Author: caitlynnegrace

I'm a working mum with five children. I blog from the heart. This blog is cathartic in its function. For too long, I have been denied the right to be ME. Now, I am slowly learning and discovering my heart and soul. writingonmyheart allows me the anonymity to be one of the who-s that I am - REFLECTIVE.

Day of the Sun

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Prayer for Protection from Despair
by St. Claude de la Colombiere

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your grace
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I will glorify You
by making known how good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no matter how great his offences
should have reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          On this morning which night rains have rendered green and silver, the last three lines of the prayer settle gently but deeply, pressed by an Unseen hand into my spirit. The lines go beyond a nudge towards humility. They hold a meaning deeper than caution.

          The last three lines tell me the little trees have meaning. Wee trees, always hidden before, that have suddenly, and oddly, stood out in the forests of my every days. As I coursed through the busy hours of each day, these little trees caught my attention, but when pursued, misted out of discernment’s reach.

          These trees were sometimes random words. Words that caught my heart in a fleeting vice of cold. Pines. Palms. Bridge. Snake. Flood. Hills. Wedding garments. Wedding feast. They were colours. Bright orange. Red. Black. Numbers. 370. 10. 2017. They were certain birdcalls. Warm, robust winds that occasionally rendered my heart and spirit still and watchful.

          The smell of roses when there were none. Bits and bites of dreams becoming reality.

          Sudden, unexpected occasions of contrition.

If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          These last words press into my faltering spirit the urgency of repentance and conversion and the grace of unwavering faith. They tell me I have not misinterpreted the speed of events unfolding, that I have not overreacted.

          The Day of the Sun is indeed coming. The winds of that Sun are already here. I have begun to pray a prayer I have never before prayed.

           That our lamps be trimmed in readiness. That I and everyone I hold in my heart be not taken by surprise.

          And finally, that in the aftermath of the Illumination of Conscience, love prevails over despair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Call of Jonah

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          There was an August day two years ago, when I felt a sudden impulse to pray for Ireland. I’ve never been there, had no friends there at that time. All that linked me to Ireland then was Potato People, as a child being taught catechism in school by an Irish nun and growing up to love reading books by Irish writers.

          When this 2015 tug towards Ireland came out of nowhere, I didn’t know what to do about it.

          So, I did what I did know: the next morning, I offered a Rosary for Ireland.

          The moment the Rosary ended, I heard the strains of a hymn I hadn’t heard in years ~ Spirit, Be Our Spirit. It had been so long since I had heard it that I didn’t know the lyrics and had to look it up. On and on that song played in my head. All through my waking – and it seemed, even in my sleep – the second I awakened even for a bit, the song was in my ears. That was enough to tell me I needed to pay attention. Friends advised me to pray for the infilling of the Spirit for Ireland. I did, but it turned out that God wanted me to use the hymn as a direct prayer.

SPIRIT, BE OUR SPIRIT

Spirit, be our spirit

in this time of searching for new life.

Open inner spaces with the fullness

of Your love.

Spirit, let us now be

and forever transformed for all humanity.

Movement of Your presence

heals and deepens our hope to freely live.

Gift of heart where truth springs

from the goodness that You’ve sown.

Spirit, let us now be

and forever transformed for all humanity.

Into desert silence

there to listen and be with open heart,

You shall lead us, thirsting;

and we turn from our fears: forgiving love.

Spirit, let us now be

and forever transformed for all humanity.

          And long after that hymn had misted away, the words transformed for all humanity remained suspended in my spirit.

          Last night, for some reason, I thought about a relative’s husband, a New Zealander. I knew little about him but I had been told that he was a lovely young man who loved his wife with a purity and tenderness not often visible these days.

          This morning, I awakened to a hymn, Be Thou My Vision. It didn’t play insistently in my mind, but gently wound through my thoughts as I went about my household chores.

          Out in the morning sun, I kept looking up at the blue sky dressed in greys and whites. The clouds seemed to be in some indecision. They were in various forms, moving restlessly from south to north, west to east. Warm winds whistled through the tree branches in an urgent song of their own.

          As I worked, Be Thou My Vision refusing to leave me, my heart wondered at the language that the skies and the winds were speaking. There were secrets being passed between them.

