This is a transcription of a homily given by Fr. Christopher Smith on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and it is transcribed here by Tony Capobianco.
Permission to transcribe this sermon was sought and permission was graciously granted. Please offer 3 Hail Marys for Father’s intentions. Virgin Most Powerful, please guide and protect Fr. Smith.
Fr. Christopher Smith 0:09
Today, we celebrate the 20th Sunday after Pentecost because we're always giving emphasis to the temporal cycle over the sanctoral cycle. However in that cycle (Sanctoral Cycle) of Saint's feasts, today is also the feast of Our Lady Of The Rosary which is one of two feasts in the sacred year that commemorate not mysteries in the life of our Lord or Our Lady or the triumph of a saint or the passion of a martyr, but a military victory that ensured the freedom of Christians in Europe to live their Catholic faith. On October the seventh 1570, if the Battle of Lepanto had not been won, the Ottoman Empire would have swarmed into Europe, which would have become captive to the Islamic religion and the Turkish state. History often looks at certain battles at certain times as pivotal turning points and this is one of those crucial points in history, when the Christian religion and European culture could have disappeared in a generation. Had this battle not been won, then probably none of us would be sitting here today and certainly not in a church free to worship God the way that He wants to be worshiped and speaking God's language which of course is Latin and not Arabic as I would like to point out.
Fr. Christopher Smith 1:34
Now, those of you who know a little bit about your history know that on the eve of this battle, the outcome certainly did not look too good, did it? European Christians were too busy fighting each other to notice the fact that there was a looming threat of invasion and when finally someone woke up to smell the coffee and realized that things were very dire, it honestly seemed to many people to be entirely too late. Pope St. Pius the fifth, who was a very austere, fervent reformer inside of the Catholic Church, he looked around and said, “Okay, this is going to be an absolute and utter disaster if we don't do something about this real quick.” And so he finally was able to bring together the Catholic nations of Europe, in what was called the Holy League. Then he appointed a man who was probably the exact polar opposite of him in every conceivable way, except for their both having a love of the Faith, the swashbuckling, handsome, daring Don Juan of Austria to command the forces who were outnumbered by the Ottomans who had superior numbers, ships, and firepower. St. Pius the fifth of course, was a very wise man and he knew that all of the ships and firepower in the world, even being outnumbered was not going to get the job done. So he called all of the Christians of Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where they spent the night praying the rosary for the success of the Battle. Christians all over Europe took to prayer as their defenders took to war.
Fr. Christopher Smith 3:27
Now, I'll spare you all the gory details about the battle. Those of you who are interested in that kind of thing, you know that's what the internet and Google are for. You can find all kinds of interesting information about that but suffice it to say that at the end of the day, Christendom was saved and our Faith was spared what could have been total annihilation. Pope St. Pius The fifth ordered that the anniversary of the battle be kept as a feast to Our Lady of Victory and the name was changed a couple of years later by his successor to Our Lady of the Rosary.
Fr. Christopher Smith 4:00
Now of course as traditionally minded Catholics at Prince of Peace we like to celebrate these things in style, which is why we have our candlelight procession on the first Sunday of October. The reason that we make so much of a big deal about this particular feast of Our Lady Of The Rosary, isn’t just because we want to have an historical commemoration of a past naval battle. There's much more that's going on in this feast and I think that it has become a feast very beloved of Catholics today, because so many people realize that we are in an eerily similar situation as to what Christians were at that particular time.
Fr. Christopher Smith 4:57
In what way? Well, 500 years after Martin Luther’s revolt against Rome, Christians are still fighting amongst themselves. Add to the mix that secularism on the one hand and religious fundamentalism on the other in Islam and other religions, it all seems to be making peaceful coexistence harder and harder. Now there was a Roman writer named Publius Flavius, who in the fourth century wrote, “Si vis pacem, para bellum”. “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Fr. Christopher Smith 5:39
Now, as Christians when we hear this it's easy for us to bristle and think, wait a minute as Christians we're supposed to be a people of peace, so shouldn’t we be preparing for peace with peace? What does that mean? It's a little kind of nonsensical, it seems at first glance. As Christians we know that peace comes from the social reign of Christ as King over all peoples and to establish that peace we engage first of all in a spiritual battle within ourselves. We absolutely must not be afraid to declare total war on the world, the flesh and the Devil, that seek to carry our souls away from peace, away from the Prince of Peace. But that spiritual battle also means that we must learn how to defend our Faith and engage others for our freedom to practice what we know is the true religion. Now of course every age has its own particular fight for right. The spiritual battle takes on a different quality in different times and places but there is a very particular quality to what that looks like today.
Fr. Christopher Smith 7:01
In the ordinary form today we had the reading from Mark chapter 10 in which we read that the people to whom God revealed His word defiled marriage, the building block of the family and society. In this incredible passage, Our Lord takes the ancient natural institution of marriage, a contract that can be made and unmade at will and elevates it to a new supernatural sacrament of union. A covenant which is a sign on Earth of the undying and unconditional love of the Father. “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate. Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” These aren't my words, but the Incarnate Word who speaks.
