Lepanto, the Holy Rosary and Us

The feast of the Holy Rosary was instituted to commemorate the Battle of Lepanto, when a significant defeat was inflicted on the Ottoman Turks by the Holy League (a rather optimistic name for the coalition of southern Catholic maritime states that placed themselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and ascribed their success to her intercession). The Holy League’s victory effectively prevented further Turkish expansion westwards. Today, many Christians, in Africa and the Middle East especially, feel threatened by the rise of a  militant Islam which seeks to exterminate them by every means possible. The West, however, is no longer Christian in any meaningful sense and seems to have no clear idea how it should respond to any perceived threat. We read about Boku Haram murdering children as they sleep and wonder how such intense hatred can exist, conveniently forgetting that drone attacks in Pakistan have also killed children as they slept. I certainly have no answers to any of the questions raised by terrorism or counter-terrorism in the world today.

My Muslim friends and I have often asked ourselves what we, as individuals, can do and the only answer we have been able to come up with is to pray and work for peace where we can. It often doesn’t seem much, but unless we do try to dissolve the old hatreds and antagonisms, we are doomed to go on living them. If you are a rosary pray-er, why not pray a rosary for peace between Christians and Muslims today?


18 thoughts on “Lepanto, the Holy Rosary and Us”

  1. I believe inspiration comes from Mulala Yousafsai the little girl who was shot in Pakistan by the Taliban for doing nothing more than going to school. Her speech to the Clinton foundation was an inspiration to me and it comes as no surprise that she is being recommended for a Nobel Peace prize. She will be the youngest person ever if she is nominated.
    Quite simply feminine rights need to sweep through the Islamic world. A s she said in her speech, the West should Educate Educate Educate, and that books, teachers and pens should be sent rather than bombs and guns.
    Equal rights for women has the potential to change the world but particularly the Islamic world. Every child girls and boys should have the right to free education in Maths Physics Chemistry etc It would be a serious challenge to Islamic fundamentalism and would destry its hegemony in those societies
    Any exit strategy from Afghanistan should include the fundamental rights for girls and boys to equally have access to free education. This will do more for those societies than guns and bombs. In the course of a generation – 12 years – the World situation could be altered for good.
    I sincerely hope that Malala does get the Nobel peace prize so that her views are given wider exposure. More importantly I hope she sees her dream fulfilled in my lifetime.

    • Whilst absolutely agreeing wholeheartedly with your sentiments, Clifford, may I query whether the speech which you cite was in fact the one delivered to the UN on her sixteenth birthday? With thanks.

    • Thank you, Clifford. How she is received in Pakistan is indicative of the nature and intensity of the struggle to obtain universal access to education. Even in this country, women still have a long way to go before they are accorded equal respect, etc. The ‘equality’ angle may ultimately prove misleading, but to discuss that would take another, and much longer, post!

  2. Thank you for introducing me to this bit of history. Although the Rosary is not part of my practice, I am surprised to find another connection between Mary the Mother of God and Islam.
    During recent travels in Palestine, Jordan and Israel I was made aware of the deep respect Muslims have for Our Lady, and indeed for her son, Issa. Many Muslims, and especially women will visit shrines or churches dedicated to Our Lady to pray and ask her assistance. It seems to me that just as the Psalms are our Christian link to Judaism, for whenever we pray the Psalms we are joining the prayers of every Jew in the world, so it is that when we turn to Mary we are linked with our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is beyond my power to say, but is it perhaps She who will bring us to harmony?

    • Yes and no. I think the huge cultural differences, not just between Christians and Muslims, but among different kinds of Christians and Muslims would make that difficult — but that is not to say we shouldn’t hope and pray it may be so.

    • Thank you for this too, Patricia. It is a good thought.

      Following the Church’s principle of subsidiarity, in many (although not all) families, of various faiths and denominations, it is often the women who hold the balance of peace. Not in isolation without their menfolk but, as necessity often demands, more proactively. They listen, ponder, engage and problem solve.

      Using this intuitive, in-built quality more widely within the public arena rather than expecting women, perhaps without realising, to instinctively respond to a male model of leadership would surely be beneficial to all of society? It would hopefully mean that we could find other ways of resolving conflicts other than via the onslaught of battle.