          Something was troubling the grass-scented air.

          In a single wind~wisp, it came to me. My relative’s Kiwi husband was of Irish ancestry. Be Thou My Vision was an old Irish hymn.

          Ireland again. My spirit was being troubled over Ireland once more. But with a far greater urgency than before.

          I flew to contact a friend I now knew there. A powerful storm, Ophelia, was bearing down on Ireland. The earlier calm within me was gone. As I prayed for Ireland and its people to be protected, this prayer came strongly:

O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus,

as a Fount of Mercy for us,

I trust in You.

The Divine Mercy Conversion Prayer. The prayer that promised conversion for any soul prayed for as long as I prayed it with deep contrition for my sins.

         I thought of my many wrongdoings of late. I plunged myself into the heart of Mercy, begging God for forgiveness, so that nothing would stand in the way of my pleadings for the land of Ireland, so strangely close to my heart. Over and over, I pleaded the Blood of Christ on this nation blessed by the Knock Apparitions.

          As I write this, Ophelia has possibly claimed 3 lives. I don’t know how many more will cross the shores because of this storm bearing a name which some accounts say means helper and others – serpentine – sly, cunning – perhaps denoting a struggle between the Holy Spirit and satan. But more than that, the cold in my spirit tells me that it is not the sorrows that Ophelia hides in her gills that ought to be feared.

         It is what would follow her if the dirge of the Nineveh repentance is not sounded in every soul.

          We should fear. Fear what comes after the storm.

          Because Ophelia is the call of Jonah.

 

 

Forgiven

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          How long have I waited for October 13 of this year – 100 years after the Final Great Fatima Apparition, waited in hope of a sign that the God I knew was there was indeed there. Like every other broken being, I needed  a special assurance of God. For the now. For the weave of journeys that lie ahead.

          Here, rain wept into the earth from the eve, well into the deep hours of the 13th. It was like 1917 all over again and my hope deepened. I held on to this sign because inside me, I sensed a shifting, and it was going where I did not want it to go.

          As I waited for a sign or a miracle of some sort, my spirit was headed towards the unpleasantly familiar numbing deadness, which no sun nor rain could rouse.

          I didn’t want this numbed spirit. Not now more than ever. I wanted every bit of me to be fully alive to savour the mystical memory of October 13, 1917. I wanted to touch that day a hundred years ago with my spirit, and seal my brokenness to the hope and life that had flooded into the many souls there that great day, a hundred years before.

          All day long, I clawed the air trying to keep death away from my spirit.

          Sadly, so preoccupied was I trying to hold air in my hands, that I failed to keep watch over my living in the hours of the day. Keeping an eye on the grey~shrouded skies for a Fatima miracle, I let slip words and thoughts in caustic comments and snide jokes that should never find berth in any Christian soul.

          Hours later, orange breezes gently danced in to sweeten the somber winds of the aging day. And to illuminate for me the rutted track along which my day had fallen.

          It was then that my numbed and disappointed heart learned two sorrows.

          That the miracle I had primed my waiting for was not coming that day.

          And a worse one – that even had it come, I would have been found wanting, because I had sullied my garments by dipping into pools I had no business going by.

          How easy it was to be distracted, to lose sight of the goal – love of God, love of neighbour. How easy it was to scan the skies for light and yet not see God in my fellow men. How easy to slip and fall, a stray thought, a joke here, an observation there.

          When so many other humble souls had spent the day in Masses and Adoration and prayers to love as Mary had, in pursuing my wayward will, I had set up watch by the wrong harbor, waiting for a ship that was not meant to be.

          And worse, like the bridesmaids of old, who had been waiting for the Bridegroom but failed to keep watch over their conscience, I had soiled my waiting hours in reckless speech and empty mirth.

           When it dawned on me just where I had allowed myself to go, I didn’t try to evade the bite of remorse that cut deep. While the incense of Fatima must have risen hidden in a great many spirits all over the world, I sang the dirge of lament for the stain I had allowed on my soul. Will I ever, ever learn to choose silence and restraint over unnecessary chatter and empty laughter? Will I ever resolutely seek the inner cloister over social circles that have never known or will ever care to know Christ?

