On October 7, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the yearly  feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Known for several centuries by the  alternate title of “Our Lady of Victory,” the feast day takes place in  honor of a 16th century naval victory which secured Europe against  Turkish invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the  intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of  the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe.

The feast always occurs one week after the similar Byzantine  celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, which most Eastern  Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics celebrate on October 1 in  memory of a 10th-century military victory which protected Constantinople against invasion after a reported Marian apparition.

Pope Leo XIII was particularly devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary,  producing 11 encyclicals on the subject of this feast and its importance in the course of his long pontificate.

In the first of them, 1883′s “Supremi Apostolatus Officio,” he echoed the words of the oldest known Marian prayer (known in the Latin  tradition as the “Sub Tuum Praesidium”), when he wrote, “It has always  been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for  refuge to Mary.”

“This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of  Heaven,” Pope Leo continued, “has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the militant Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the  violence of heresy … or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the  attacks of powerful enemies.” Foremost among such “attacks” was the  battle of Lepanto, a perilous and decisive moment in European and world  history.

Troops of the Turkish Ottoman Empire had invaded and occupied the  Byzantine empire by 1453, bringing a large portion of the increasingly  divided Christian world under a version of Islamic law. For the next  hundred years, the Turks expanded their empire westward on land, and  asserted their naval power in the Mediterranean. In 1565 they attacked  Malta, envisioning an eventual invasion of Rome. Though repelled at  Malta, the Turks captured Cyprus in the fall of 1570.

The next year, three Catholic powers on the continent – Genoa, Spain, and the Papal States – formed an alliance called the Holy League, to  defend their Christian civilization against Turkish invasion. Its fleets sailed to confront the Turks near the west coast of Greece on October  7, 1571.

Crew members on more than 200 ships prayed the Rosary in preparation  for the battle – as did Christians throughout Europe, encouraged by the  Pope to gather in their churches to invoke the Virgin Mary against the  daunting Turkish forces.

Some accounts say that Pope Pius V was granted a miraculous vision of the Holy League’s stunning victory. Without a doubt, the Pope  understood the significance of the day’s events, when he was eventually  informed that all but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships had been  captured or sunk. He was moved to institute the feast now celebrated  universally as Our Lady of the Rosary.

“Turkish victory at Lepanto would have been a catastrophe of the  first magnitude for Christendom,” wrote military historian John F.  Guilmartin, Jr., “and Europe would have followed a historical trajectory strikingly different from that which obtained.”

Courtesy to catholicnewsagency.com