The Battle of Lepanto and the Power of Faith

October 2, 2016

Faith truly can move mountains. It can even win a battle against overwhelming odds.

The tension between the Christian and Muslim world is nothing new. It has been going on for centuries.

In 1571, Christian Europe was in chaos. The Protestant Reformation had broken the unity of the Church and the remaining Catholic kings fought amongst themselves for political advantage. In the midst of this confusion the Muslim empire of the Turks was once again threatening Europe. Their superior forces coupled with the infighting among Christians seemed to assure their victory and control over the Mediterranean lands.

The pope at the time, Pius V, was a man of great faith. He formed a coalition of the three greatest European navies to meet the advancing Turkish fleet. The battle took place on October 7, 1571, in the Gulf of Lepanto near Greece. Before the battle the commander of the European fleet, John of Austria, went from ship to ship to lead the sailors and soldiers in praying the rosary.

Meanwhile Pope Pius encouraged all the faithful throughout Europe to pray the rosary for victory.

In the long history of aggression between Muslims and Christians, Christians had never defeated the Muslims at sea, until the Battle of Lepanto.

The pope attributed the victory to the prayers of the Christians and established the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in gratitude to God.

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

The Apostles came to Jesus and asked Him to increase their faith. After a year of living with Him, they were feeling a little frustrated. They observed Jesus while He preached, performed miracles, and changed peoples lives. As His followers, they began to realize they were not doing all that they were capable of. They did not understand many of the things Jesus said. And they could not seem to help people as much as He did.

It is understandable that they may have become frustrated and simply give up and leave. But they did something different. Instead, they went to Jesus and asked for His help.
“Increase our faith,” they said.

We can well imagine how much this show of trust pleased our Lord. Rather than giving up, His followers came to Him for help.

He tells them that they do not need an increase in faith, they need to make use of the faith they already have. He explains that faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, can perform miracles. It can do the seemingly impossible.

We do not always need to increase our faith. We need to be aware of the faith we already have, and use it properly.

Have you ever felt that you are not living to your full potential? Have you ever felt that you were capable of doing great things if only you had the opportunity? Instead of waiting for the right time or the right moment, we need to realize that God has already given us everything we need to be the person He intended for us to be. In Baptism, God planted a seed of faith within us. It is up to us to nurture that seed and let it grow. As it grows we will see the effects our faith has on those around us. As it grows we provide God more opportunities to work miracles in us and through us.

A mustard seed is the smallest of seeds that can be planted in the ground. It is almost microscopic. Yet it grows into a large tree-like bush that can be as high as 20 feet. This is how Jesus describes faith. If we are unable to move mountains and work miracles, perhaps it is because we have not nurtured the seed of faith that was planted within us.

But this does not mean that a faith-filled life will be easy or free of trouble. Our faith will not always solve our problems or remove our difficulties, but it will strengthen us to persevere in the fight against evil and oppression and lead us to the ultimate victory.

This is what is expected of us as followers and imitators of Christ. We do not work for rewards or compensation. We work because we are servants of each other. By embracing the faith that is already inside of us, we fulfill our purpose in life. This is how we set the world on fire.

Pax Vobiscum

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