          Will I ever learn that to see God, I must love my brethren as Christ did?

          Over and over, hidden from earthly eyes, I tossed and turned over my sin.      

          Yet, this time, despair was not my lot. I was determined to admit my wrong at the only Knee that welcomed saint and sinner. Because I knew that only there would I find Pure love and Supreme forgiveness. Over and over, I went before the Seat of Mercy. I allowed nothing to distract me from this secret pilgrimage. As hour latticed into hour, every time the angels placed the memory of my transgression before me, my spirit knelt before the Miraculous Image.

Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me.

          Suddenly, my spirit straightened to attention. 

          The thorn of remorse had been silently plucked from my spirit. Noiselessly, no stirring of the air did I sense.

          It was gone. In a breath of a moment, I had been forgiven.

 

 

 

 

Fatima 6 ~ October 13

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          During the night of 12 – 13 October it had rained throughout, soaking the ground and the pilgrims who make their way to Fátima from all directions by the thousands. By foot, by cart and even by car they came, entering the bowl of the Cova from the Fátima-Leiria road, which today still passes in front of the large square of the Basilica. From there they made their way down the gently slope to the place where a trestle had been erected over the little holm oak of the apparitions. Today on the site is the modern glass and steel Capelhina (little chapel), enclosing the first chapel built there and the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima where the holm oak had stood.

          As for the children, they made their way to the Cova amid the adulation and skepticism which had followed them since May. When they arrived they found critics who questioned their veracity and the punctuality of the Lady, who had promised to arrive at noon. It was well passed noon by the official time of the country. However, when the sun arrived at its zenith the Lady appeared as she had said she would.

          “What do you want of me?”

          “I want a chapel built here in My honor. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.”

          “Yes. Yes.”

          “Will you tell me your name?”

          “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”

          “I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them?”

          “Some I shall grant, and others I must deny. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended!”

          “And is that all you have to ask?”

          “There is nothing more.”

          As the Lady of the Rosary rises toward the east She turns the palms of her hands toward the dark sky. While the rain had stopped, dark clouds continued to obscure the sun, which suddenly bursts through them and is seen to be a soft spinning disk of silver.

          “Look at the sun!”

          From this point two distinct apparitions were seen, that of the phenomenon of the sun seen by the 70,000 or so spectators and that beheld by the children alone. Lucia describes the latter in her memoirs.

          After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our lady; it seemed to me to that it was Our Lady of Sorrows (Dolors). Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. [Only Lucia would see the later, presaging her entrance into Carmel some years later.]

          This would be the last of the apparitions of Fátima for Jacinta and Francisco. However, for Lucia Our Lady would return a seventh time, in 1920, as she had promised the previous May. At that time Lucia would be praying in the Cova before leaving Fátima for a girls boarding school. The Lady would come to urge her to dedicate herself wholly to God.

          As the children viewed the various apparitions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph the crowd witnessed a different prodigy, the now famous miracle of the sun. Among the witnesses there were the following:

Eye Witness Accounts

From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up, and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!”

Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people.

Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.

Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out: “How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!”

People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and the dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it in its rays. Some said they saw it change colors successively….

O Seculo (a pro-government, anti-clerical, Lisbon paper)

“At one o’clock in the afternoon, midday by the sun, the rain stopped. The sky, pearly grey in colour, illuminated the vast arid landscape with a strange light. The sun had a transparent gauzy veil so that the eyes could easily be fixed upon it. The grey mother-of-pearl tone turned into a sheet of silver which broke up as the clouds were torn apart and the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and people fell on their knees on the muddy ground….

The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly, and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. Yellow stains fell against white handkerchiefs, against the dark skirts of the women. They were repeated on the trees, on the stones and on the serra. People wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.

O Dia (another Lisbon daily, edition of 17 October 1917)

We looked easily at the sun, which for some reason did not blind us. It seemed to flicker on and off, first one way, then another. It cast its rays in many directions and painted everything in different colors— the trees, the people, the air and the ground. But what was most extraordinary, I thought, was that the sun did not hurt our eyes. Everything was still and quiet, and everyone was looking up. Then at a certain moment, the sun appeared to stop spinning. It then began to move and to dance in the sky until it seemed to detach itself from its place and fall upon us. It was a terrible moment.

