About the Feast

On October 7, 1571, a Christian fleet composed of ships from Spain, the city-states of Italy, and the Knights of Malta challenged a Muslim Turkish navy for possession of Cyprus, which the Turks had captured a few months before. The battle took place at Lepanto (now known as the Gulf of Corinth), in the Mediterranean Sea. 

The Christian fleet, organized and consecrated by Pope Pius V and commanded by Don Juan, son of Charles V, prayed the Rosary together before entering battle. They achieved a stunning victory, killing thirty thousand Turks (only seventy-five hundred Christians were killed in the battle) and rescuing twelve thousand Christian slaves who had been chained as rowers for the Turkish fleet.

This decisive battle turned back the advancing Muslim forces, who were poised to invade and conquer Europe. All of Christendom celebrated. In 1572, on the anniversary of the battle, Pope Pius V instituted this feast in thanksgiving to Our Lady of the Rosary. He invited all to celebrate by meditating on the mysteries of Christ and following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. G. K. Chesterton's poem Lepanto gives an exciting and vivid account of this battle.

Observing the Feast

If you do not yet pray the Rosary as a family, this feast day is an excellent time to introduce this devotion to your family. The accounts of the Battle of Lepanto are sure to capture the imagination of small boys, while the loving care with which our Lady protects us will appeal to small girls, who lavish the same care (they imagine!) on their dolls.

Do not be discouraged if this is the third or fourth or too embarrassed-to-count time you have tried to institute the family Rosary. Even a daily decade is enough to kindle a spark of Marian devotion in your family—a spark that is sure to grow.

Try praying each decade as Pope John Paul II recommended in Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the document in which he also proposed the new Luminous Mysteries.

Announce the mystery and read the related scriptural passage aloud. Let the older children take turns reading from the Bible.

Then read a short meditation on the mystery. Meditations can recount the events, focus on the interior state of those present, or call us to meditate on the "fruits" (what it can teach us) of each mystery. Some recommend that the meditation and fruits be considered after praYing the decade, but for children, the usual order works best—their patience may be exhausted by the end of the decade.

Finally, pray the decade. Close with a Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer.
Fatima Prayer

When she appeared to Francesco, Jacinta, and Lucia at Fatima, our Lady asked the children to add this prayer to their Rosary.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins,
save us from the powers of hell,
and lead all souls to heaven,
especially those in most need of Y our mercy. Amen.