The above picture is a Latin-Rite (Western) Church in an Eastern Orthodox country.  More specifically, it’s the Franciscan run “Church of Our Lady of Victory” in Rhodes, Greece.  I spent time praying there as well as helping with corporal works of mercy.  Above the altar within the above Church is a plaque found from centuries ago when the Holy Theotokos showed up to liberate the island from a Turkish Muslim invasion.

Rhodes is an island where St. Paul visited (and he apparently loved it.) Over a millennium later, the island was built up by the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Ordo Fratrum Hospitalis Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani) who were a Catholic military order (henceforth in this blog just referred to ask “The Knights.”)  The Knights were on the Greek Island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522.   They built up the wall that still defines old-town Rhodes today as you can see in the picture I snapped above.  (I spent almost two weeks on this island, which may be my favorite place in all of Europe.)

In 1480, the Turkish Muslims wanted this island so badly that they put it under siege.  That link reads:

“Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, fell to the ‘Scourge of Europe,’ the Sultan Mehmet II, in the year 1453… Mehmet was not intimidated by the Christian defenses on Rhodes, for he had huge cannons and basilisks which had blasted holes in the stout walls of Constantinople. He also had over 70,000 men in his army, and he was determined to wipe out ‘that abode of the sons of Satan,’ as he referred to the Catholic Knights of Rhodes.”

Needless to say, if Mehmet could take Constantinople, he could take the island of Rhodes.  The Muslim invaders numbered 70,000. The Knights numbered only a few hundred.  The Knights were led by an extremely courageous man known as Grand Master Pierre D’Aubusson.  Before the battle, he asked, “What is more sacred than to defend the Faith? What is happier than to fight for Christ?”

The Mediterranean Sea at Rhodes

Alas, the battle did not go his way.   The above site reads about that decisive battle between Muslims and Christians in 1480:

“Fighting with broken blades and notched axes, the Knights of Saint John continued to hold the breach, cutting down any who approached them, until a huge Janissary rose up and hurled a spear with all his might directly at the Grand Master. Propelled at incredible speed, the sharp steel tip easily pierced D’Aubusson’s breastplate, puncturing a lung. The Grand Master went down beneath a torrent of hacking blades as the Knights struggled to drag his body from the fray.”

But then a miracle happened which explains why I call this blog post Rhodes: The Forgotten Lepanto:

“Suddenly there appeared in the sky ‘a refulgent cross of gold, by the side of which stood a beautiful woman clothed in garments of dazzling white, a lance in her hand and a shield on her arm, accompanied by a man dressed in goatskins and followed by a band of heavenly warriors armed with flaming swords.’ It was the glorious figures of Saint John the Baptist, the Patron Saint of the Order of Saint John, Saint Michael the Archangel brandishing his unsheathed sword and the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, dressed in battle array! The Turks turned at the sight and ran in panic-stricken flight. Thousands fell as they fled, cut down and pursued through the breaches by the Knights of Rhodes and their heavenly allies. Chased all the way back to their camp, it was now the defeated Muslims who suffered the insult of having their sultan’s own standard captured.”

Inscription of bell in tower I climbed with a worker to clean

A few months before I went to Greece, a priest back in the USA told me in confession something along these lines as advice before absolution:  “I love Our Lady of Sorrows, but maybe you need to focus on Our Lady of Victory.  Our Lady also wants Victory in your life, not just sorrows.”  Such words were confirmed in the fact that the above account from 1480 shows that whereas the only lasting victory we want is heaven, God also wants us to endure some earthly “wins” in this valley of tears.  The fact St. Mary and St. John the Baptist and St. Michael all showed up with swords to drive off Muslims shows that we need to pray for that with the globalists and modernists.

The word “Victory” in Greek above is NIKHS (where “Nike” the shoe company derives its name.) We need to start having a devotion to Our Lady of Victory because we all need some wins against overwhelming odds right now.  The Victory of Rhodes shows that God and Our Lady want that for us—not just in heaven—but occasionally even here on earth.

Franciscan talking to Muslims