenty-four hours a day, praising God for time, which is a holy gift from God.  Since ordinary people could not read the books for this form of prayer, the rosary developed, so they could say the simple prayers they had memorized in imitation.] But for many Protestants, the rosary, with its repetition of the Hail Mary (Lk 1:46-55) prayer, contradicts Jesus’ command to “Use no vain repetitions as the heathens do” (Matt. 6:7; KJV). It would seem that the Catholic practice of praying the rosary is a direct violation of Jesus’ command.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Jesus wasn’t condemning prayers that involve repetition, but rather the idea that the quantity of prayer determines its efficacy.

The Greek word translated “vain repetition” is battalogeō, which can mean to speak in a stammering way, saying the same words over and over again without thinking. But it can also mean “to use many words, to speak for a long time.” So it can connote either mindless repetition or quantity.

Which meaning does Jesus have in mind?

The context reveals that Jesus has the quantity of prayers in mind. For example, Jesus says in verse 7, “For they [the Gentiles] think that they will be heard for their many words,” as if their many words could wear down the gods in order to get what they wanted. This is the mentality of prayer that Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid—the mentality that sheer volume of words ensures that God hears us.

This explains why Jesus says in verse 8, “Don’t be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The implication is that it’s futile to think a bunch of words is needed for God to hear a prayer, because he already knows it.

So, Jesus is not concerned with repetition simply. He’s concerned with the idea that simply multiplying words makes prayers efficacious.

2. The rosary is not meant to gain favors from God due to the amount of prayers repeated.

According to the Catechism, the rosary is an “epitome of the whole gospel” (971). It is meant to focus our hearts and minds on the mysteries of Christ’s life, mysteries such as his conception in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation, his birth in Bethlehem, his baptism and preaching ministry, his glorious resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.

Meditating on these mysteries is meant to give us a deeper knowledge of Christ and draw us into a deeper communion with him, so that we can be more conformed to him. And we include Mary in that meditation because her soul “magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). The rosary, therefore, is a way to meditate on Christ in order to foster a greater love for him. The repetition of prayers serves that meditation—and that’s a biblical thing.

3. The Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition.

We can start with Jesus Himself. Notice that right after Jesus condemns the “vain repetitions” of the Gentiles, he commands the apostles, “Pray like this…Our Father who art in heaven.” Does Jesus intend for us to only say it once? Are we forbidden to repeat the Lord’s Prayer? Most Protestants have said it many times; perhaps they say it more than once a day.

Another example is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father…remove this cup…not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Mark tells us that Jesus prayed this multiple times: “And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words” (14:39). Surely, Jesus wouldn’t be violating his own command not to pray with “vain repetitions.”

We also have an example from the “four living creatures” (angels) that John sees in heaven: “Day and night they never cease to sing, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). If any prayer involves repetition, it’s this one!

The Psalms even give us forms of prayer that involve repetition. Consider, for example, Psalm 136. Its refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” occurs twenty-six times. Must we say that the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) who inspired the Psalmist to write this, is at odds with Jesus (the second person of the Trinity)?

Since the Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition, we can conclude that the repetition in the rosary does not violate Christ’s words.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Why should we think that a condemnation of useless repetition is a condemnation of any repetition? Couldn’t there be repetitious prayer that is heartfelt and helps us love God more?

[Editor: Ps 51:1]

AFTERTHOUGHT: One of the benefits of praying the rosary is that it protects us from focusing our prayer too much on what we want and need. Praying for our needs is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we pray about. The rosary helps us to focus on what should be the first object of prayer: Jesus.

Love,
Matthew

“Three times I begged the Lord” -2 Cor 12:8


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“We do not pray to change God’s mind. We pray to be one with God. So often we treat prayer like a battle of wills, as though we need to cajole God into doing something he would rather not. This is typically how we read the parable of the friend at midnight in today’s gospel (Lk 11:5-13). From this perspective, God comes out looking like a kind of heavenly boss to Whom we need to make a pitch for a promotion or more vacation time. This is clearly not how Jesus means for us to interpret His parable. Jesus does not want us to see His Father as a tight-fisted CEO, but as the generous Father that He is: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Lk 11:13).

Even if we could change God’s mind (which is impossible), it would only be worse for us in the long run. God is pure goodness and infinite wisdom. He wants what is best for us, and knows what is best for us much better than we do. The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to be one with the God Who loves us. That is the reason for everything in the Christian life. If He wanted to, God could do everything Himself; nevertheless, in His great love for us, God wants to give us a share in His work, to make us one with Him in His activity in the world. In addition to working with Him in our outward actions, God also asks us to work with Him in our prayers. God could do everything on His own, but there are many things He wants to do because we prayed for them (e.g. the salvation of souls).

