Bishop's Column

Let’s turn to Mary, for religious freedom and to end abortion

In 1571, Christian Europe battled the Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean Sea. Power in the Mediterranean meant control over trade, but it also ensured Christian liberty and religious freedom in Europe. The Ottoman Empire had, for years, used the Mediterranean to advance its cultural influence and to destroy Christian communities across Europe. Christians were kidnapped and exiled to Turkey as slaves. The religious and personal freedom of European Christians was threatened by the spread of the Ottoman Empire.

A clash of cultures and civilizations was unfolding and Christendom was in danger. In the 16th century, souls were at stake in the battle over the Mediterranean.

Rome, in particular, was threatened in 1571. And with it, the papacy - the central locus of the Church - was in danger of falling. But in the autumn of 1571, the real battle was being waged at Cyprus, where the Ottomans held thousands of Venetian soldiers and sailors captive.

Pope St. Pius V called to arms a coalition of Christian navies who wanted to ensure that Christian culture would perdure in Europe and that Christians would not be enslaved by the Ottoman Empire.

On Oct. 7, 1571, the Ottoman fleet and a unified force of Catholic maritime states met off the coast of Cyprus, in the Northern Gulf of Corinth at Lepanto. A battle ensued. The Ottoman navy was superior - the dominant naval force in the region. But the Christians won a resounding victory and freed more than 7,500 Christian slaves. Christendom survived, and with it, the Christian culture of Europe.

Pope Pius V attributed the victory at Lepanto to one thing: the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While the war was being waged, Catholics across all of Europe prayed the rosary. They entrusted the battle to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was their champion and the intercessor for their victory. In her honor Oct. 7 was established as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Today we face new challenges to religious liberty and to Christian values in the United States. The lesson of Lepanto is that we should rededicate ourselves anew to working for the kingdom. We should entrust our efforts and, indeed, our country to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The spiritual battle we fight is essential to winning the earthly battles - and Mary, our Blessed Mother, is our powerful intercessor in these spiritual battles.

This coming week, I, and eight other U.S. bishops, will lead a rosary Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation. We will entrust our country to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The novena will begin on Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels. This special novena will be broadcast internationally on EWTN and I invite you to pray along with us. We need to consecrate our nation to the prayers of the Mother of God.

On Sept. 26, Catholics from Denver will join Catholics across the country in the beginning of the 40 Days for Life campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pray and sacrifice and to offer witness to the scourge of abortion in our nation. Make no doubt about it, abortion will end - and I pray it will be in our lifetimes. It will end because of our work to build a culture of life. But it will also end because of our prayer and fasting, our sacrifice, our unity with Christ and the cross. And it will end through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary is the Mother of God. She is a powerful intercessor and she loves us. God trusted her with his only son. When we entrust ourselves to her, amazing things can happen. They did at Lepanto and they can again today for us.

Bishop Conley

 

 

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