Since this blog is dedicated to an audience interested in health as well as holiness, I’m obliged to address two areas of life that SHOULD NOT be divorced from one another: physical health and spiritual well-being. Believe it or not, these are not opposed, separate, or mutually exclusive. They draw from one another in amalgamation.
Sometimes, we NEED the spiritual in order to address severe maladies in the physical realm. This does not mean every ailment will be addressed through prayer, but a surprising many of them will.
I would like to take some time in this blog post to discuss why I think the Blessed Virgin Mary will be the ultimate refuge from the disease, war, and tyranny that we imminently face in 2021. I can do this by showing a couple of great examples of how she has already done so throughout history.
Exhibit A: 16th Century Mexico – A place ravaged by the spread of disease and war. Upon the arrival of the imperial Spanish conquistadores, Mexico was devastated, first, by smallpox, and later, by TWO distinct episodes of plague. If one were to go by raw numbers or proportions, Mexico’s experience with three pandemics in one century may have made it the most contagion-beleaguered civilization in world history. Even the Black Death (which might have been what the immune Spaniards brought with them) didn’t hit Europe as hard as Mexico, which may have lost roughly 1/3 or 1/2 of its population, EACH TIME, IN ALL THREE PANDEMICS.
Could this have been divine retribution in some way against the pagan Aztecs? The Old Testament mentions countless examples of societies being punished for child sacrifice and other wicked acts. For their part, the Aztecs (as well as their neighbors, the Mayans) were fervent practitioners of human sacrifice, which usually involved removing the hearts from still-living victims. They were a brutal bunch, and although I wouldn’t normally condone the invasion they experienced by the Europeans, it’s hard to feel sorry for such a manifestly-wicked society. As St. Augustine reminds us in City of God, human sacrifice is rampant in polytheistic religions because the pagan deities are usually none other than demons. This might have been why God allowed the indigenous Mexicans to suffer so much pestilence in the 16th century.
Yet, as we would come to see, there was a light of hope amidst not only the diseases but the tons of bloodshed from fighting between the Aztec Mexicans and Spanish.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was the ONLY saving grace for Mexico in the miserable 16th century. The Spanish, who were more interested in power than spreading the Gospel, were not the ones to convert the indigenous Mexicans, but convert they did, and in miraculous fashion.
In 1531 Mexico, the Catholic faith barely existed, owed solely to some early missionary work. It was the direct intervention of Our Lady of Guadalupe who appeared to the peasant, St. Juan Diego, that changed the course of Mexican history. Aztec paganism would become extinct, the Emperor Moctezuma was already slain, the entire region would be embroiled in conflict for decades, and only the faith in Jesus Christ, radiated into Mexico through Our Lady, would hold Mexico together. The overall population in Mexico would crash by at least 50% to 60% in the 16th century and would not begin to rebound until the mid-18th century. By then, Mexico and most of Latin American were Catholic, much more civilized, and ceased ripping out hearts. This would not have happened without God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
Exhibit B: The Battle of Lepanto – A desperate Catholic remnant in the latter half of the 16th century, fresh off the burning sting of the Protestant Revolt and the schism of the Church of England, was nearly wiped off the face of the Earth by opportunistic Muslims. As God has promised, the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church, and they would not during that critical hour either.
The Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, was a naval contest between the rapidly encroaching Muslims against the Holy League (Catholic states led by the Pope) that would finally see an end to the centuries of fighting during the Crusades. The 16th Century Ottoman Muslims (who are A LOT LIKE THESE GUYS) thought they were moving in for a final blow, and by all military accounts, they should have won. They out-numbered the European Catholics three-to-one. However, despite insurmountable odds, the Muslims lost!
How in creation did they do that???
The Catholic side finally remembered what it’s true source of strength was, the power of Jesus Christ, made manifest on earth in His Holy Catholic Church. St. Pope Pius V, sensing that the end was imminent by all natural means, commanded all Catholic combatants to cease what they were doing and pray the Rosary. What a time to pray?! Right on the precipice of a bloodbath, an entire military takes a timeout to pray. This is unfathomable to modern thinkers.
The portrait above basically tells the story. Our Lady appeared in the midst of the fight and allowed the small fragment of Christian forces to take down the mighty Ottoman Empire. It’s either that or you have to believe that the Ottoman’s suffered some kind of mega mutiny, were unilaterally attacked by a Kraken, or decided they no longer wanted to conquer. Either way, they lost and the fight was over with the Catholics victorious.
Bottom Line: Our Lady kept the Church in Europe alive by winning a war against Muslims at almost exactly the same time she invigorated the faith into the hearts of Mexicans and settlers in the new world where it had not existed previously.
The skeptical Protestant who would commemorate the Reformation and wants nothing to do with veneration of the Blessed Mother might rethink how much they appreciate the fruits of that victory at Lepanto. If not for Our Lady, had the Catholic navies fallen to the Muslims, it would have spelled the end of Christendom altogether and the Muslims would have conquered Europe, Protestants included. There is no reason to believe the Ottomans would have “tolerated” the Lutherans. Even centuries later, the Ottomans were not exactly known for that. They would have slaughtered them and replaced their Protestant churches with synagogues. Think about it. Did the Lutherans even possess a military to mount a resistance to the Muslims? Negative.
Our Lady indirectly bailed out the ungrateful Lutherans, Anglicans, and all other “bible-alone” Protestants. You’re welcome.
If you’re keeping score, both of these Marian miracles (Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Lepanto) occurred in the 1500’s, arguably the last enormous crisis time to impact the Church and Western Civilization. What a time it must have been to be alive, a familiar sentiment that many of us feel today. Great saints emerged from those crisis days. So too will they emerge once more?
As you can tell from these tales, the 16th Century was a near extinction event for the Church. Only Our Lady’s active rescue made it possible for the faith to survive and flourish. We maintain these lessons for a reason. We may be experiencing yet another near extinction of, not only the Church, but what’s left of Western Civilization.
Make no mistake about it. There is hope but we will have to embrace the loving arms and protective mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus Christ sent us His Mother while still dying on the Cross for a reason.
She is our final refuge from disease, war, and tyranny.
Virgo Potens, Ora Pro Nobis.
Today, September 8th, 2021, is the Feast Day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Happy Birthday to Mary, Mother of God!