Ti Marto (father of Jacinta and Francisco)

The sun turned everything to different colours—yellow, blue and white. Then it shook and trembled. It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, “We shall all be killed!” Others called to Our Lady to save them. They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud, advertising that she had done this and that…. When at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed our relief. We were still alive, and the miracle which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone.

Maria de Capelinha (one of the earliest believers)

I was looking at the place of the apparitions, in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening, and with diminishing curiosity, because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. Then I heard a shout from thousands of voices and saw the multitude suddenly turn its back and shoulders away from the point toward which up to now it had directed its attention, and turn to look at the sky on the opposite side.

It must have been nearly two o’clock by the legal time, and about midday by the sun. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it, and shone clearly and intensely. I veered to the magnet which seemed to be drawing all eyes, and saw it as a disc with a clean-cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison which I have heard made in Fátima—that of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter color, having something of the luster of a pearl. It did not in the least resemble the moon on a clear night because one saw it and felt it to be a living body. It was not spheric like the moon, nor did it have the same color, tone, or shading. It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl. It could not be confused, either, with the sun seen through fog (for there was no fog at the time), because it was not opaque, diffused or veiled. In Fátima it gave light and heat and appeared clear-cut with a well-defined rim.

The sky was mottled with light cirrus clouds with the blue coming through here and there, but sometimes the sun stood out in patches of clear sky. The clouds passed from west to east and did not obscure the light of the sun, giving the impression of passing behind it, though sometimes these flecks of white took on tones of pink or diaphanous blue as they passed before the sun.

It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one’s eyes on this brazier of heat and light without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina. The phenomenon, except for two interruptions when the sun seemed to send out rays of refulgent heat which obliged us to look away, must have lasted about ten minutes.

The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a, heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible.

During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described in detail, there were changes of color in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything around was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. An oak tree nearby threw a shadow of this color on the ground.

Fearing that I was suffering from an affection of the retina, an improbable explanation because in that case one could not see things purple-colored, I turned away and shut my eyes, keeping my hands before them to intercept the light. With my back still turned, I opened my eyes and saw that the landscape was the same purple color as before.

The impression was not that of an eclipse, and while looking at the sun I noticed that the atmosphere had cleared. Soon after I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of astonishment: “Look, that lady is all yellow!”

And in fact everything, both near and far, had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice, and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color. All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind, and without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them.

Dr. Almeida Garrett, PhD (Coimbra University)

The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.

Dr. Domingos Coelho (reported in the newspaper Ordem)

The sun appeared with its circumference well defined. It came down as if to the height of the clouds and began to whirl giddily upon itself like a captive ball of fire. With some interruptions, this lasted about eight minutes. The atmosphere darkened and the features of each became yellow. Everyone knelt even in the mud….

Fr. Manuel Pereira da Silva (in a letter to a friend)

We made our arrangements, and went in three motor cars on the early morning of the 13th. There was a thick mist, and the car which went in front mistook the way so that we were all lost for a time and only arrived at the Cova da Iria at midday by the sun. It was absolutely full of people, but for my part I felt devoid of any religious feeling. When Lucia called out: “Look at the sun!” the whole multitude repeated: “Attention to the sun!” It was a day of incessant drizzle but a few moments before the miracle it stopped raining. I can hardly find words to describe what followed. The sun began to move, and at a certain moment appeared to be detached from the sky and about to hurtle upon us like a wheel of flame. My wife—we had been married only a short time- — fainted, and I was too upset to attend to her, and my brother-in- law, Joao Vassalo, supported her on his arm. I fell on my knees, oblivious of everything, and when I got up I don’t know what I said. I think I began to cry out like the others. An old man with a white beard began to attack the atheists aloud and challenged them to say whether or not something supernatural had occurred.

Senhor Alfredo da Silva Santos (Lisbon)

          There may have been many former atheists in Fátima that day, but there were plenty in Portugal, nonetheless, to charge hallucination. For those the Lady provided witnesses who were not at the scene and could not have been subject to collective suggestion.