If there is any way in which prayer is a battle of wills, it is a battle with our own will as we learn to accept God’s plans for us. For example, when we ask for something, we want it now. It may be, however, that God wants to answer our request only after we have prayed long and hard for it, to reward us for our patience and perseverance. Such was the case with St. Monica, who prayed 14 years for the conversion of her son, Augustine, and became a saint in the process. It may be that God will not answer our request at all because it is not ultimately for our good. Such was the case with St. Paul, who tells us, “Three times I begged the Lord about this [trial], that it might leave me, but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor 12:9).

Hard though it may be, God asks us to trust that He knows what He is doing. Even if we may not get everything we ask for as soon as we ask for it, we should never doubt God’s loving concern for us. Our Father knows how to give good gifts to His children.” (Lk 11:11)

Love & prayers,
Matthew

Aquinas, ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 2 – Can the saints hear our prayers?


-by Karlo Broussard

(Summa Theologiae, by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, Supplement, Question 72, Article 1, objection 2)

“The second objection in the article says the saints don’t know our prayers because such knowledge would undermine their happiness. Here’s one way to put the argument:

P1: If the saints knew our prayers, then they would know our sufferings.

P2: If the saints knew our sufferings, then the saints would be sad.

P3: But the saints in heaven can’t be sad.

C1: Therefore, the saints can’t know our sufferings.

C2: Therefore, the saints can’t know our prayers.

The key premise is the second, to which Aquinas replies that we can’t say the saints in heaven are grieved by knowledge of our troubles in life because they are “so filled with heavenly joy, that sorrow finds no place in them.”

Although I think Aquinas is right here, it seems there needs to be a bit more explanation as to how knowledge of our sufferings wouldn’t undermine the happiness of the blessed. In the Summa, he obliges: “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good” (ST III:1:3, ad 3).

Whether the saints know that good or not doesn’t matter. Simply knowledge that God will direct a permitted evil to a greater good gives the saints reason not to be sad. This is especially true given the saints’ vision of the divine essence, which provides them with an improved perspective on how God perfectly orders things to His glory.

Second, the saints in heaven view the troubles in our lives with an eternal perspective, a perspective that Paul articulates in his letters. For example, in Romans 8:18, Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul writes, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

If Paul’s knowledge of such glory without the beatific vision could diminish sadness caused by his sufferings, then how much more would the saints’ knowledge of this glory with the beatific vision diminish sadness? Much more! In fact, being in the presence of the heavenly glory excludes sadness altogether.

So, just because the saints in heaven would have knowledge of the troubles in our lives if they knew our prayers, it doesn’t follow they would be sad. They know there are greater goods that God is bringing about through our troubles.

The third objection that Aquinas deals with is similar to an objection often heard today in challenging God’s existence: the problem of evil. It claims the saints can’t possibly know our prayers because if they did, they would respond to our requests for intercession, and we wouldn’t have suffering in our lives.

Behind this objection is the idea that a charitable person always assists his friend and/or neighbor when the latter is suffering. Since the saints in heaven have perfect love, and we’re their friends, it follows that if they knew our requests about what’s going on in our lives, they would help us in our sufferings.

But—the argument goes—they must not be helping us in our sufferings, because we suffer every day. Therefore, they must not know the requests that we make.

This objection is based on a false dichotomy. It supposes either the saints are praying for us, in which case we wouldn’t suffer, or they don’t know our prayers. But there’s a third option.

Perhaps the saints know our prayers and it’s just not God’s will that we be delivered from a particular trial, at least not yet. Like us, they don’t know all of God’s plan, and so even their petitions are subject to what the Lord wills (James 4:15). Alternately, if—in a particular case—they do know that God wills to allow a source of suffering, they certainly would not pray for it to be removed. Aquinas explains,

The souls of the saints have their will fully conformed to the Divine will even as regards the things willed; and consequently, although they retain the love of charity towards their neighbor, they do not succor him otherwise than they see to be in conformity with the disposition of divine justice (ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 3).

So, if we ask the saints to pray that we be delivered from a particular difficulty in our lives, and it doesn’t come to pass, it’s because it wasn’t God’s will. It’s not because the saints aren’t aware of our prayers.

Furthermore, if God doesn’t will to deliver us from a trial, the saints can still help us by praying we have the strength to persevere in faith and not lose hope in the midst of our suffering. Such prayers also would be fruits of perfect love.

Even if we don’t hear these arguments raised today, they’re interesting to consider. And if by chance a Protestant does happen to use one or both of them, a Catholic will be able to show why they don’t succeed.”

Love, all ye holy men and women, pray for us!!
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew