Saturday, October 12, 2013

(126) Columbus: the Person and His Motivations



AMDG



ARTICLE REVIEW: THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS


            Being a member of the Knights of Columbus, the documented article by Benjamin Broussard in the magazine, Crusade published by the organization, “Tradition, Family and Property” was of great interest (see http://www.tfp.org/magazines/crusade_mag_vol_119.pdf).  

It seems that revisionist historians have been painting a negative image of Columbus (1451-1506)……. mistreating, enslaving, exploiting the Indians, etc. while viceroy and governor of the settlements until 1500.  The evidence is contradictory.  According to Broussard, Columbus insisted on fair treatment of the Indians, a policy which created enemies among abusive settlers who falsely maligned him.  Thus Columbus was sent back to Spain in chains, but the King and Queen exonerated him and apologized for the misunderstanding.  Broussard claimed that Bartolomé de las Casas (1484 – 1566), a noted eye witness since 1502 and an outspoken advocate of humane treatment of the Indians, spoke highly of Columbus whom his family knew; another author claimed de las Casas wrote to the contrary.  If so, he could only write by hearsay since Columbus left two years before his arrival.  Even if some accounts from the period seem to give some credence to these charges, we must consider the mentality of the times.  How much control Columbus had as governor is another question. 

In any event it was refreshing to have some fascinating glimpses, generally overlooked by contemporary historians, into the person of Christopher Columbus and his underlying motivations in pursuing his innovative idea of reaching the Far East by traveling west, although he underestimated the circumference of the earth by 25% (the earth as a sphere was already accepted) and found a new world.  Accounts of the day consistently describe Columbus as a large and physically strong man of some six feet or more in height, easily taller than the average European of his day. 

            Well known is the courage of Columbus in sailing through uncharted and perhaps dangerous waters.  He was very entrepreneurial in obtaining financing with great perseverance and attempting to chart a new and a shorter trade route to the riches of China and India that would open up profitable trade opportunities.   Even children know that the Marco Polo’s “Book of the Marvels of the World” about the Emperor Kubla Kahn and the riches of China intrigued Columbus and stimulated his imagination.

The Inspiration of Christopher Columbus by José María Obregón, 1856
           Evangelization - His Primary Motivation.  What particularly intrigued Columbus was that the Great Kahn questioned the Polos about life in Western Europe and the Catholic Faith in which he took an interest.  In fact, he sent a letter with them to Pope Clement IV, requesting 100 missionaries to instruct his people.  However, the Pope died and it was a while before a new pope was elected and the Kahn’s request was never fulfilled.  Thus Columbus believed that a shorter and easier route to the Far East would present great opportunities for evangelization.  This was a very convincing selling point for the backing of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

               This motivation is obvious when one understands the deep faith that permeated every aspect of the life of Christopher Columbus and was central to his mission of exploration.  His faith was the source of his greatness and influenced his every action.  Bartolomé de las Casas wrote: He observed the fasts of the church most faithfully, confessed and made communion often, read the Divine Office like a churchman, hated blasphemy and profane swearing, and was most devoted to Our Lady and to the seraphic father St. Francis.,….He was extremely zealous for the honor and glory of God: he deeply yearned for the evangelization of these peoples and for the planting and flourishing everywhere of people’s faith in Jesus Christ.



 A Conception of Christopher Columbus (No known portrait exists.)

His Franciscan Association.  In fact Columbus was a Third Order Franciscan and would wear a Franciscan habit when in the presence of clergy or nobility.  This Franciscan association provided encouragement and contacts in the royal court for selling his idea and obtaining financing his venture.  While on his voyages, he left his son under the care of the Franciscans.     
             
            Fernando, another son of Columbus, wrote ”In matters of religion he was so strict that for fasting and saying all the canonical offices he might have been taken for a member of a religious order.  And when he had to write anything, he would not try the pen without first writing these words, “Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via.” which means “May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way”…….a very fitting prayer for an explorer and almost certainly his motto.

