|Veronese, Battle of Lepanto c 1572|
III. THE POWER OF THE ROSARY
"Lo, here is the sword of Goliath. . . . There is none like that, give it to me."—I Kings xxi, 9.SYNOPSIS.—David, with God's assistance, his only weapon a pebble, slew the giant. God gives us, as our weapon, the rosary. This has proven efficacious in the battles of the Church against heretics and heathen armies. Examples: Albigenses; Turks at Lepanto and Belgrade; many epidemics abated or averted by the power of the rosary. This devotion is just as powerful for the individual and for the family.
God has shown us that He wishes many to co-operate with the Church and with the Christian in their fight for faith and salvation. Let all use this weapon.
My dear brethren, in the first book of Kings we read how the Philistines went forth to battle against the Israelites. The Philistines arrayed their forces on a mountain, and the Israelites occupied a mountain on the opposite side, so that the valley was between them. Then there went out from the hordes of the Philistines a man named Goliath, a giant of enormous strength, who challenged the Israelites to let one of their men fight him hand to hand, the result of this contest to decide the victory or defeat of either army. A youth named David, inspired and urged by the spirit of God, went forth with a few smooth stones and a sling to meet this Philistine, and as Goliath rushed toward him David cast the stones with the sling and struck the Philistine in the forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth. David then ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and slew him. Israel thus gained the victory over the Philistines. But when for this victory exceeding praise was given to David, King Saul became angry and sought the life of the youthful hero. In his flight David came to Nobe. Not having any weapon, he said to the high priest Achimelech: "Hast thou here at hand a spear or a sword?" The high priest answered: "Lo, here is the sword of Goliath, whom thou slewest in the valley of Terebinth, if thou wilt take this, for there is no other but this." And David said, "There is none like that, give it me."
These last words, which I have made the text for my address to-day, we may fitly apply to the holy rosary. For the rosary has ever since its origin proven itself a conquering weapon for the Church, as also well as for the individual Christian, against the most powerful enemies of God and of His Church. Let us consider the fact for the greater glory of God and of the Queen of the rosary.
Since the introduction of the rosary by St. Dominic, for more than six hundred years therefore, the great victories of Christianity against the many and ferocious enemies of the Church are ascribed to the devotion of the rosary. The Church has at all times had enemies, who with all their power and in all their evil ways have opposed and persecuted her. Nor is this surprising. Ever since Satan succeeded in beguiling our first parents into sin, he has continued to sow dissention among mankind. Beginning with Cain and Abel, there have been children of God who obeyed God's commandments, and, on the other hand, children of Satan, as holy Scripture calls them, who seek their salvation in the pleasures of this life. Since the time of Cain and Abel, mankind has been split into two divisions, one seeking the kingdom of God, the other the kingdom of the world, the kingdom of Satan.
When our Saviour conquered Satan He left him power over those who make themselves slaves to the sensual pleasures, and thus there exists an evil force against the Church, and it will exist to the end of time. This is a fact that we must keep in view in order to fully understand and judge the conditions. The realm of darkness, Satan's realm, stands opposed to the realm of Christ. Satan and his adherents carry on the warfare against the Church of Christ, as they assaulted Christ Himself. "As they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," so did Christ prophecy.
The Church of Christ demands the subjection of the flesh; she preaches against luxury, pride and selfishness. She preaches chastity and submission to the commandments of God; she preaches penance alike to those of high and low station in life. This angers all those who would indulge in the evil things of this world. They cry: "Let us break her bonds asunder; and let us cast away her yoke from us." But as Christ foretold the persecution of His Church, so He also foretold that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. The Church of God will in due time conquer all her enemies, some will be converted, while others who are obstinate will perish in the battle. In all these battles and victories of the Church, Mary, blessed mother of her divine Founder, co-operates with the Church through her intercession. Mary was already spoken of in paradise as the one who would come to tread upon the head of the serpent, the spirit of darkness. This she has done by becoming the mother of God, by bringing forth the Redeemer. And as Jesus through Mary's co-operation came into this world, so He desires her co-operation in ruling the world. The history of the contests and Victories of the Church verify this throughout the centuries.
The history of the veneration of Mary tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary helped to win these victories. During the early times, when fierce battles against the Church were raging, bishops and priests knew of no more efficacious means to avert these dangers than to exhort the faithful to pray to the Blessed Virgin. Thus we read in history that the holy bishops and martyrs Ignatius and Irenaeus did this in the second century, and in the third century it was Pope Calixtus who advised the faithful to take refuge with the Blessed Virgin in time of persecution of the Church. And so on through all Christian times.
Since the introduction of the rosary by St. Dominic all great victories have been credited to the devotion of the rosary. The first great conquest of the Church effected by the rosary was the victory over the Albigenses, who had spread heresy in southern France and had caused great havoc in Church and State.
St. Bernard complained in those times: "The churches are empty, the people without priests, the Sacraments without reverence. People on their deathbed refuse the assistance of the Church, ridicule penance."
How the weapon with which this heresy was conquered was the rosary we have related in a previous sermon. This was the first glorious victory through the devotion of the rosary. It was the sword with which the Church slew the proud Goliath of heresy.
