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On October 7, 1571, the world held its collective breath as a ragtag fleet under the command of an illegitimate Catholic prince faced the mightiest armada the Ottoman Muslim empire could put together. That there even was such a fleet was a miracle of sorts. Only the southern European, Catholic, countries, sent men and ships. The Protestant north sat back, heedless of Pope Pius’s entreaties, glad that the infidel papists were taking the brunt of the Islamic wrath.

But as the world held its breath, the Catholic world breathed a special prayer. Inspired by the Pope, thousands upon thousands of our ancestors prayed the Rosary, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for protection and victory. Admiral Andrea Doria hung a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe in his cabin. Entreaties rose from the throats of sailor and soldiers on both sides. Although neither side wanted battle in the Gulf of Patras, near Lepanto, they confronted each other and their guns rang out. It was a complete victory for the Christian fleet. Almost all the Turks were sunk or captured, and thousands of Christian galley slaves were freed. All attributed the unexpected triumph to the intercession of the Mother of God.

A year later, the Pope ordered an annual celebration that has become, over the years, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Although Christendom had not acted as one, the Catholic states generally had, and the result was a long period of peace on the waters of the Central Sea.

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