The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
Today is the memorial of St. Pius V, who was Pope from 1566 to 1572. He is an important figure in the history of Western Civilization for a number of reasons, but the primary reason for my interest in him is that he was Pope during the Christian naval victory over Turkish forces at the Battle of Lepanto, in which many Christian slaves (who were forced to row the Turkish ships) were freed, and which effectively ended Turkish dominance of the Mediterranean Sea and consequently the threat of their invasion of Italy. The Pope instructed the entire Christian fleet to pray the Rosary immediately before combat commenced, and so the victory is attributed to Our Lady’s intercession. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated every year on October 7th to commemorate it.
Since we don’t have classes today, I took a bus this morning to go pray at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where St. Pius’ remains are kept in the altar of the chapel in the right transcept (which is closed for renovation), and where he prayed for victory–as the above lines from Chesterton’s poem, Lepanto, commemorate–in the so-called Pauline Chapel, in the left transcept. This chapel holds an icon that is said to have been written by St. Luke the Evangelist on the wooden table of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is also the chapel where Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, celebrated his first Mass after his priestly ordination.
(I invited one of my friends to come with me this morning, after telling him the significance of it. He laughed, said it was “proprio Emmett”–that is, ‘it’s a very Emmett thing to do’–and politely excused himself.)