Another wonderful victory through this miraculous weapon of Christianity was the defeat of the Turkish navy at Lepanto, on October 7, 1571. The so-called reformation, of which Martin Luther was the originator, had spread over the whole of Europe, bringing in its trail destruction, dissension and war. The Turks, who had long thirsted for vengeance upon the Christians, found situations favorable for their plans. They gathered all their forces to assail the Christian lands. The princes of Europe were either indifferent, or were besieged with difficulties in their own lands, and Luther even said he preferred the Turks to the papacy. Pope Pius V alone realized the great danger that threatened Christianity and he called upon the Christian people to defend country and Church against the common enemy.
The Christian forces which could be assembled were very small compared with those of the Turks. Nevertheless Pius V knew of another power which he realized would be a mighty ally. With all his energy he exhorted his people to implore the Blessed Virgin and glorious Queen of heaven, through the rosary, to come to the assistance of the Christian army. It was, as Leo XIII said in his Commendation of the rosary, an ennobling sight, which drew the eyes of the whole world; on one side, not far from the Corinthian Sea, the Christians prepared to sacrifice life for religion and country; while gathered on the other side, imploring through the rosary Mary's assistance for the fighting Christians, were many Christians unable to take up arms.
The small army of Christians attacking the great force of the Turkish fleet was an undertaking similar to the assault of David upon the giant Goliath. On October 7, 1571, the deciding battle was fought, in the Bay of Lepanto. The battle raged from six o'clock in the morning until six o'clock at night. It was one of the most terrific battles ever fought. And, lo! in the evening, toward six o'clock, the battle ended in the victory of the Christians over their powerful enemy. This wonderful victory of the Christians was undoubtedly due to the assistance of the Blessed Virgin. Pope Pius V so declared, and in memory of this wonderful achievement he added to the litany of the Blessed Virgin the supplication: "Help of Christians, pray for us!" He also ordained that the anniversary of this victory be celebrated as the feast of "Our Lady of Victory," which Gregory XIII subsequently styled the "Feast of the Rosary."
In the annals of the Church there is another great victory over the Turks recorded which once more demonstrated the power of the rosary. It was the great victory in the campaign against the Turks at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Prince Eugene, before engaging the enemy, implored the help of the Blessed Virgin, through the rosary, and then with confidence in God's assistance went to battle and to glorious victory. Thirty thousand Turks were slain on the battlefield; the others fled. The rosary again had won the victory, and on the feast day of the Blessed Virgin.
In the same manner as the rosary was a successful weapon against heretics and other enemies of the Church, it has demonstrated its wonderful efficiency in individual cases of stress, and of such I will mention a few instances. In the year 1578 a fearful epidemic devastated the city of Pavia. The terrified people made a public vow to build a chapel to our Blessed Lady of the Rosary if the epidemic would cease. And the very day the vow was made the epidemic did abate. A similar case happened in Cologne, where people were saved from an epidemic after such a vow had been made. That cases like these are innumerable' is manifested by the many chapels built as a result of such vows, and by the votive tablets in pilgrimage churches dedicated to Mary. Sight is restored to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, the use of their limbs to the crippled, diseases of all kind are cured, by invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin by means of the devotion of the rosary.
The conversion of a hardened sinner is, after all, a greater miracle than all cures of disease. And such conversions to this day are as numerous as they were at the time the rosary was introduced. Entire nations, provinces and cities have been converted to God through his devotion. Blessed John, a companion of St. Dominic, wrote a book about the miraculous power of the rosary. The blessed Alanus de la Roche tells of a bishop, in whose diocese morality was decadent, who finally took up the devotion to the rosary, explained it to his people, prayed it with them, and had it introduced in all parishes. Soon the people abandoned their evil ways.
St. Clement Hofbauer assures us: "When I am called to a sick man of whom I know that he is averse to making his peace with God, on the way I pray my rosary, and when I reach him I am sure to find him desirous to receive the Sacraments."
The holy doctor Alphonsus of Liguori relates from his experience: "The walls of Jericho did not collapse more quickly at the trumpet call of Josue than false teachings disappear after the earnest praying of the rosary. The swimming pool of Jerusalem was not as healing for the bodily sick as the rosary is as remedy for the spiritually diseased."
These few examples, to which I could add hundreds of other similar instances, prove the miraculous efficacy of the rosary. Oh, that all Christians would grasp this weapon to attack and conquer all enemies of Church and soul!
Great dangers threaten the spiritual weal of the individual, family and community. Let us, then, arise and grasp the mighty sword which is like to none, the holy rosary, and let us attack with it the Goliath of our times, corruption and godlessness. As David courageously met the enemy of Israel with the humble sling in his hand and conquered because God was with him, so let us face the enemies of Christendom and of our salvation, with the humble wreath of the rosary in our hands, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin will secure for us God's grace and assistance, and with God to fight our battles, who will do us harm? Amen!
FROM - CONFERENCES FOR DEVOTIONS IN HONOR OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN BY REV. M. J. FRINGS NEW YORK JOSEPH F. WAGNER
REMIGIUS LAFORT, D.D.
JOHN CARDINAL FARLEY
Archbishop of New York
NEW YORK, September 19, 1912
Copyright, 1912, by JOSEPH F. WAGNER, NEW YORK