Recently I visited the Naval Museum in Madrid, which features the history of the Spanish navy from the 15th century onward. I had read a story a while back that the statue of Our Lady that had graced the quarterdeck of the flagship of John of Austria at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 had been rediscovered, restored and was on view.

Alas, the statue had been on display, but was no longer. Instead, I found on temporary display a huge blue damask banner, embroidered in gold with a crucifix and the arms of Pope St Pius V. It was still striking after all these centuries, but in its day it must have been magnificent.

This bold pennant had flown at the mainmast of John of Austria’s ship during the pivotal conflict for control of Christendom. Honour and thanksgiving for the Christian victory was raised to the Blessed Virgin, under whose aegis they had fought and prevailed. October 7 is now the feast of the Most Holy Rosary, in commemoration of the battle and Our Lady’s victory.

Speaking of boldness, during this centenary year of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, the Catholic bishops of Poland have called for a great Rosary crusade on October 7 around their 2,000 mile-long border to pray for the protection of their nation. Organisers estimate perhaps a million people will participate. There is an interactive map showing churches around the entire outline of Poland ( It’s beautiful and dramatic.

We need more of these lavish, region-sweeping gestures of faith and petition.

St Charles Borromeo (d 1584) set up rosary shrines on the northern borders of his territory to fend of Protestantisation. It worked. In 2013, Bishop Thomas Paprocki performed an exorcism over the entire state of Illinois when same-sex marriage was legalised. During the 2012 Year of Faith, Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette (now Archbishop of Portland) made a pilgrimage to the farthest compass points of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to celebrate Holy Mass and, thereby, to place the sign of the Cross over the diocese.

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