            To Reconquer the Holy Land was another cause that motivated Columbus.  He wrote Pope Alexander VI: “The enterprise must be undertaken in order to spend any profits therein for the redemption of the Sepulcher and the Temple Mount unto Holy Church.  Once the Moors were finally driven out of Spain on January 2, 1492, King Ferdinand and Isabella were also inclined to this idea in backing Columbus as shown in his journal: “I have already petitioned Your Highnesses to see that all the profits of my enterprise should be spent on the conquest of Jerusalem, and your Highnesses smiled and said that……even without the expedition they had the inclination to do it.”  The historian, George Grant, concluded: Clearly, the motivations of Columbus were shaped by the eons long conflict between Christendom and Islam.  The evidence is inescapable.  He sailed, not to discover a new world, but to find a way to recover the old one

The Flagship of Columbus, the Santa Maria 
                                                          
The Voyage and His Devotion to Mary.   Columbus named his flagship, “Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción”.  Under that same name Mary is the patroness of the United States.  Columbus frequently prayed during the voyage and led his men in a daily ritual of evening prayers.  According to a replica of the Santa Maria in Columbus-Ohio, the ship was small (62 feet in length or the size of a cruising yacht today) and the 40 man crew must have been very cramped.  He confided so much in Mary that he promised his men to pacify them that if they did not spot land by the feast day of Our Lady of Pilar (after five weeks from the Canary Islands), the three ships would return.  Columbus knelt on the beach in thanksgiving and claimed the land first for Christ, giving the land the name, “San Salvador” (Holy Savior), today part of the Bahamas. Two weeks later he reached Cuba and on his third voyage the mainland of South America (Venezuela).  Upon his return to Spain, he made a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a solemn act of thanksgiving.  Then he spent the summer of 1493 at the Franciscan Monastery of La Rábida, preparing spiritually for his second voyage. 

Painting of the Prayerful Discovery in the United States Capitol
Treatment of the Indians.  After meeting the natives, Columbus concluded in his journal: “I recognized that they were people who would be better freed [from error] and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force”.  On six separate occasions, Columbus wrote to the Pope requesting missionaries be sent to the recently discovered islands.  In reality his discovery of America led to the greatest spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul and kept Islam out of colonial America.

Columbus believed that his special God given mission was to bring Christ to the native people.  His son Ferdinand wrote:  Just as St. Christopher (his namesake) bore Christ over the waters, so too was he to bear the light of the Gospel over the vast oceans”.
 
In sum, spreading the Faith and acquiring riches to finance the retaking of the Holy Land from Islam was at the heart of Columbus’ mission.  Personal rewards or honors were secondary.  Clearly he was a deeply committed Catholic, a man of virtue (and faults too), and to some extent perhaps, a man of God.  The positives there are what made Christopher Columbus great and a worthy patron for the Knights of Columbus and model for all of us.          

Monday, October 7, 2013

(125) World History and the Power of the Rosary & Mary's Intercession..........The War on Terror is just another chapter in a 1300 year war between Radical Islam and Christian Western Civilization.

AMDG

            October is the Month of the Holy Rosary, today October 7 is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, and this Saturday, October 12 at 12 noon our parish will have a Public Square Rosary Rally in the Gallipolis City Park at the Gazebo to pray for peace and that God would save our country from immorality and secularism.  Each person attending is most important and makes this rally more powerful.  It is also the eve of the anniversary of the famous Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917.

            A 13 Century Struggle.  Throughout world history, Mary has nurtured the faith and brought millions of people to her Son.  Many of us know of her role in the evangelization of Latin America with her message and her miraculous image as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, her role in healing as Our Lady of Lourdes since 1858, her prophetic warnings at Fatima in 1917 calling for repentance and to pray the rosary.  But do you know that the War on Terror is nothing new; it's just another chapter in a 1,300 year old struggle between Christian Western Civilization and Radical Islam bent on conversion by military conquest and Mary has an important role?
 
 The Quran (2:190-93) says "And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.”  See http://www.clearquran.com/quran-chapter-002.html and http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx. The Quran does not say explicitly, “Kill the infidels” which is us.  Radical Islam in contrast to moderate Islam takes that verse literally. Over the years the Moors conquered much of once Christian Northern Africa and a large part of Spain.  The Turks (Ottoman Empire) conquered the Holy Land (the Crusades failed), Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and advanced to the gates of Vienna, Austria in 1683.  They had already occupied Hungary for close to 150 years.  After Vienna, it would be almost clear sailing to the Atlantic Ocean.  Osama bin Laden yearned for a return to those “glory days”.
               