On that day of October 13, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda….

Alfonso Lopes Vieira (observed from a distance of nearly 25 miles away):

I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school. At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her.

Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the agitated questions of the schoolmistress. It was the great Miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated—the Miracle of the sun, accompanied by all its extraordinary phenomena.

I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.

Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to Our Lady.

Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colors of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realized that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to Our Lady.

Fr. Ignacio Lorenco (Alburitel, 11 miles away)
~  EWTN

His Wounds Be Mine

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          Almost a year ago, a family member upset me so deeply with some news that I struggled mightily with prayer afterwards. Prayer seemed so very difficult.

          It was then, that by some inspiration, my heart found a prayer to Mother Mary, a prayer born of my helplessness ~

I bind my heart to Yours

          Since that day, that prayer has become like an old friend. I’ve gone ever so often to it whenever I am overwhelmed by anger or despair. I’ve ‘given’ it away to those in need as well, because in those six words is a Hand held out to us as we are tossed madly about in the heart of the sea, breakers and billows passing over us.

          This year, just recently, Susan Skinner wrote a blog post, Trinity of Hearts and it brought back memories of I bind my heart to Thee. She wrote of a vision of a trinity of Three hearts that she had been given in prayer – Jesus’, Mary’s and ours – and of God’s words to her.

          When I read that post, the words swirled before me. I understood the words and yet, did not understand their meaning. But that image of the three hearts stayed with me. A short time later, my spirit in the desert, I recalled Susan’s vision. And I figured perhaps that was what I needed to pray: that my heart be placed between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to form a trinity, to glorify God. I felt that I could do nothing till I did that.

          I’d be lying if I said I understood what I was about to do; I understood nothing.

          So, I said the prayer one time. Listlessly. I press my heart to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Then, maybe a few days later, the prayer ‘came before me’ again, and I said it and it felt different. My spirit no longer felt dead, unresponsive. Buoyed by hope of coming alive again, I not only pressed my heart to form that Trinity but that of others too – family, co-workers, superiors at work.

          Almost immediately, I was rewarded with a piercing, a thorn through my heart, by someone whose heart I had pressed into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          The pain was not severe but enough to dim the joy~light in my heart.

          I recovered soon enough. And today, during my morning prayers, I once more pressed hearts into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          Once more, immediately, a new piercing.

          That was when I made the connection. I was being wounded every time I placed hearts into the blessed Chalice. With each wounding, I was having to fight myself and my inclinations to cut others just as they had done to me. Each time, I saw my soul as God might see it. Not a pretty sight.

          I wish I could say that what I saw humbled me. That the illumination  drove me back to God with a renewed vigour born of repentance.

          It didn’t. I wasn’t afraid of the prayer but I did shrink from it. No one wants to be hurt. We want to go out into the world and conquer it for Christ. We want to emerge triumphant. Not hurt and wounded, cast aside and in need of binding. That doesn’t fit the portrait of a Christian warrior in a Lepanto battle.

          But it does a broken reed. And Jesus was that reed.

          So, who was I to reject the call of the Broken Reed?

          God knew the very minute my spirit was bending to His Divine Will. He brought me another prayer, to ask if I would trust in Him ~

Holy Mother, grant this of yours,
that the wounds of the Crucified be well-formed
in my heart.

Grant that the punishment of Your wounded Son,
so worthily suffered for me,
may be shared with me.

Let me sincerely weep with You,
bemoan the Crucified,
for as long as I live.
To stand beside the cross with You,
and for me to join You
in mourning, this I desire.

When my body dies,
grant that to my soul is given
the glory of paradise.

          I didn’t want this wounding. I was sick of this suffering. There never seemed to be an end in sight. I was fed up of being hurt, of seeing my family being stoned. Fed up of being misunderstood and maligned. Fed up of fighting myself. Fed up of living in joylessness of what tomorrow held.

          I wanted the glory of paradise and I wanted it now. To savour it alive on this earth – not in the life to come.

          But who was I to reject the call of the Reed?

          Once more, God knew the second I accepted the Wounds of Christ in my heart. He took me back to Susan’s post, Trinity of Hearts. And the mists that were there before were no more.