Fr. Christopher Smith 8:28
We remember that when Our Lord came, He came, not just to save a bunch of random, totally disassociated individuals who believe that He was who He says He is. He comes to redeem all of Adam’s race, renew, and transform all of us who have received the saving waters of Faith in Baptism into His Mystical Body, the Church. The Church that was born from the side of Christ on the cross with the water of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist is His immaculate bride called to the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven, which is anticipated and participated in through the life of grace right here on Earth. And that is why the Sacrament of marriage, of union, is absolutely crucial for the Christian message to be consistent and faithful to the will of God.
Fr. Christopher Smith 9:40
Now I know that you know your Bible, we remember that the people of Israel were not always faithful to God's plan for marriage. We know that even Christians, the new Israel, haven't always been faithful to this plan. The Eastern churches permitted divorce because the code of Justinian of the Byzantine Empire based on Roman law allowed it. In the Middle Ages there were a bunch of extremely weirdo heretics called the Cathars who were running around saying that, ‘Oh you know, marriage, that’s not spiritual enough.’ They wanted to be spiritual but not religious so they said, ‘If you want to be really spiritual, you need to engage in free love.’ Well you can imagine the Church had absolutely nothing to do with all of that and luckily as far as I know, I've never seen a sign that says Cathar Church. So praise God that that heresy is at least in its form at the time was put down.
Fr. Christopher Smith 10:38
One by one, the Protestant divines denied that marriage was a Sacrament, a rite instituted by Christ which produces the grace that it signifies. And one by one they denied that marriage is indissoluble. Closer to our own time, we have seen a total revolt against the simple truth that God designed the marital act to be part of a faithful sacramental union, between one man and one woman, lived under the sign of grace. Now I don't need to tell you the details. You know them better than I do, I'm sure, but we've heard the words of the Gospel of Mark chapter 10, of the second chapter of Genesis, which is also good news. We've seen these things twisted and deformed beyond all recognition. We kind of expect to see that in secular society. What we may not expect to see but we are seeing in our own time, is that happening even with the shepherds of the Catholic Church and the failure of our shepherds, not to be perfect because I don't think anyone really expects that, but to be consistent with the clear message of Jesus Christ has led to a crisis of belief and practice which is unparalleled in history.
Fr. Christopher Smith 12:18
In 1570, Christians could look to the Bishop of Rome and to their Catholic Kings to finally get their act together and do what needed to be done. Trusting in God's mercy and in the intercession of the Mother of God, the enemy stood outside of the gates, ready to submerge the Christian world in destruction and the faithful they knew what to do, so they took up the rosary as their most terrifying weapon to bring about peace. In 2018, Christians can’t always look to their Bishops or to their government leaders to save them from the consequences of the revolution against God's plan for sex, marriage and family life. The enemy is not outside the gates. The enemy is us. The Trojan horse in the City of God has been to cloak sin and rebellion under the disguise of mercy and openness.
Fr. Christopher Smith 13:29
Now, you may be hearing all this and thinking, wow Father must have really gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Right? Oh this sounds sounds just kind of depressing and terrible. Well, I don't think that's the case at all actually and I know that because I see so many of you, as husbands and wives, fiance's, and all of these beautiful children that are running around all over the place and it gives me incredible hope for the future. And that’s why I know that even though we're in the midst of this bizarre situation, I never thought that I would live to see this day but here we are. I see you and I know that we are in good hands. Because you, my dear families, are the warriors for this time. The troops, ships and firepower of Don Juan of Austria? They’re not coming to save you. And You know what? They don't have to. Because You’ve got this. You want to know why? Because you were already conscripted into the army of the Lord, by the Sacrament of Confirmation. Think about that day in which you came before the Bishop, the successor to the Apostles and you were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit precisely for the mission that God would entrust to you. Well, here's your mission, to be faithful to that path to holiness that is His understanding and plan for sex, marriage and family life.
Fr. Christopher Smith 15:16
You know, this is perhaps one of the most exciting times to be a Catholic Christian, because this is the time when heroes and saints are made. You know, I know it may be easy for you to look at the life in your home and think, well I know there's not gonna be some statue of me with a halo up on top of it in Prince of Peace anytime soon. Eh, don’t count your chickens before they're hatched. This is precisely where saints are made and so I want you and me both to resolve today to put aside anything which keeps us from God's plan for sex, marriage and family life and to commit to prayer and action. The face of the Church will be renewed and our fallen humanity restored when we come back to Jesus and to His word and become once again a people of prayer. Also we know that our Blessed Mother is with us on this journey.
Fr. Christopher Smith 16:29
Beneath your compassion we take refuge, O Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in time of trouble, but rescue us from dangers, Only Pure, Only Blessed One.
The audio for the above transcript can be found below: