28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 9, 2016
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
For centuries the Catholic Church throughout the world
has remembered the month of October as “the month of the Rosary.”
But for the last few decades, the Bishops of the United States
have asked us to also observe the month of October as
“respect life month.”
This coincidence needn’t have us pitting the Rosary against Respect Life,
but rather recognizing that the Rosary is one of our most powerful tools
in the fight against abortion,
and not only abortion, but all the evils that plague us today.
Now, some might ask, how can something so small and simplistic as the Rosary
be a powerful tool against all the evils of the world?
But isn’t that the way God works
—using the simple things to achieve marvelous things?
We think, for example, of David versus Goliath,
or even birth of a tiny poor Babe in tiny poor Bethlehem,
or the small band of 200 Christians at the first Pentecost
which has expanded to 2 billion Christians today,
Or look at today’s first reading,
and the story of King Naaman going down into the Jordan
to bathe in order be cured of leprosy.
We only read the end of the story today,
but if we go back a few paragraphs in the Bible we see that
before he obeys the Prophet Elisha’s instruction to bathe in the Jordan
we find that he thought it was nonsense:
how could something so simple as washing in the Jordan
be so powerful that it could cure his leprosy?
But when he did it, he saw how God could use something very simple
to achieve powerful results.
Throughout the course of the last 800 years
we’ve seen this to be the case with the Rosary.
There are innumerable examples of this,
recorded and not recorded, public and private,
but perhaps the greatest happened 435 years ago
this last Friday, on October 7, 1571,
in what was called the Battle of Lepanto.
Christian Europe was being attacked by the Muslim Ottoman Empire,
and in order to stave off the invasion,
the Europeans united and sent a fleet out to face the Ottomans
near a place called Lepanto in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Ottomans had rarely met defeat on the seas,
and the Europeans had no real hope of changing their fortune this time.
No hope, perhaps, by human standards.
But they did have hope and faith that Christ would not abandon them.
And they had hope and faith that Christ’s Mother, Mary,
would intercede for them.
And so Pope St. Pius V begged all the faithful of the Church
to pray for the success of the fleet.
In particular, he called on them to “pray the Rosary” for victory.
And so, as the small navies from the various Christian nations came together
so did all the Christians of Europe in praying the Rosary.
History tells us that
as the much smaller and weaker Christian fleet sailed into battle
they found the wind blowing against them
–remember these were sailing ships,
depending on a favorable wind to blow them forward,
and so they could barely maneuver, much less fight,
when the wind was against them, as it was that day.
But they continued to pray the Rosary.
And suddenly an amazing inexplicable thing happened:
the wind turned 180˚, and suddenly the wind was with them,
and against the Ottomans.
And with that, and filled with confidence in Christ and His Mother
they destroyed the Muslim fleet, and Europe, and Christianity, was spared.
And so for 4 centuries the Church has been celebrated October 7 as either
the Feast of Our Lady of Victory or Our Lady of the Rosary.
And since then, popes have repeatedly yielded the Rosary
not just against Muslim invaders,
and not just against those who attacked Christianity,
but also against any and all opponents of civilized human society.
For example, in the 1930’s and 40’s Pius XI and Pius XII
called on the faithful to pray the Rosary for the defeat
of Fascism in Germany and Italy.
In the 1930’s through the 1980’s,
all the popes–Pius XI and XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and II—
called on us to pray the Rosary for the fall of Communism,
especially in the Soviet bloc.
Where is the Third Reich today, where is the Soviet Union?
Where is the Rosary today?
Hopefully in our praying hands.
In today’s first reading it is Naaman’s small inkling of faith that leads him
to bathe in the waters of the Jordan and be healed.
And in today’s Gospel Jesus tells the leper who has had faith in him:
“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
When all seems lost, when fear is too great,
when evil seems to overwhelm us on all sides,
it is our faith in Christ that saves us, that leads us to victory.
And the Rosary calls us to faith: faith in Jesus Christ
–faith in the power of his life, death and resurrection,
especially as we meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary.
–faith in the power of prayer to him.
–faith in the power of the gift he gave us in his Blessed Mother,
who intercedes and intervenes for us.
Some have a hard time understanding the power and importance
of Mary’s intercession.
But think about the simple but powerful the love of any good mother.
Maybe your own mother, or maybe your wife.
The love of mothers can be amazing and powerful, even in the simplest acts:
kissing a bruise or a scape, changing a diaper, even spanking a bottom.
The love of a good mother is amazing and powerful:
is it so hard to believe that the greatest most loving mother ever,
the Mother of Jesus himself,
whom Jesus gave to us from the Cross to be our mother,
would not also long to reach out to us
in even more dramatic, profound and mighty ways as well?
There are many threats that weigh heavily against us today.
Yes, once again the Muslim warriors are attacking us as they did 4 centuries ago. But in our own country we see so many threats just as dangerous.
Pro-Abortion forces see to the murder of a million unborn babies every year,
as well as undermine our fundamental respect for the dignity of human life.
Then there are the movements pushing marriage and gender confusion
undermining the very structure of human society and identity.
Not to mention the attacks on religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
And so, we must pray the Rosary to end abortion,
and to protect marriage and sexuality, and freedom.
Again, some would ask,
“why should we think a simple thing like the Rosary would be so powerful?”
Why? All we have to do is look back at history.
Look back to the Soviet Union and the Third Reich: where are they today?
And then look back all the way to Lepanto.
And so we must continue to fight the battle.
Fighting not with the bloody weapons of death and destruction,
but with the truly human weapons of reason and persuasion,
and the divine weapons of faith and prayer,
especially the prayer of the Rosary.
So, pray the Rosary!
Pray it every day, or at least once or twice a week.
Pray it in church—come this Tuesday for hour Holy Hour and Rosary.
Pray it at home or in the car.
Pray it alone or with friends—or especially pray it with your family.
Pray it quickly if you must, that’s fine.
Pray it even if you’re distracted by something
—Mary knows and appreciates that you are trying
to bring her and her Son into the ordinary things of life.
Pray it slowly if you can, carefully meditating on each prayer and mystery.
But pray the Rosary!
Christ tells us in today’s Gospel: “your faith has saved you.”
And he reminds us elsewhere that
if we have faith the size of the mustard seed,
we can move mountains.
The Rosary is small little thing, but small things can do wonders,
if used to invoke the power of Christ.
Let the small beads of the Rosary, then,
remind us of the faith they call us to and express.
Faith in Christ, and in his gift of his Mother, Our Lady of the Rosary.
The faith that saved Christian Europe at Lepanto in the 16th century,
and that saved us from the political scourges of the 20th century.
Let us wage war today with the power of faith and love.
Let us wage war with the power of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pray the Rosary to end abortion.
Pray the Rosary to preserve the true meaning of marriage, family and sexuality
Pray the Rosary to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
Pray the Rosary for salvation
—yours, your family’s, your country’s and the world’s.