Pope St Pius V
Born Michele Ghisleri, at Bosco, near Alexandria in the Lombardy region of Italy, 17 January 1504.
He gave great example by the way he lived, fasting, doing penance, spending long hours in prayer. Because of his zeal against heresy, he was appointed as inquisitor of the faith, and in 1557 he was made a Cardinal and named Inquisitor General for all Christendom.
On the death of Pope Pius IV he was elected Pope on 7 January 1566, despite protesting that he was not worthy. He was very austere, and luxury had no place in his life or his court. He reformed the clergy, and obliged the Cardinals to live pious and simple lives. He enforced the discipline of the Council of Trent.
His great work was the struggle against the Protestants and the Turkish Muslims. He excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England, and embraced the cause of Mary Stuart.
He worked to unite the Christian forces against the invading Turks who threatened to wipe Christianity out of Europe. In 1571 he successfully brought together a fleet of ships from Venice, Spain and the Holy See, under Don John of Austria, and they sailed against the much larger flotilla of the Turks, meeting them near Lepanto in the Gulf of Corinth on 7 October 1571. Initially suffering losses, suddenly the wind changed direction blowing the smoke of battle back into the eyes of the enemy and blinding them, and in a few short hours the battle was over. That was the last sea battle using ships propelled by oars, and many thousands of Christians who had been earlier captured by the Turks, were freed from their chains and from rowing the Turkish ships.
The Pope had requested all Christians to pray the Rosary to Our Lady, for success in this battle. That afternoon, in Rome, the Pope was in a meeting with his several of his staff, when he suddenly stood up, went to the window, and with a trembling voice, and tears in his eyes, announced to those present that God had just awarded the Christian fleet a sound victory.
It was several days before a messenger arrived from faroff Lepanto with the official news of the victory, but the Pope had been granted a special vision the moment it happened.
In honour of this victory the 7th October was declared a special Feastday in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Pope Pius V died on 1 May 1572.