            During those 1300 years, Radical Islam was well on its way to conquering all of Europe at least four times.  Charles Martel stopped the advance of the Saracens into France and the rest of Europe in 732 in the Battle of Tours.  They, however, occupied much of Spain and Portugal for the next 700 years until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella drove them out of the Iberian Peninsula by January 2, 1492.  This victory made it possible to back Christopher Columbus' voyage of discovery whose purpose was Christian evangelization and riches, much of which was to finance the reconquest of the Holy Land.  Godfrey de Bouillon won a major victory at Jerusalem in 1099 as part of the First Crusade, but bigger more crucial battles followed in the second millennium.  Each time, the people appealed to Mary to save Western Civilization from radical Islam and each time they stopped the advance in three decisive battles.  Otherwise, Western Europe would be Muslim.
 
Today there are predictions that very secular Western Europe (the European Union refused to recognize its Christian roots in its constitution and only a handful of people may be seen at a typical Catholic church for Sunday Mass) will have a Muslim majority by 2050 if present trends continue…….something they could not do by military conquest.  Because of widely practiced contraception and abortion, the population of Judeochristian Europeans is decreasing while the population of Muslim immigrants, welcomed to satisfy the labor shortage in an aging population, is increasing.  Correctly believing that contraception and abortion are immoral, they multiply.  Already minarets of mosques dot the skylines of European cities.

          In the United States Islam is growing rapidly.  A number of mosques in our country receive money from Saudia Arabia.  That in itself should be no problem.  However, the predominant Muslim sect in Saudia Arabia is Wahhabi Islam that interprets the Quran very literally, thus being extremist and militant.  Osama bin Laden and his followers are Wahhabis.  The Saudi Government has it under control there, but mosques in the United States receiving Saudia Arabian aid are teaching that brand of Islam to its members.  Already it has bred some American terrorists.  Can that grow to become a significant threat to America?

         Today Western Civilization is again threatened by Radical Islam including Iran.  At the same time, after Nazism and Communism are largely overcome, Secularism, the enemy within, is another huge threat in the continuing struggle between good and evil that began with Adam and Eve.  We again appeal to Mary for her intercession in this ongoing war as she has done in three epic battles that saved Western Civilization and Christendom.  Let us examine them.  
   
         The Battle of Belgrade – August 6, 1456.  After conquering Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Turk, Sultan Mohammed the Conqueror or Mehmet II with an army of 100,000 laid siege to the city of Belgrade in present day Serbia in southeastern Europe, then part of Hungary.  It was the last Christian outpost before Europe would be laid bare to Muslim conquest.  Pope Callistus III placed his trust in God and in Mary and mobilized the people to pray for the defenders.  At the same time he sent St. John Capistrano to Hungary to preach and inspire the people to rise up and join the small army of the Hungarian leader, Janos Hunyadi in order to defend Christendom.  Cardinal John Carvajal, labored to quickly organize provisions and transport.  Soon the army grew to 50,000.
                                                                    
János Hunyadi

János Hunyadi & St. John Capistrano in the Battle of Belgrade
          During the battle that ensued, St. John Capistrano stood on a nearby mountain and lifting the papal cross, implored the assistance of Our Lady.  The Sultan was wounded by an arrow and somehow his army panicked and fled.  Thus the advance of radical Islam was halted for about a century.   Pope Callistus III ordered the noon day bells to be rung in commemoration and thanksgiving.  To this day this custom continues with the noon Angelus.  His proclamation of the feast of the Transfiguration on August 6 was also in thanksgiving.  See http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/history/79-history/173-battle-of-belgrade-1456.html.

        
        The Battle of Lepanto - October 7, 1571.  Again radical Islam threatened under Sultan Selim the Sot. With a fleet of over 300 ships carrying some 30,000 soldiers under the command of Ali Pasha, they planned to conquer Malta, plunder, and control the Mediterranean Sea with its sea lanes and trade routes.  Since 1565 the Knights of St. John of tiny island of Malta were able to resist the Turkish siege.  Then Europe would be set to fall to radical Islam.  Pope St. Pius V ordered fervent prayer to Mary with a Rosary Crusade as he gathered the forces of Spain, Venice, Genoa, Malta, and the tiny Papal fleet to defend Christendom.  At dawn on October 7, the day of the epic naval battle, Pope St. Pius V himself led a group of the faithful to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray the rosary and ask Mary for her intercession.  People were praying throughout the day.
 
