top of page

Our Lady of Victory

VICTORY 72 Our Lady ofthe Victory Malaga

Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of Victories both refer to historic events that threatened the Catholic Church. 

Our Lady of Victory originated in 1571 when the Ottoman Empire's naval fleet sailed across the Mediterranean intent on conquest and expansion of Islam. After plundering the island of Cyprus, the Ottoman armada powered on toward the vulnerable southern coasts of the continent. If those shores fell, much of Christian Europe could follow like dominos. The only ones standing between Europe and disaster were the heavily outnumbered ships of the Holy League fleet in Venice.

On the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory that year, the brave but inadequate Holy League fleet of some 200 ships carrying 30,000 men sailed east to challenge the powerful 300-ship Ottoman force totaling 75,000 men. The odds were daunting. 

Yet there was something the Muslims did not have – the Lady herself. Aboard the ships chaplains held aloft her holy image and sailors gripped rosary beads in desperate prayer for her blessing and intercession. Victory must come from above.  

What transpired over the next month was one of history's most decisive naval engagements - The Battle of Lepanto. Though outnumbered, the Christian fleet fought like lions. So unexpected was the Christians' ferocity that panic swept the Ottoman forces. Their lines broke as captains lost nerve, sailors abandoned oars, slaves revolted below deck and galley after galley surrendered, retreated or sank. By nightfall on October 7, 1571, the invincible Ottoman threat had been decimated losing over 30,000 men and 200 ships burned, captured or scattered.

Against all odds, Europe had been miraculously spared Muslim domination. Few battles have had such import and influence as Lepanto in reversing the tide of history. Word of the victory raced across a joyous continent. In Rome, church bells pealed wildly with relief and celebration.

The Holy League had triumphed largely because of one thing – it carried Our Lady of Victory into battle. The men believed heavenly help would be given to those who honored Mary and for this faith they were rewarded.

In honor of this historic and miraculous victory, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was established, which the faithful still celebrate to this day in October. 

More than 200 years later, the enemy were not from faraway lands, but from within the nation of France itself. "Our Lady of Victories" refers to the ultimate victory of Catholicism over its persecution in the French Revolution. 

After targeting French royalty and the aristocratic class, French revolutionaries in 1793 turned their attention on the Catholic Church. Violent mobs stormed convents, smashed statues, burned missals and turned churches into “Temples of Reason.” Thousands of nuns and priests were arrested, abused, exiled or executed. Taunting revolutionary soldiers conducted mock ceremonies featuring dancing prostitutes and donkeys dressed as bishops. 

In Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was ransacked as a national atheistic campaign began. “Superstitious” religious objects were confiscated and trucked away to be melted or burned – chalices, vestments, crucifixes and iconography. Fires to immolate these sacred treasures were held in public squares while drunken crowds cheered and mocked the faithful.   

The Church appeared in grave peril. Over 50,000 clerical refugees streamed into countries like Spain and England to escape imprisonment or death. Secret Masses were held in barns and basements to avoid detection. Many lost hope, believing this was the prophesied apostasy and tribulation foretelling the end of the world.   

Yet one nun stood resolute – Sister Angélique, the barefoot, illiterate daughter of peasant farmers. Since 1790 when she was just 20 years old, Angélique had reported heavenly visions, messages and warnings. Scoffed at first even by Church authorities, her prophecies were coming to pass with frightening accuracy in the escalating anti-Catholic attacks.

Through many mystical encounters, Angélique maintained that divine promises had been communicated to her – the persecution was only temporary. If the faithful persevered in secret prayer, kept their chapels and lamps lit as best they could and consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart, the Church would survive these terrible tribulations.  

In 1793 from her remote convent of La Louvesc, Sister Angélique formally established the devotion of Reparatory Adoration of the Sacred Heart declaring that France would ultimately return to the faith. Her bishop then proclaimed Angélique’s message from his pulpit igniting the practice across France. 

Soon makeshift chapels and shrines to the Sacred Heart appeared in hidden Catholic houses, forests, barns and recesses of old towers where the faithful gathered to pray in secret. Though often at risk of imprisonment or execution, a remnant persisted in clandestine worship. They whispered and watched for each other as believers in the early Church once did. 

Then remarkably in 1795, hope flickered. The political firebrands Robespierre and Marat were toppled and guillotined ending official State persecution of Catholics. Two years later full religious freedom was restored in France.

As Angélique predicted, most erstwhile secularized churches like Notre Dame resumed sacred services once again for the faithful to freely and openly worship. Just as the visionary Sister proclaimed, the campaign against Catholicism failed. 

In gratitude, Angélique’s crushingly poor order collected alms for nearly 30 years from door to door until they could commission a statue crowned Virgin holding a Scarlet Heart aflame to commemorate Our Lady of Victories over the enemies of Holy Mother Church.

bottom of page