          The broken hearts of the faithful will be repaired with the thorns of suffering.

          I understood what I hadn’t before. That I will see Heaven only when I am pierced by the very same thorns that pierced my Lord.

          Wounds of the Crucified

          Be well-formed in my heart.

 

 

 

Not Dressed

          This year, I felt a strong call to honour the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – the anniversary of the 1571 Christian victory in the Battle of Lepanto. I wanted to make the kids a part of that too. So, on the eve, when the night had quietened down, I told them about Lepanto and the need for prayers. We decided to honour the feast by withdrawing from the world as often as we could that entire day, each time to say 5 Hail Mary’s for any intention God chooses to press on our souls. While I did share with the younger ones suggestions of intentions they could pray for, I insisted everyone listen out intently for God’s voice to each soul.

          The next day, we did the sets of Hail Mary’s as often as each could. My youngest seemed to be the most enthusiastic. It touched my heart, for that little sunny soul was also the most mischievous of the lot.

          In the afternoon, settling down for a nap, I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet till I slept off.

          I awakened later, stunned by a dream.

          I could hear a plane struggling to ascend above huge rain clouds. It seemed to stretch its engine capacity to breaking point. Suddenly, I knew it didn’t make it. I heard the plane come down on the side of our house that faces north and the explosion illuminated the walls of our master bedroom. Fearing the fireball heading our way,  I grabbed my husband’s and kids’ hands and dragged them all to another room as far away from the north side as possible.

          We escaped unscathed. Later, we came out of the house and everything outside was covered in grey-white ash. There was a woman I didn’t know by the perimeter fence. She didn’t seem too upset by the plane crash. I asked her if it was an international flight; she replied by giving me the flight number. All I heard was the alphabet B, and the rest of the number faded out. But somehow, it was enough for me to realize it had been a local flight, one of those smaller planes.

          As I was digesting this information, I turned back towards my home and to my consternation, saw that my children had put on their running shoes and were on their bikes and looked to be ready for some fun and games. I was upset that even a plane crash, with almost certain loss of life, could not steer them to deeper compassion for the suffering.

          Then, my focus was inexplicably rained on my youngest, whining over some need not met .

          And she was beyond the age where she needed to do that.

          Opening my eyes, I was shocked over what I had been shown. It was one of those dreams I rarely have where every detail is crystal clear. At that moment, I heard the rumble of thunder. Immediately, I began to pray Hail Mary’s, beseeching Mother’s mercy to prevent any air crashes.

          In the hours before the dream, I didn’t have a single impediment to saying the Hail Mary’s. Now however, every time my heart reached for it, the prayer was lifted out of the way. I kept at it for an hour or so, even trying the Divine Mercy chaplet, but to no avail. Then, I even tried praying different prayers – but connected to plane crashes.

          Nothing worked.

          When I played back the dream, trying to discern for myself what prayer or action was needed, I sensed the various parts swirling before me. For a while, the dream and its parts lost its distinctness.

          I knew what I needed to do. I went to St Joseph, the Discerner of Dreams. I asked him to press upon my spirit what I needed to focus on.

          St Joseph immediately answered me. I ‘saw’ the children once more. And I felt these words written on my heart:

They are not dressed.

          My husband and I have given our lives for our children. We try our best to raise them in the teachings of the Catholic faith. We have our ups and downs. Days when we see God in our children. Days when we sense them going astray. Ours is a home where everything can be discussed, and everything is, so we are aware of where they are at every point in their life. We do not shield them from our struggles. Our kids are not raised in a dream world of light and bubbles. As parents we strive to educate them against the selfie mindset that retards the conscience. As we try to bind the wounds of others, we make our children a part of that too.

But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’    ~ Matthew 22:  11 – 12

          I play the dream over in my mind. All of my children were more intent on their own lives. All of them spared little thought for the suffering. But the one who was singled out was my youngest. Despite her joyful nature, and now, her exuberance to embrace prayer, God was warning me that outwardly she and the others might seem as if they were dressed the part but in the eyes of God, they were not right yet.

          Most parents take pride in their children. They think the world of them. My husband and I are one of those too. But our confidence in our children is not singularly ours. It is shared by others – their teachers, our family, our priests too. It’s not a blind pride that gives us a cautious confidence in our brood that they are good kids.

