A suffering patient begged Our Lady with every title that the Heavenly Queen possessed to heal her of her illness. Finally, the invalid implored the Blessed Mother by the title of Queen of the Rosary and her prayer was answered.
In a vision later, the patient asked why Mary delayed in healing her. The Blessed Virgin replied that her last plea was most pleasing as the Mother of God was invoked by her favorite title.
This message is exemplified in the Battle of Lepanto which was fought by Don John of Austria. This illegitimate half brother of the heroic Philip II was the last defender of Europe against the Turks. With the divine assistance of Our Lady of Victory, the Turks were beaten back from invading Europe.
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Don John of Austria was born out of wedlock to Emperor Charles V in 1547. He was raised in court and became a high ranking military commander to his half brother, King Philip II of Spain, himself a heroic saintly man.
The unique friendship that existed between these two half brothers was unheard of during this time. To Philip's credit, he did not allow John's circumstances to interfere with his own good sense and affection. Thankfully this was the case, otherwise, Europe would not be the way we now know it.
In his epic poem, Lepanto, G.K. Chesterton calls Don John of Austria "the last knight of Europe". In 1571, the Turks threatened the entire European world. Western civilization was at stake. A crusade needed to be called and someone needed to step up to the plate and rally all Europe.
Although he was trying desperately to bring England back into the fold of the Church, Pope Pius V called for someone to meet the Turks in a sea battle. Don John of Austria answered the call as described in the above said poem "Don John of Austria is going to the war".
On October 7th 1571, the two armies met. The Pope requested all Christendom to pray the Rosary and beg the Blessed Virgin to intercede for them in the outcome of the battle. All Christian Europe was on its knees begging their Mother by her favorite title for Don John of Austria and victory.
The Turks had threatened to raised their crescent standard over St. Peter's Basilica. But Our Lady heard the pleading of her children and herself turned the battle against the Muslims. They abandoned the field after many casualties caused by the Holy League and our hero, Don John of Austria.
There is a beautiful testimony given by a poet who was insulted for his battle scars by a literary critic. It is worth sharing in part:
"What I cannot but resent is the fact that he describes me as being old and one-handed, as if it were in my power to make time stand still for me, or (as if I did not lose my hand in) the greatest occasion that the past or present has ever known or the future may ever hope to see. If my wounds are not resplendent in the eyes of the chance beholder, they are at least highly thought of by those who know where they were received.
So strongly do I feel about this that even if it were possible to work a miracle in my case, I still would rather have taken part in that prodigious battle than be today free of my wounds without having been there."
Little do you know that you know this poet. The poet being mocked was Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the literary work being ridiculed was none other than Don Quixote.
Because of Don John of Austria's victory at Lepanto, October is dedicated as the Month of the Rosary. During this month all Catholics should focus on the Mysteries of the Rosary and the praying of it as ardently as Catholics did on that crucial day in 1571.
Praying all the mysteries daily is a very beneficial habit because one is meditating on all the mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. Although this may sound a little overwhelming, once you get the hang of praying all the Mysteries of the Rosary every day, they feel simply part of your routine.
After breakfast is cleaned up, you can pray the Joyful Mysteries. As soon as lunch is over, pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. And, of course, the Glorious Mysteries come after dinner! These are very great times to pray them because: who skips breakfast, lunch, or dinner!?
Praying the Rosary with increased devotion in this Month of the Rosary keeps it strong in our families throughout the rest of the year!
Like earlier Spanish heroes such as El Cid and Pelayo, Don John of Austria was a true patriot for his homeland and was not about to allow a foreign invasion destroy Western culture.
If you are looking for further reading on Don John of Austria, Ten Battles Every Catholic Should Know covers in great detail the Battle of Lepanto. Although I have not read Louis de Wohl's The Last Crusader, his saint and hero novels come highly recommended.
And, of course, I would recommend at least reading once, if not memorizing parts of G.K. Chesterton's poem Lepanto. Because of its entertaining tempo and beat I will leave you with its last lines as a final thought on this battle that saved history which was won by the illegitimate prince Don John of Austria by the help of Our Lady of Victory and Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)
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