Q. How did October become a month dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Virgin?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Both October and May lay a claim as “Mary’s month,” and her connection to October is easy to grasp — Oct. 7 is the feast of the Holy Rosary, the anniversary of the 1571 Battle of Lepanto.
This naval encounter was a response to Ottoman Turkish aggression against Christian merchants in Cyprus. When the Ottomans broke their word, to allow Christians to leave safely, Pope Pius V helped gather a multinational naval fleet that faced a much larger Ottoman force at Lepanto, in the Gulf of Corinth.
Christians commanded only 214 boats and 80,000 troops. They faced a Turkish force of 120,000 troops, 225 galleys and 50 smaller boats. The battle occurred at a time of transition in naval warfare, and Lepanto stands as the last great naval engagement in ships powered by oars.
The weather, which initially favored the Turks, changed, and Christians were able to overwhelm their enemy. Nine thousand Christians died in the battle, but 12,000 were released from slavery in Ottoman galleys. Turkish losses were far greater. Forty thousand died in the battle.
Lepanto is sometimes called “The Battle that Saved the West.” Pope Pius V attributed the victory to his — and to Christian sailors’ — praying the Rosary.