          And yet, despite all we have done, despite the beautiful souls our children truly are, on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, Mother Mary has come to warn me.

          That my children are not dressed right. They are not ready for the wedding feast.

 

 

 

 

 

Lepanto

THE BATTLE THAT SAVED THE CHRISTIAN WEST

by Christopher Check

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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 executioners 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.”

 

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.

 

Taken from https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-battle-that-saved-the-christian-west

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gambler

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          On Sunday, the 1st of October, I think I sensed a slight tug towards an 8 day Jesuit retreat. By way of spiritual tugs, this must rate as one of the lightest yet for me. Nevertheless, I followed it, researched Jesuit retreats online and all because I thought I needed to begin that day or at the very latest, the next day.

          But I came up empty. I saw things, I read up but the prompts dried up immediately. Then, I prayed to St Francis of Assisi for help as I sensed this retreat was in some way linked to this saint.

          Because in recent days he had come very strongly to tell me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

         It’s been some days and the wind has remained silent. Another round of poking through the Internet earlier today came up empty as well. When I tried to force the discernment, I could feel an instant inner drying. So, I backed off.

         Until a short while ago. I was watching the news reports on the Las Vegas shootings and heard the word ‘Gambler’ used to describe the shooter.

         Gambler.

          My heart went still. It would be the second time I was hearing that since that incident after Mass 2 weeks ago with my relative. Right after that unpleasantness, an unseen hand began to press that word into my spirit. I didn’t catch on initially but the minute I did, the anger and shock over what had happened retreated into the background. My feelings no longer mattered as much because I knew I was beholding something far worse.

         I turn the word over in my mind. What do I do with this discernment? Pray? Meditate? What? Again, the winds retreat and I am left without an answer.

           If I am meant to be on some retreat, maybe a silent retreat, if Gambler is somehow meant to flag off the start, then I must receive it even if mists cloud the discernment. I can think of no better way than to load up my prayer cart and go before the Miraculous Image.

          Today is the Feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Tomorrow will be St Faustina’s. I’ve called on both recently. I feel both close by today, yet they are not coming any closer. I turn my heart towards them and ask them to accompany me, to stay by my side, to intercede with me as I lay down my prayer cart and its sorrowful contents before the Lord.

         Gambler. Victims. Madness. Death. I press all into the Heart of Mercy.

Broken To Save

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          “And make sure you forgive.” Those were my friend, Susan Skinner’s firm words to me in her comments to my previous post, Unbeliever. I had written about a hurtful experience with a relative on the day of my child’s First Holy Communion. Our child had received Jesus for the first time. During Mass, we saw something we hadn’t expected to experience and we were deeply affected by what had happened. While this man surely did not know of our experience, for sure he saw how preoccupied we were with our little one on such a meaningful day, but instead of rejoicing with us and heaven, used it to his advantage and backed us into a corner.

          When I saw Susan’s words later, And make sure you forgive, my instant self-assured reaction was, Sure I can, nothing to it.

          But the very next second, I wasn’t so sure. I no longer heard Susan’s voice; a Supreme Being was speaking through my friend. Still trying to believe that I didn’t have a problem forgiving this man, I imagined seeing him again at church and set up the scene in my mind.

          I found myself running into the church to hide from him. And after Mass, I saw myself running into the car to escape bumping into him.

          I knew then that I had a problem forgiving this relative.

          So, I plunged headlong into prayer. I tried to fashion the words for it. I came up short. Later, in Susan’s post, Dreams and Preparation, I saw this prayer:

Lord, send your Holy Spirit to convict …. repent of their sins,…..confessing them to their priest.

          Is that for me? I gave it a go.

          Truth be told, I could say the prayer only once before I fell from the weight of it. Even the prayer for the grace to forgive seemed lighter than this. This other prayer was heavy. I’ve never experienced this. It was not due to reluctance on my part. It was not because I wanted to say another prayer. It oddly felt like a heavy door.

          And that it was not my place to push it open.

          Yet, I didn’t sense it was the wrong prayer.

