Don Juan of Austria

Don Juan of Austria October 7, 2010

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast day takes the same day as the famousBattle of Lepanto(Oct. 7, 1571) in which Don Juan of Austria defeated the Moors. (I’ll leave it to the history experts to battle out the details.) But the victory was largely attributed to the intercession of Our Lady.

This was back in the day when people fighting religious battles thought that maybe they ought to make sure that their own souls were in order; so chaplains had a very active presence among the soldiers. The night before the battle, as the story goes, the troops prayed the rosary aloud. I don’t have the sources handy, but I’ve heard accounts of how the opposition was affected at the sound of hearing thousands of voices praying therosary. [For those unfamiliar with the rosary, it is basically a meditation on the events of the life of Christ through a devotion to Mary his Mother (Our Lady). The events are all from the Bible. And the prayer is a form of asking Mary’s accompaniment in our meditation, which makes sense since she knows him so well.]

I thought of Chesterton’s poemThe Battle of Lepantowhich has an almost haunting refrain that refers to Don Juan of Austria. Take a minute to relax, have a glass of wine and read the poem. It reads well aloud.


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