Student preaching at all-school Mass: Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 2022.
By Anna Androsyuk ’24 (Chicago)
When you think of Our Lady, Mary, what comes to mind? I assume many of you think of motherhood, affection, love or care instead of things like warfare or strife. And, while these are all true, the origins of this celebration comes from our troubled history, in the Battle of Lepanto.
On this day, 451 years ago, combined forces of Naples, Venice, Savoy, among many others, fought in an intense battle with the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. They were called the “Holy League” and aimed to diminish Ottoman control over the Mediterranean, but they were overpowered and outnumbered. During this military endeavor, Pope Pius V encouraged the faithful to pray for the intercession of Mary to aid their soldiers through the recitation of the Rosary. He ordered the churches of Rome to remain open day and night, hoping the faithful would reach out to Mary for her guidance. The Holy League triumphed and thankful for Mary’s intercession, Pope Pius V added October 7th to the Roman Liturgical Calendar to be the feast of Our Lady of Victory.
Like the Holy League, we all face our own battles in life. Whether big or small, we can turn to Mary for her intercession and guidance. She teaches us every day that good things come out of struggle — and she is here to guide us through them every day.
Growing up in Ukraine, my grandparents had a huge influence on my upbringing. They were the ones who introduced me to my faith and the ones who helped foster and raise it. My grandma taught me my prayers: We would say them together every night. With much patience, she taught me the two fundamental prayers – the Our Father and Hail Mary. What was interesting, is that instead of alternating prayers, she encouraged me to start with an Our Father and always follow up with a Hail Mary. To this day, that is still the way I pray.
Now when I look back, she does many things to incorporate Mary into her faith. And, she did many of these things in hopes that my brother and I would also understand how important Mary is. Every time she cleaned out her wallet, she would take out an image of Mary and Jesus. It was very special to her so she would show it to us every time and have us kiss it. Once in a while, she would also show us the beautiful blue rosary she kept in her purse. And when we visited her in the summer, the day before our flight back to the States, we would visit a tiny chapel on the outskirts of a village. It was said that Mary had once appeared in this chapel.
Rather than visiting the large church just down the road, she made an effort to take us to this tiny chapel. I wondered why. Grandma insisted that we pray both prayers at once. She had a picture of Mary, and not Jesus or another Saint. And again I wondered, why? In reality, the answer was very simple, it stemmed from a story I have heard many times before.
When my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, she had a difficult pregnancy. She recalls being extremely weak and would spend her nights crying out in pain. On one of these nights, in a dream, a woman approached her. She acknowledged my grandmother’s pain and reminded her that she was with her. This woman told my grandma not to cry because she will have a beautiful little girl named Halyna. Because my grandma’s name was also Halyna, she was very hesitant about giving her child the same name. Ultimately, she put her trust in this woman, who she presumed to be Mary, and did as she asked.
Since this day, Mary played a very important role in my grandmother’s life. During the difficult times my grandma would again turn to Mary for her guidance. She understood the importance of Mary’s intercession and through the little things like going to that chapel or showing me that image in her wallet, she tried to explain it to me as well.
We each have our own struggles that we must battle everyday. During our battles we might shut down and feel like giving up, but we can remember that Mary is someone we can reach out to. Simply praying even a decade of the Rosary can go a long way. She reminds us, every day, that there is good to come out of struggle. Fighting your battles doesn’t set you back in your faith. If you don’t give up, they are simply a stepping stone that will lead to a much greater outcome. But during these difficult times, just like people from the Holy League or just like my grandma, we can all turn to Mary for guidance as we each navigate our own journey to God.