Don Juan d'Austria
Don Juan of Austria


Our Lord blessing the Catholic fleet
A painting of Our Lord and Our Lady blessing the fleet at the Battle of Lepanto
 

        That same morning and through the day, the Catholic forces under Don Juan of Austria met the vastly superior Turkish armada in the Gulf of Corinth, close to Lepanto, flying the banner of Christ crucified under the standard of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Even the rowers of the ships had rosaries in their hands.  In the thick of the naval battle, the winds suddenly shifted in favor of the badly outnumbered Europeans and the Turks were routed.  It was clear to all that the rosary made the difference.  Despite not receiving any news of the victory, Pope Pius V was inspired to suddenly interrupt his meeting later in the day and exclaim: “A truce to business!  Our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Catholic army.”  Later in thanksgiving Pope Gregory XIII established the Feast of the Holy Rosary or Our Lady of Victory on October 7.  Europe was secure for another hundred years.  See  http://www.traditioninaction.org/History/A_001_Lepanto.html.

The Battle of Vienna – September 11-12, 1683.  The Ottoman Turks already had occupied Hungary, the eastern neighbor of Austria, since 1541, and aimed to expand further.  They even dreamed of turning the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome into a mosque.  A force of 300,000 troops of the Ottoman Empire of Turkey advanced to the gates of Vienna, thus threatening all of Western Europe.  If he could take Vienna, it would be an easy road to the English Channel.  They were building tunnels under the walls. The Sultan sent a message to the King of Austria, telling him to stay in his palace so that he could take his head.  Pope Innocent XI ordered that rosaries be recited in the religious houses and churches of Rome. The same prayers of supplication were offered throughout the Holy Roman Empire.  The situation was so dangerous that the imperial court left Vienna for Passau and took refuge there. There were special devotions at the Capuchin Church in Vienna to Our Lady Help of Christians, whose famous picture hangs there.  Later it would become a symbol of the victory over the Turks by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski. 

John Sobieski III, King of Poland before his army.
King Jan Sobieski in front of army at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 and a slain Turk
Poland had a major role in decisively saving Western Civilization from militant Islam.  In desperation during this dark time Pope Innocent XI and his allies asked King Jan Sobieski of Poland to be the Commander-in-Chief of a coalition of European armies because he had already stopped Turkish intrusions into Poland.  He had a crack cavalry, the best in Europe consisting of the famous Polish lancer Hussar warriors.  On the way to Vienna, his army made a detour and stopped at Poland's national Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa to pray before going into battle and leaving on August 15, the feast of the Assumption.

King Sobieski arrived on the evening of September 11.  The next morning he ordered his men to attend Mass and observed the battle from high ground until late in the afternoon.  When the Turkish troops below were exhausted, Sobieski's cavalry, 20,000 strong swooped down upon them and their camp.  The Hussars were wearing a sort of wings from eagle feathers that made an eerie sound in the wind during the surprise attack under the banner of Mary on the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, September 12, 1683.  This caused the horde of Turkish troops to flee in panic, leaving behind their supplies.  King Sobieski commented: “I came; I saw; and God won.


A portrait of King Sobieski of Poland with his gorget of Our Lady of Częstochowa
 
The opposing Turkish Commander Kara Mustafa Pasha of the Siege of Vienna.
             The Turks did not simply withdraw from the walls of Vienna; they fled.  Such was the Turkish flight, they left behind virtually all their stores and baggage. This is when the Viennese, Europe’s most famous coffee-drinkers today, discovered the beverage.  The Turks left quantities of it in their stores when they fled.  See http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-45.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna.  Some great videos and an exciting movie include a 49 minute documentary at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc-RWtovrqg and a full length movie at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvoRuO3g9Ew.  The same is dubbed in Polish at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCr1TmqxO5Q

Right side of Battle of Vienna (1683) by Józef Brandt
The Cavalry of King Jan Sobieski overruns the Turkish Camp at the Battle of Vienna.
The defeat was thorough and humiliating.  This was the beginning of a decline of militant Islam until the 21st Century.   Now you know why Osama bin Laden chose 9/11 for his attack on America for revenge. Terrorists often use some significant date or anniversary for a strike.  In gratitude Pope Innocent XI extended this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary on September 12 to the Universal Church.  MOTHER MARY, WE ASK YOU TO INTERCEDE FOR PEACE in our world as a revived radical Islam again threatens us.  BRING US BACK TO YOUR SON and NURTURE OUR FAITH . 

Christianity and Islam both revere Mary as the ideal woman.  The Quran devotes an entire chapter (http://www.clearquran.com/quran-chapter-019.html) to her (Chap 19).  There is a reason that Mary chose the village of Fatima, which the Moors named after Fatimah, the favorite daughter of Mohammed.  May Mary use these commonalities and connections to evangelize the Muslims, our brothers, and bring us world peace.

