By Prof. Michael Ogunu
Beginning in the 7th century and for a thousand years that followed, there was a great threat to Christian civilization, that of the Moslem sword. Setting out in the year 634 to conquer the world, the Moslems captured Syria and Damascus within a year and Jerusalem three years later and just nine years from the start had conquered in Asia and Africa a territory half the size of Europe. When they crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 711, they overran Spain and Portugal and then France. Many bloody wars followed and the Christians managed to stand firm until 1453 when Constatinople fell after a huge assault. From that time the Moslems were firmly installed in Europe.
Their dominance continued until the year 1571 when a battle was fought on which hung not only the destiny of Europe but the destiny of Christian civilization. This was the battle of Lepanto in the Gulf of Corinth when a small Christian flotilla faced the overwhelming odds of a huge Moslem fleet. Pope Pius V, who had been encouraging the entire Catholic world to say the Rosary, was, at the time of the battle, as Vatican archives later revealed, saying the Rosary with many of the faithful in the Basilica of Santa Maria Magiore at Rome. The prayer continued from dawn to dusk while the battle raged and when it was all over the Moslems were defeated and in just one day, 200 out of 270 Moslem ships were destroyed. The Turks had also lost 30,000 men as against 4,000 to 5,000 Christian casualties. The Rosary had won a great military victory. The Pope instituted ‘The Feast of the Holy Rosary’ in 1571 in thanksgiving for a great victory won ‘through the power of the Rosary’. His successor Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) says that we must believe in faith that the public prayers and processions of members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary were largely responsible for the great victory at Lepanto.
In 1683, Austria was saved from the Muslim Turks of the Ottoman Empire. It was not generals, nor battalions, nor arms that brought victory, but Our Lady of the Rosary as thousands of Austrians said the Rosary for deliverance. Over 270 years later, on 13th May 1955, the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the Four powers, U.S., U.K., France and Russia, signed an agreement in Vienna to restore freedom and sovereignty to Austria. Other enslaved Communist countries, like Hungary, revolted and failed. Austria succeeded without effort. WHY? 700,000 people or 10% of the seven million population had pledged themselves ten years earlier to say the Rosary daily. A modern example of how God can spare many for the prayers of the few.
The highlight of the Spanish Civil War in 1938 was the Battle of Alcazar when the Communists laid siege to this ancient fortress. The 1,700 defenders including 500 women and 52 children, under constant bombardment from several thousand Communists, gathered to say the Rosary twice daily. They held out for 71 days till General Franco finally arrived to rout the Communists.
By 1964, the Communists had already gained political control of Brazil and were planning to eliminate all opposition. The ‘BLOODBATH’ was planned for Good Friday of Holy Week. Cardinal Carmera in a radio broadcast called the people to resist. There followed mammoth Rosary processions and rallies by hundreds of thousands and even millions. Brazilian military leaders brought about a ‘BLOODLESS COUP’. The Communist leaders fled the country. On Good Friday two million people marched through the streets of Rio de Janeiro saying the Rosary in thanksgiving to Our Lady for saving their country from Communism.
In 1985 in the Philippines, one million people signed the Pledge of the Blue Army society (now known as the World Apostolate of Fatima) which includes daily recitation of the Rosary. On 23rd February 1986 using a loudspeaker, a Blue Army Leader led the Rosary in front of the National Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima to several thousand people kneeling on the road, pavement, anywhere. Facing them were hundreds of combat-ready marines and behind the soldiers’ tanks and armoured cars ready to launch an attack. The troops stopped, the tanks were halted, but not by the force of bodies bound together in a human barricade. NO. The soldiers told his Eminence, “A very beautiful lady appeared. The vision said ‘STOP! DON’T ATTACK MY PEOPLE. I AM THE QUEEN OF THIS LAND’ ”. This was indisputably a ‘Rosary miracle’ of a bloodless transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Ever since the Blessed Virgin gave St. Dominic the Rosary in 1214, there has hardly been a Pope who has not recommended and recognized the Holy Rosary as the pre-emptive type of prayer. They have written encyclicals, bulls, and meditations and heaped indulgences on the Rosary. We live in evil times. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement.
In these dark days, we must not be afraid. Like our forebears in faith, we must turn again and again to the Rosary, calling on the Immaculate Virgin to come to our assistance and put our enemies to flight.
Here are quotes from Popes and Saints to encourage us in praying this powerful prayer:
- “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times”. – St. Padre Pio.
- “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world”. – Blessed Pope Pius IX.
- “The Holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the result”. – St. Josemaria Escriva.
- “The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin… If you desire peace in your heart, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labours”. – Pope Pius XI.
- Leo X (1513-21) called the Rosary a wall to hold back the evils that were going to break upon the Church.
- Adrian VI (1522-23) said, “The Rosary is the scourge of the devil”.
- Julius III (1550-55) said the Rosary was inspired by God that heaven might be more easily opened to us through the favours of Our Lady.
- Gregory XIII (1572-85) said the Rosary was given to us from Heaven as a means of appeasing God’s anger and of imploring Our Lady’s intercession.
- Leo XIII (1878-1903) said, “As Vicar of Christ I wish to honour Our Lady of the Rosary”. And he did. He wrote 8 encyclicals on the Rosary. This ‘Rosary’ Pope decreed that October be dedicated to the Rosary, with daily recitation of the Rosary in church in October. He added, ‘Queen of the Most Holy Rosary’ to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For Leo XIII, the Rosary “is the remedy for all our evils and the root of all our blessings”.
- Pius X (1903-14) says: “The Rosary is richest in graces (and) most pleasing to Mary. Love the Rosary, recite it every day with devotion, this is the testament that I leave unto you”.
- Pius XI (1922-39) says that the Rosary “abundantly sustains our Catholic faith, and is very efficacious in deterring impending evils and calamities”.
- According to Pius XII (1939-58), “there is no surer means of calling down God’s blessing on the family”.
- John Paul I (1978) who was only 33 days a Pope, addressed his priests thus: “Do me a favour. Never omit the Rosary and recite it well. And even in the Parishes, have it recited. I urge it so much”.
- Pope John Paul II pleaded that ‘the fine custom, once so widespread – the family Rosary – should spring up again’. He declared the 25th year of his pontificate, 16th October 2002 – October 2003, ‘The Year of the Rosary’ and said “Today I entrust to the power of the Rosary the peace of the world and the family”. He recited the then 15 mysteries of the Rosary everyday and wrote an Apostolic letter ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’ in which he added five new Mysteries, the ‘Luminous Mysteries’, to his ‘favourite prayer’ – The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- According to Sr. Lucia, one of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917,
The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families … that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
It is extremely important that all Christians pray the Rosary daily in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for sins committed and for the conversion of sinners as requested by Our Lady of Fatima, and as many rosaries as possible every day in this period of terrible evils in our society and in the world which could lead to the death of millions of people for Our Lady to intercede for us, that God may end the evils and protect us and our families and communities.
Encouraged by these gems of Christian spiritual reflection on the Rosary, let us rediscover its beauty and power and say it every day of our earthly lives.
In our efforts to put an end to the sexual immorality, corruption and injustice, as well as the insecurity, kidnapping and killing of Christians and other innocent people in our nation and the entire world, may Our Lady of the Rosary intercede for us.
Prof. Michael Ogunu is the President and Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa