From The Excellence of the Rosary, by Rev. M. J. Frings
Since the introduction of the Rosary by St. Dominic, 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 evil spirit has a twofold weapon with which he assails and combats God's Church; namely, the godless rulers of the world and heresy. Through the godless authorities of the world Satan has endeavored since the beginning to crush the Church; through heresy he attempts to destroy the Church by internal dissension. Both weapons are used together, for heresy and calumny can not prevail without substantial support, and heretics seek worldly power and assistance. On every page of Church history we find recorded the clashes planned by these evil forces, from which the Church always came out not conquered, but a conqueror.
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.
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.
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.
After the Turks had been defeated at sea, they endeavored to conquer on land. They forced their way to Hungary, and had taken possession of eight provinces, when Emperor Charles VII sent an army against them under the command of Prince Eugene. This army was composed of only seventy thousand men. With this meager force Prince Eugene defeated two hundred thousand Turks and laid siege to Belgrade, their stronghold.
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 powerful 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!