          So, I did the next best thing. I did what I could do: I loaded this relative onto my prayer cart. Then, I loaded in my sinfulness and every difficulty I had in dealing with this situation, especially the struggle to forgive. I asked for His Mercy (I loaded that too). All weekend, I filled up the prayer cart because I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t come up with a simple prayer sentence; I couldn’t even read one with my heart even if I saw it.

          But I was not troubled. I knew it was in Good Hands.

          Arriving at Mass the next Sunday, I forced myself to look out for this person – as a way of fighting my real desire to run and hide from him. But I didn’t see him. I must say I entered church with more than a little relief.

          There, I dropped to my knees. Fixing my gaze on the Miraculous Image, I told my Lord,

Lord, I set down my prayer cart before Thee.

          Then, I sat back and waited for Mass to begin.

          Our parish priest had never been even a minute late for Mass but this time he was. Minutes ticked by and the congregation became slightly restless, with many turning to the back to see if Fr had entered. My thoughts still on my prayer cart contents, I kept my gaze forwards but I heard the distinct bang of the confessional doors. I knew then what had delayed the priest.

          Soon, the Mass began.

          Right after Mass, the relative who had hurt us sought out my husband. Uh oh, I thought.

          “My mother had a fall last Sunday after Mass,” he announced and went on to describe his 90 year old mother’s condition. She was unhurt but shaken.

          I wish I could say that my concern immediately shifted to the poor woman. It didn’t. Too full of myself, I instead held my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. But nothing of that sort happened. We soon parted. There was no apology but neither did he make any attempt to twist us back to where he had us the previous Sunday.

          Genuine thankfulness filled me over this conclusion; I had merely tried to forgive him as best as I could. God had done the rest. That was enough for me. It didn’t matter that our relationship would forever be marked by the wound of caution. I didn’t feel like asking for more, because my thoughts were now on something else the wind had rested on my ears.

          And what I heard troubled me.

          Deep in my pots later that night, my husband sauntered into the kitchen. We chatted about the day again. After a short pause, he asked me if I had noticed that our priest that day had been late in starting the Mass. When I nodded absently, I sensed him hesitate. Then, he asked me if I knew why.

          Someone had gone to him for Confession, I replied.

          Do you know who? my husband pressed, watching me carefully.

          I shook my head, puzzled over the line of questioning. My husband is the last person on earth to keep tabs on others, much less take attendance at the Confessional doors, so I didn’t know where he was going with this.

          It was him, said hubby.

          I almost leapt at my husband, pot, scrub pad and all, so great was my shock and excitement and incredulity. So many go for Confession, yet I could not name a single person despite years of being a parishioner here because it is simply not something I keep a look out for, much less brand into my memory. But that day, both my husband and I had been alerted in different ways to a stirring behind the door – the greatness of someone’s hidden humility to seek Jesus’ healing love.

          It matters not to me what had passed between our relative and the priest, if our matter had even been mentioned. For some reason, our unpleasant experience has diminished in its importance. The mere fact that that he had run to Jesus, considering all that had happened in the space of that week, both stunned and touched me deeply.

          And it placed the eyes of my heart squarely on the whispers the wind had brought me about this poor man’s hidden struggle. It told me why my husband and I had to suffer for that wee while.

        My relative’s problem(s) was the bigger rock, hitherto hidden. Our trouble with him was the light that fell on it and unmasked it. This time we were not called to pray this person to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was why that prayer was so heavy. All that was asked of us was that we forgive him.

          I’ve heard many times that forgiveness frees both sides. However, till this time, all I knew personally was the healing and freedom I received when I forgave someone. This was the first time I saw the power of forgiveness at work on the other side away from me.

          For the first time, I learned with my heart that when I forgive, even wordlessly, in secret, or as part of an ongoing struggle, my forgiving becomes a key that unlocks the jail cell of the prisoner who has hurt me. Forgiving leads to healing – of forgiver and forgiven. And healing leads to conversion.

          I cannot see the wind of road ahead for this person. That sight is not afforded to me. But what I do see is that my husband and I had to suffer shock and hurt to save a soul, possibly that of a secret gambler.

          We were called to suffer briefly, to be bread broken, that through our forgiveness, a lost sheep might return to its rightful fold.