Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lepanto: The Battle Won by Prayer as told by Louis de Whol

Dear Misfits,

The Misfits met on August 10 to discuss “The Last Crusader, A Novel about Don Juan of Austria” by Louis de Whol.  It proved to be a fine, lite summer read.  Most of us thought the fictionalized action was over-romanticized and even sappy.  But what the story lacked in character development, it made up for in historical accuracy.  And let’s face it, we didn’t select this book because we were interested in the intrigues of the royal court; we wanted to read another story about the battle of Lepanto!  (Recall that The Misfit’s read Chesterton’s epic poem “Lepanto” in 2004.)

The battle demonstrated that the time of oared galley warfare had come to an end.  The Christian fleet towed six galleasses to the front of the formation where broadsides fired from the heavy guns of these innovative vessels buffered the Ottoman attack.  Admiral Andria Doria, whose contributions were minimized in the novel, recommended that the iron ramming prows of the galleys be removed and replaced with cannons aimed at the waterline of enemy ships.  He also had netting installed from the masts to the gunwales to slow the Janissaries boarding assaults.  The Janissaries were the best trained and fiercest fighters of their age, but their arrows could not pierce the armor worn by the Holy League fighters, who employed musket and arquebus fire from the rigging to wreak havoc on the decks of the Turkish vessels.

Although de Wohl depicted Pope Pius V praying for the victory, he failed to mention that the Pope implored all of Europe to join him in praying the Rosary.  Many credit the intersession of the Blessed Mother for the miraculous, last-minute change of wind direction that granted an advantage to the Holy League fleet.  In fact, The Feast of the Holy Rosary (originally known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory) is celebrated on October 7 to commemorate these events.

One quote in particular was indicative of de Wohl’s understanding of the fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam.

“The Muslim, however, tried to cut the newfound bridge between God and man.  Christ, no longer the God-Man, became a mere, minor prophet who had to bow to Muhammad.  And Muhammad, too, was a prophet only.  Once more the bond between God and mankind was to be severed and the closest and most loving union broken.”

It was noted that Europe seems again threatened by the forces of Islam, except that their post-Christian culture lacks the collective will to effectively counter it.  And the United States faces similar threats as more Muslims immigrate to the country.  On the surface it doesn’t sound politically correct to speak of Islam as a threat in a country where we are supposed to value religious liberty.  However, we Catholics have always been counter-cultural and there are plenty of movements in our own country and "American" culture that run contrary to our beliefs.  We didn’t solve any problems and we know there are no easy answers, but perhaps we only need to look to the Gospel for inspiration.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
            But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
             – Matthew 5:43-44.

This was the last of our summer meetings held at Loome Theological Booksellers at Claret Farm.  Thanks as always to Misfit Chris Hagen for his hospitality.  The outdoor gazebo provided the perfect setting for our discussion, even with early the darkness brought on by a looming thunderstorm; the outflow of which led to an abbreviated closing prayer.

The Misfits will meet in the St. Thomas More Library at St. Michal’s Church to discuss Walker Percy’s “Love in the Ruins” for our September meeting.  For those of you who don’t already own the book, get online and order soon with expedited shipping.  I didn’t find many copies of this book in stock in the Twin Cities.

In October the Misfits have decided to return to G. K. Chesterton!  We will read some more of Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries.  You will recall that we read “The Annotated  Innocence of Fr. Brown” for our April 2003 book selection.  For October, we will read "Father Brown:  The Essential Tales".  This definitive collection of fifteen stories, selected by the American Chesterton Society, includes such classics as “The Blue Cross,” “The Secret Garden,” and “The Paradise of Thieves.” As P. D. James writes in her Introduction, “We read the Father Brown stories for a variety pleasures, including their ingenuity, their wit and intelligence, and for the brilliance of the writing. But they provide more. Chesterton was concerned with the greatest of all problems, the vagaries of the human heart.”

We hope to see many of you at our next meeting on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 7:00 pm in the St. Thomas More Library at the Church of St. Michael.

Yours in Christ,

Misfit Steve Ward
Scribe to the Misfits

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