Couple days ago, October 7th to be precise, was the 450th anniversary of the world-saving Battle of Lepanto. The Church remembers this momentous day through a feast in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, given the role she played in securing one of the most improbable of Christian victories. Imagine the sight and sound of a group of nearly 80,000 battle-hardened men, led by Don John of Austria, praying the rosary before going to war against 120,000 Moslem Turks at sea! It is no exaggeration to say that Europe, and consequently the Americas, would be radically different places to live today had the Moslem invaders won that day. So much owed to those men, yet our school system and even perhaps some misguided ecumenism, has ensured that hardly anyone even knows this ever took place. We forget at our own peril – the dates of the terrorist attacks on Madrid and the twin towers were not random and are reminders that not everyone has forgotten. One man, G.K. Chesterton, remembered this Battle through his magnificent poem, aptly named “Lepanto”. Here’s a short excerpt:
DIM DRUMS THROBBING, IN THE HILLS HALF HEARD,
WHERE ONLY ON A NAMELESS THRONE A CROWNLESS PRINCE HAS STIRRED,
WHERE, RISEN FROM A DOUBTFUL SEAT AND HALF-ATTAINED STALL,
THE LAST KNIGHT OF EUROPE TAKES WEAPONS FROM THE WALL…
These words still give me chills everytime I read them, and give me a profound sense of thankfulness to our Christian ancestors. Don John was an illegitimate son hence the “crownless prince”, yet it was he, and not the kings of Spain or France, or the Queen of England, that stepped up to lead the Christian army. Good thing his parents were pro-life!
Thanksgiving is a tradition that goes back thousands of years and may have began in the early Jewish “festivals of the harvest and of the in-gathering” (Ex 23:14-16). Today, it has largely become a meal between family, where gratitude is sometimes expressed in relation to the food received that day or the people around. This is quite right and good in itself, but often the part omitted is the source of all these gifts (yes, in-laws are a gift). By focusing exclusively on the gifts, we forget the Giver, as someone that focuses on creation only, forgets the Creator. It’s like celebrating our birth days without ever acknowledging our mother, or enjoying music without appreciating musicians. Then of course, you have those who feel everything is their right or, as is often the case, wanting only what others have. St Gregory the Great, in his Moralia in Job, stated “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.”. Think of most of conflicts today and you quickly realize how prominent envy is involved. The Church in her wisdom teaches us that to fight envy, humility is the best weapon (CCC 2554). Want to test your humility? Pick up a pro-life sign and stand by a busy intersection! You will soon find a section of the population suffers from severe carpal tunnel.
So how do we thank the Lord? Interestingly, Jesus chose to tell us the answer during…. a meal! There’s just nothing quite like bread and wine to bring people together! In what is best known as “The Last Supper” (Luke 22:17-20), our Lord “gave thanks” and told us to “do this in remembrance” of Him. The Greek for Thanksgiving is “EuXapotia” pronounced efcharistia, and the Latin gave us “Hostia” which means victim or sacrifice. The Eucharist, according to the Church, is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324), and “a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father” (CCC 1360).
Brothers, when men stand for nothing, they will kneel for everything. As Catholic men, we kneel for Christ only, so let’s humbly remember to give thanks to the One who made us, and come share a meal with Him this Sunday. A mysterious meal whereby He Himself is the food and drink. Will you be like St Peter, or will you choose to leave Him and stay away? (John 6:66)
Sancte Ioseph – Ora pro nobis.
If publishing article online please attribute source Band of Christian Brothers with link to original article.