Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Pope of Lepanto

We complete this month of April today - a busy month with Holy Week, the Triduum, and the Octave of Easter, with completing our study of GKC's Orthodoxy and with the obsequies for Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, and the usual assortment of the less dramatic matters of life.

Rather than start a new large project (what it might be I have no idea - do you?) rather than just wandering around through our AMBER collection bumping into unusual GKC quotes, I thought that since today, April 30, the feast of St. Pius V, is a Thursday, we might just take a brief look at this man, the Pope of Lepanto...

((click here to read more))
What is that "Lepanto" you ask? It was one of the greatest naval battles of history - Chesterton wrote a grand poem about it, and the ACS has a handy annotated edition with historical and literary commentaries - so I shall not try to condense it all here. But the battle happened on October 7, 1571, where the united forces of the West (the "Holy League") under the leadership of Don John of Austria, defeated the Turkish Armada in the bay of Lepanto, in Greece...

It was not a sure thing. The "Soldan of Byzantium", the leader of the Turks, had his eyes on Rome, the "Golden Apple" - the West was unstable, and seemed to be refusing to unite against him, and so he hoped to invade Italy and take a great prize, the heart of the Western World:
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross...
This great Pope, Pius V, a Dominican, turned to God - he asked that Christians everywhere recite the Rosary, and people prayed - and they were heard:
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in a man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and verydear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of St. Mark...
Yes... in Rome he had a vision of the battle, far to the east... and knew of the victory. But you need to read the poem in its entirety, and then get the book for more details.

In my study of the works of Fr. Jaki, I found another interesting detail, well worth some consideration in our present circumstances...
The Church was founded by Christ to be the embodiment of extraordinary faith or perspective. And it should seem nothing short of extraordinary that in spite of most ordinary churchmen - from popes through bishops to priests - that extraordinary perspective or mental vision was kept alive as time went on. The times were at times dark indeed. The history of celibacy is a case in point. Countless councils went on record against priestly concubinage. Canonical punishments of the harshest kind were leveled at offenders - apparently to no avail. At even worse times the abuses were tacitly condoned from the highest places. But even then there have been shining examples to the contrary. There were times of drastic shortage of priests, such as the years immediately following the Council of Trent. As a remedy, Emperor Maximilian begged the pope, Pius V, to permit priests to marry. The adamant refusal of the pope (he was adamant because he was a saint) was amply justified by the end of the sixteenth century. God once more produced children of Abraham out of an apparently barren landscape covered with stones. New orders - Jesuits, Piarists, Oratorians - and renewed old ones, Capuchin Franciscans in particular, and the seminaries set up by the decree of the Council of Trent, began to bear ample fruit.
[Jaki, "Man of One Wife or Celibacy" in Catholic Essays, 84-5]
Possibly we need to pray more...

Yes, the Archconfraternity of the Holy Rosary still exists, and it is still fighting the Powers of Darkness, which are busy working against us... See here for details on how to join.

1 comment:

  1. When I attended the 2008 Chesterton Conference I bought a copy of Chesterton's poem, Lepanto, with explanatory notes and commentary, edited by Dale Ahlquist. I also received a free copy of a CD "Lepanto: The Battle and the Poem". The CD features Mr. Christopher Check providing historical background about the battle and its importance to the West. He finishes with a rousing recitation of Lepanto. The presentation lasts a little over an hour. Having never heard of Lepanto, I found it absolutely fascinating. The CD is available from the St. John Fisher Forum for $8.00 plus $2.00 shipping. (I'd assume that's for US customers.) Here's a web address from which you can get their mailing address and phone numbers. The CD is not available via an on-lline order. You've got to use mail or phone. Finally, for Facebook fanatics like Sean, check out the Remember Lepanto group, one in English and the other in Italian.


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