      For such activity to also be founded on the image of the Mother of God surely gives an ideal blueprint for life?

      • Yes, I share your hope that women may be able to take us forward on these issues. As the first writer points out Mulala
        Y. is a wonderful example, as are the calls for more educationally opportunities for women across the world and so I continue to hope and pray.

  3. Boko Haram killed those kids intentionally, so I’m (to say the least) uneasy about drawing an equivalence with drone strikes, questionable as they may be on other respects. Agree otherwise.

    • Didn’t have time to write an essay this morning, hence the shorthand! Boko Haram say that their killings are a response to the drone attacks and the evil, as they see it, of Western education and the Western invasion of Muslim territory (eg. Iraq). Of course it isn’t an equivalence, but some people see it as such. The point I am making is that violence begets violence, and no one in my view can take the moral high ground.

      • Now that is a difficult balance, Dame Catherine.

        I agree aggression begets aggression but not taking the moral high ground… Surely there is a fine line between upholding truths or working for a cause, based upon a principle, and ‘preaching’. Perhaps it has something to do with the audience one is engaging, motivation and personal conscience, and in the end we all have to follow our own conscience.

  4. Thank you Dame Catherine for increasing my knowledge.

    I off course prayed the Rosary when young, but it’s a discipline that I abandoned when I stopped being a Christian.

    Nowadays, even though I’m an Anglican, I have rediscovered the Rosary, perhaps through the use of a Catholic Prayer book left by my late Uncle, who while his children said he’d stopped being a Catholic, had in fact used it until he was unable to read anymore.

    I sometimes go to Aylesford Priory where the opportunity to use the Rosary prayer walk is available and it’s a place where I really find the time to pray all of the decades of the Rosary over an hour or so.

    The situation of friction and hatred between religious faiths is something I don’t really understand, but I have to accept that it exists, and it is something to be regretted and prayed for and worked against.

    I don’t know how to break down the barriers which cause so much divisive hatred, but know that we can’t afford to just ignore it. The persecution of anyone for their faith is unjust and indefensible, and a work of evil if ever there was one.

    I pray that mankind will abandon all such evil and work together for the greater good. Amen

    • There is a resurgence of interest in, and a new understanding of the rosary in Anglican circles …. indeed I pray the rosary myself using beads bought for a modest price online and using the resources of:


      I feel that anything that we can use to bring us closer to God is worth looking at….blessings arrive unexpectedly from surprising sources! As a child I envied my catholic best friend her rosary beads…..perhaps I had an intuition that such a thing would be helpful to me…however the idea may have been misused in other times?

  5. I woke up in the middle of the night and spent half an hour reading the Qur’an which I conveniently keep on my google books alongside other favorites such as The Forgotten Desert Mothers – Laura Swan and The Most Holy Trinosophia – Robert A. Powell. As a person who has dedicated my life to God, it seems vital to appreciate the vast multi-faceted cosmic living God, that is will and has awakened awe and worship in the lives of other human creatures around the globe. I learn much about God from other faiths – from the sacred texts and also from commentaries. My relationship with the divine is enriched beyond measure – links through greater understanding surely must lead to compassion, consideration and that ‘Love’ that we were commissioned to share…..
    Just musing sister, just musing……

  6. If people prayed for peace instead of demanding revenge then we could move forward. The tensions between Christians and Muslims seem in the main to be cultural and political. There is little time spent discussing the deep spirituality that exists in both religions (and others!) but lots of effort deciding what threat is posed to the “West” or to “Muslim states/warlords” It is a bitter irony that the three Abrahamic religions have so much in common yet seem to find endless reasons to hate and kill members of the other two based on land/power issues.

  7. My street has both the Church of the Madonna of the Rosary and the mosque. More muslim neighbours pass me telling their beads than do Christians. Both remind me of pious and bewimpled childhood teachers. And our Muslim baker offers without irony great croissants alongside Ramadan sweets, with the flier for the local Dominican lecture series thrown in for good measure…I pray that we rub along together a long while yet.

  8. I find it ironic that the most progressive countries, and the ones that are, or did/do call themselves, at least nominally, Christian, are those with the biggest, ‘best’ and most advanced weapons.

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