Friday, September 12, 2014

"We came, we saw, God conquered"

King John Sobieski blessing his army at the Battle of Vienna
          Today is September 12th. On this date in 1683 a Christian army led by Polish King John III Sobieski defeated the Muslim Ottoman Turks in battle, freeing the city of Vienna from a two months long siege and freeing Europe, for a time, from the fear of Islamic conquest. There is a good Catholic perspective on the battle [here] on the Catholic Exchange site.
     The siege of Vienna in 1683 was the final salvo of a period lasting almost a millennium, starting when Charles Martel’s victory at Tours in 732 stemmed the first Muslim incursion into Europe, during which the Christian West was constantly under the threat of subjugation by the followers of Mohammed. Had Charles Martel failed, or Sobieski, or any of the other Christian commanders in between, our world today would be very different. Consider what Tunisia, Libya, or Egypt might be like today – or Syria – if they had remained part of Christendom. Does anyone doubt that things there would be better, probably much better?
     And we need to bear in mind that this was really a struggle not simply of peoples or of nations, but between Christendom and Islam. Sobieski’s force was called The Holy League, the same name borne by that alliance which defeated the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto in the previous century. Like those earlier Christian soldiers, who prayed the Rosary before going into battle with the Turkish fleet, Sobieski’s army prayed: they attended Mass, after which Sobieski formed up his army and “commended their mission and their souls to the care of the Blessed Virgin.” After victory was achieved he informed the Pope that “we came, we saw, God conquered”, turning Julius Caesar’s proud boast to Roman Senate into a humble acknowledgement of God’s saving Grace.
     There are two points that stand out here. One is that we need to recognize that sometimes it is necessary to fight; our opponents have been at it for almost a millennium and a half, and there’s no indication that they are any more interested in compromise, or anything short of total victory, than they were at any point since Mohammed emerged from his cave with the Koran. Certainly the outlook and behavior we’re seeing from the Taliban or ISIS is nothing new: during the battle for Vienna, the Turks murdered 30,000 defenseless Christian hostages. The second point is that we will fail unless we rely on God: “Unless the LORD builds the house”, says Psalm 127,“those who build it labor in vain.” Our prevailing secular culture has shown it can’t do the job. Today’s Muslims, enabled by the moral decay and post-Christian depopulation of the continent, are gradually achieving by peaceful migration (although it’s becoming less peaceful) the capture of Europe that eluded the strongest armies of their forebears. Our only hope is to return to God and, as did John Sobieski, to make Jesus Christ the general of our armies.