The Battle of Warsaw – August 15, 1920) Did you know that all of Europe could have gone Communist on August 15, 1920.  This is a chapter of Polish history which was eliminated from school texts during the years under Communism (1945 – 1989).  Let me tell you why.  

    After the October 1917 Russian Revolution, the Communists were plotting world revolution with dreams of eventually making the whole world communist.  They already formed the Soviet Union, comprising Russia and some neighboring states.  After World War I, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, and the rest of Europe were devastated by the war and were weak both militarily and economically with considerable unemployment and unrest.  Russia had exited the war 8 months before the war ended in November 1918.

Europe was ripe for a communist takeover.  Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, the Communist leaders of Russia, aspired to occupy, Rome, Berlin, Paris, etc. together with the workers and Communists of each country who they expected to revolt.  Under Béla Kun, the Communists took over Hungary on March 21 for five months in 1919, which my father resisted as a student. Poland, recently granted its independence in 1918 by the victorious Allies after having been divided up and absorbed by Russia, Prussia, and Austria for 125 years, stood in the way and would provide avenues to the west and southwest.  A force of over 100,000 Soviet troops under the command of General Mikhail Tukhachevsky were poised to conquer Warsaw.  Things looked very bleak for the outnumbered, weak and under equipped Polish forces. 

The Battle of Warsaw, often Called the Miracle on the Vistula (Cud nad Wisła)


















           However, 20 veteran American pilots volunteered to fight for Poland as part of the Kościuszko  Squadron.  Breaking the Soviet code, Polish forces under the command of General Józef Piłsudski were able to intercept Soviet communications and discover their strategy and positions.  Thus Piłsudski devised a counter-strategy where he withdrew his best troops defending Warsaw and attacked from the rear, almost surrounding the Soviet forces.  

        In the meantime, the people of Warsaw were mobilized to defend the city and its survival as a nation…….even women and boy scouts.  People were also mobilized to pray and the rosary was certainly a big part of it.  It is said by Polish sources that a large image of Mary appeared over the Polish troops, as shown in the above painting as if she were aiding the Polish army.  Since most of the Soviet soldiers were raised in the Orthodox religion which holds Mary in high esteem, this caused great fear among them and they panicked.  Again because of the intercession of Mary, Poland saved European civilization and established its borders as an independent nation until the beginning of World War II in 1939.  Today the Polish people call this the "Cud nad Wisła" or the "Miracle of the Vistula" that occurred on August 15, 1920, the Feast of the Assumption. Unlike King Sobieski in the victory of the Battle of Vienna, General Józef Piłsudski and other secularist leaders attributed the victory not to God, but to their own skill and genius. 
  
Polish soldiers during a lull in the Battle of Warsaw.
Estimated Russian losses were 10,000 killed, 500 missing, 30,000 wounded, and 66,000 taken prisoner, compared with Polish losses of some 4,500 killed, 10,000 missing, and 22,000 wounded.

         Lenin called it an enormous defeat…..some 20,000 dead, 33,000 wounded, and 66,000 captured compared to Polish losses of some 4,500 killed, 22,000 wounded, and 10,000 missing.   Thus he was resigned to develop socialism mainly in Russia and gradually in the rest of the world, fomenting its errors as Mary prophesized in Fatima in 1917.  The British diplomat Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D'Abernon regards this event as one of the most important battles in history on his expanded list of most decisive battles, since the Polish victory over the Soviets stopped the spread of communism in Europe. A Soviet victory, leading to the creation of a pro-Soviet Communist Poland, would have put the Soviets directly on the eastern border of Germany, where considerable revolutionary ferment was going on at the time. 

 See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Warsaw_(1920) and http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/how-the-poles-saved-civilization-part-ii. Two fascinating videos on the Battle of Warsaw include https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SSaQbQiW9s, a documentary analysis of the battle.   A full length two hour movie on the Battle of Warsaw in Polish can be found at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksf7fmTGuUc.  For a shorter 38 minute version of the same movie in Polish with English subtitles, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4I61EkSdgg.

          The defeat of radical Islam (the Ottoman Turks with 200,000 troops) on September 11, 1683 by King Sobieski and the repulsion of the invasion of over 100,000 Soviet troops on the Feast of the Assumption August 15, 1920 are attributed by Poles to Mary’s intercession.

Had the Ottoman Turks won in 1683, radical Islam would have  been largely unopposed in conquering Rome and fulfilling their dream of hoisting the Islamic flag over the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.  Today ISIS has the same dream and has made no secret about it.

