Expect victory when you call on the Holy Name of Mary

By Donal Anthony Foley –

On Sept. 12 we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. It comes between the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin on Sept. 8, and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15 – three important and significant Marian feasts in just over a week.

The name of Mary is holy because it was and is the name of the Mother of God, the woman chosen to become the Mother of Christ. And since this indicates her personal holiness then likewise her very name is holy, in the same way that the name Jesus is holy.

The name Mary comes originally from the Aramaic Miryam or Maryam, from which come the Greek Mariam, and the Latin Maria. The name probably comes from the root word, mr, or “beloved,” although various other interpretations have been given, such as the Hebrew root word meaning “bitter” – which could ultimately be taken to indicate the bitterness of the sufferings she endured during the crucifixion.

St Alphonsus Liguori, (1696 – 1787), the well-known Marian theologian, wrote some beautiful words about the holy name of Mary: “After the most sacred name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope and sweetness.” (The Glories of Mary, chapter 10).

The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began as a Memorial at Cuenca in Spain in 1513; by 1622 it had been extended to the entire Archdiocese of Toledo, and finally, in 1671, to all of Spain. But the present commemoration of this feast came through the victory for Christian forces during the Siege of Vienna in 1683. In thanksgiving for the great victory over the forces of the Ottoman Empire on that occasion, Pope Innocent XI instituted the Feast of the Universal Church.

To understand that victory, we need to go back to the Battle of Lepanto, which was a sea battle that took place more than a hundred years earlier – and this was a battle that showed particularly the importance and power of praying of Rosary. Lepanto took place on Oct. 7, 1571 and involved a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic states, fighting against the main fleet of the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean near Lepanto, in the seas off western Greece.

Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for success in this battle. The result was that the Holy League did indeed win an unexpected but decisive victory, one which prevented the invasion of Europe. At the moment of victory, Pius V, who was many hundreds of miles away at the Vatican in Rome in a meeting, got up, went over to a window, and in a spirit of prophecy exclaimed: “The Christian fleet is victorious!” Out of this victory came the “Feast of the Holy Rosary,” which is celebrated yearly on Oct. 7.

That victory is the context for understanding what happened at Vienna over a century later. In 1683, the Ottoman forces again attempted to conquer Europe, but this time by land. As in the case of Lepanto, a Christian victory was not expected since the forces of the Holy Roman Empire, in union with the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, under the leadership of the Polish king, John III Sobieski, could muster only 80,000 men against the invading Ottoman Empire forces which numbered around 150,000.

But once again, on Sept. 12, 1683 the Christian forces were, against all the odds, victorious, as King Sobieski, with a force of up to 20,000 cavalry, charged at the Ottoman lines besieging Vienna and completely routed them. Before the battle, he had placed his troops under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and afterwards he attributed the victory to her.

In fact, on the way to Austria he and his troops stopped at the great Polish Marian sanctuary at Czestochowa and prayed for success. Afterwards, he adapted the famous saying of Julius Caesar – Veni, vidi, vici – “I came, I saw, I conquered,” to, Veni, vidi, Deus vicit – “I came, I saw, God conquered.”

Without that victory, European civilization would probably have been destroyed. Vienna is half way across Europe and the battle there was the last real hope for stopping the Muslim advance.

The next year the feast of the Holy Name of Mary was declared a universal feast by Pope Innocent XI, who also honored King Sobieski with the title, Defensor Fidei, “Defender of the Faith.”

At Fatima, Our Lady revealed herself to the children as “The Lady of the Rosary” – that was the name she gave herself at the Cova da Iria. She strongly promoted the Rosary at each of her apparitions, and every time we say the Rosary we are constantly repeating the Holy name of Mary – each time we say a Hail Mary, we are greeting her – “Hail Mary,” – and also appealing to her holiness – “Holy Mary.”

Next month is October, the month of the Rosary, and Oct. 13 sees the 100th anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima and of the miracle of the Sun. As the Fatima centenary year draws to a close, let’s renew our resolution to pray the Rosary every day with fervor, and so constantly call on the Holy name of Mary.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also a written a time-travel/adventure book for young people – details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/



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  1. Our Lady saved me through the Rosary. I was single and mired in vice and not even attending mass every Sunday when the priest in a sermon told the congregation that we should all pray at least a decade of the rosary each day. I figured I could at least do that. Before you know it, I was praying the whole rosary each day and Jesus is now my all. Because of that one priest, tens of thousands of rosaries have been prayed (I raised my family to pray the daily rosary). Priests, preach the rosary!

  2. Delighted with this, Donal. Thanks and God reward you
    Fr Mark o.s.b.

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