“They went forth and preached everywhere” (Mk.16:20)
After Our Lord ascended to the Father, the disciples felt deserted. They were afraid because their Lord had so recently been crucified. The first and perennial enemy and persecutor of the Church was apostate Judaism. And because most of the Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah, they would not recognize the authority of His Church. And so, after His glorious Resurrection, as the Lord ascended into Heaven, the disciples hid in the Upper Room, the Cenacle, where they retired “for fear of the Jews.” There they prayed until the coming of the Holy Ghost, who descended upon them in tongues of fire. Praying with them was one whose faith was far more profound than theirs – the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Jesus had promised them, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnessed for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the very ends of the earth.” Filled with the Holy Ghost they went out into the public square, where Peter preached the Gospel to them, telling them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Now they who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:38;41).
Today, May 5, is also the Feast of Pope St. Pius V. The religion of Islam, founded by Mohammed in the year 622 AD, denied the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. In the year 1571, the Islamic Ottoman Empire threatened to overrun Europe. The famous Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571. Pope St. Pius had commanded the Holy Rosary to be prayed throughout Europe on that day. The Christian Holy League, led by Don Juan of Austria, won a crushing victory by halting the Ottomans and nearly destroying their fleet. In thanksgiving, Pope St. Pius Instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory on that day. The name of the Feast was later changed to the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
But in our time the whole of Western civilization trembles at the reawakening of a militant Islam. As our Holy Mother once prayed with the Apostles for the coming of the Holy Ghost, as she once obtained the great victory over the Islamic forces at Lepanto in 1571, may she also pray for us, that fortified by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, we may fulfill without fear Our Lord’s command:
“‘Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.’…But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the preaching by the signs that followed. Amen” (Mk.16:15,16,20).