Had the Soviets won in 1920 they could have advanced to the English Channel since the armies of Western Europe were exhausted and weak.  Then all of Europe would have been Communist at least for a time.  
 Clearly, God is in control of History.  The power of the Rosary and Mary’s intercession is also evident in other events of world history as seen in the website, http://nobility.org/2013/10/07/lepanto-history/.



APPENDIX

Details of the Battle of Vienna


In 1683, the forces of the Holy League, under Poland’s King Jan Sobieski, roundly defeated the Mohammedan invaders at the Battle of Vienna.  Here is a brief telling of that triumphant occasion by Gary Potter (in “Saint Mary of Victory – The Historical Role of Our Lady in the Armed Defense of the Faith ”):

Fortuitously, the pope of the day, Innocent XI, had just brokered an alliance between the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Poland, which was also menaced by the Mohammedans.  When it became known that no fewer than 300,000 Turks were advancing on the imperial capital, Pope Innocent ordered that rosaries be recited in the religious houses and churches of Rome. The same prayers of supplication were offered throughout the Empire.  Still, the situation was so dangerous that the imperial court left Vienna for Passau and took refuge there. Meantime, there were special devotions at the Capuchin Church in Vienna to Our Lady Help of Christians, whose famous picture hangs there.  It would become the symbol of the victory over the Turks by Poland’s King John Sobieski when he arrived on the scene after a series of forced marches from Czestochowa.

The Polish army hit the numerically superior Turkish force with their surprise attack so hard, the Turks panicked.  They did not simply withdraw from the walls of Vienna, they fled.  (It is an aside, but of some cultural significance, that such was the Turkish flight, they left behind virtually all their stores and baggage. This is when the Viennese, Europe’s most famous coffee-drinkers, discovered the stuff. The Turks left quantities of it in their stores when they ran.)  More to the point, in thanksgiving for the help given by the Mother of God for the victory at Vienna, which was won on her feast day, the 30th day after the Assumption, Pope Innocent extended the feast in honor of the Holy Name of Mary to the Universal Church.

What isn’t mentioned here is that Sobieski began the forced marches to Vienna from the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, where he mounted his charger on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1683, to arrive in Vienna almost a month later.

There were three occasions in the defense of Christendom against Islam in which Europe was saved by a John: John Hunyadi, the Hungarian King, and hero of the Battle of Belgrade, Don Juan of Austria, who led the Christian navies at the Battle of Lepanto, and Jan Sobieski, King of Poland. On each of these instances, the Christian people sang with gratitude, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John,” applying to the hero the description of the Baptist from the prologue of St. John’s Gospel.

To continue the Catholic triumphalism a bit more, we will cite the Wikipedia article on the battle itself:

After 12 hours of fighting, Sobieski’s Polish force held the high ground on the right. At about five o’clock in the afternoon, after watching the ongoing infantry battle from the hills for the whole day, four cavalry groups, one of them Austrian-German, and the other three Polish, totaling 20,000 men, charged down the hills. The attack was led by the Polish king in front of a spearhead of 3000 heavily armed winged Polish lancer hussars. This charge broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were tired from the long fight on two sides.  In the confusion, the cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps, while the remaining Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault.

The Ottoman army were tired and dispirited following the failure of both the sapping attempt and the brute force assault of the city, and the arrival of the cavalry turned the tide of battle against them, sending them into retreat to the south and east. In less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Christian forces had won the battle and saved Vienna from capture.

After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Julius Caesar‘s famous quote by saying “veni, vidi, Deus vincit” – “I came, I saw, God conquered”.

Sobieski’s heavy artillery in this battle was, as the article said, the “winged Polish lancer hussars.” These elite troops were Polish-Lithuanian heavy lancers developed from an earlier Hungarian prototype.  They were “winged” because they wore eagle feathers, a detail variously explained in different histories. 

When the husaria (as they are known in Polish) went into battle, they customarily sang a Polish hymn, the most ancient national anthem in the world, the Bogurodzica (Mother of God).  A painting, by Józef Brandt, of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forces singing the Bogurodzica before battle can be seen here.  Oddly enough, the words of this chant do not mention the nation of Poland.   It is a hymn to Our Lady and invokes also the intercession of St. John the Baptist. (To hear it on RealAudio, go here.)

What a tribute to Catholic Poland: their national anthem was a hymn to the Mother of God!  May she continue to bless her Poland, and all the lands of former Christendom — and may she make them Christendom again.