13 November 2015

St. John Capistrano Leads Christian Army Against Mehmed the Conqueror

I didn't know much about St. John Capistrano other than he had a mission and city named after him in southern California. What I learned is that he was not one of those falsely depicted, pacifist Franciscans as they are portrayed today but a pretty incredible "warrior priest" and saint. He is one of those defenders of Christianity whom we can look to for intercession against the Islamic Jihadists raging around us. The following is excerpted from Dr. William Carroll's History of Christendom.
The Pope, Calixtus III, sent cardinals to France, Germany, and Poland to preach the crusade against the Ottomans. Alfonso V of Aragon and Naples joined the cause and agreed to supply fifteen galleys for the crusading fleet.  Afonso V of Portugal vowed to give twelve thousand men; and St. John Capistrano, a Franciscan preacher filled with fervor, raised many a man in Hungary and Transylvania to enter the crusade. He pulled men into the righteous cause with his words filled with zeal; men more concerned about image rather than our eternal war with evil discouraged him from preaching. But one day, during the Mass, he saw, in a vision, an arrow with the words, “Fear not, John. Go down quickly. In the power of my name and of the Holy Cross thou wilt conquer the Turks.” 
And so he continued his mission. The Germans, on the other hand, did nothing to assist the cause of the Cross, and its bishops grumbled most impiously because of the crusading tax. The crusaders marched on to Belgrade, for if Belgrade fell the whole of southeastern Europe would be open to the Turks. Capistrano brought eight thousand men, while Hunyadi led about sixteen thousand. Such numbers were inferior to the eighty thousand jihadists Mehmet had under his grasp. Pope Calixtus III called on all archbishops, abbots and priests to pray, fast and give penance for deliverance from the Turks.
The warriors arrived in Belgrade, Capistrano said Mass, and commanded the other priests present to not participate in the fighting, but to tend the wounded. Shells struck the walls of the city, and such a terrifying bombardment continued on for two weeks. But still the saints remained steadfast. It came to their knowledge that the Turks were planning on cutting off the city from all outside support, but to such a worry Capistrano left the city with a promise that he would return with another army. On his arrival he brought with him a rustic bunch; the Ottomans were already there, and their numbers caused so much fear that Hunyandi, looking upon the lowly army of Capistrano, even proposed retreating. Capistrano would not allow it, and he sharply told Hunyandi that they would never leave, but would go down fighting. 
The Crusaders under Hunyandi advanced with two hundred boats, and as they fought a naval battle, Capistrano stood on the shore holding up high a crucifix which the pope had given him, declaring “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” The Christian prevailed on the waters, and the fighting continued in Belgrade itself. The Turks beat the walls with their canons , and at that time all seemed hopeless. Hunyandi again suggested retreat, and again Capistrano turned it down. The Turks penetrated the walls at certain parts of the city and were in the midst of the Christians. Turk and Christian fought hand to hand in the streets as Hunyandi directed them, and Capistrano held high the Holy Cross. As the crucifix remained ascended, the Christians advanced. On Every street and in almost every building fighting took place.
Turkish artillery was now of little help; the gunners could not see the enemy. It was at this moment that the preying horned owls were blinded, and the strong falcons prevailed. By the next morning the Turks began their retreat from the streets which were now engulfed in blood. The Christians followed through and relentlessly pursued them to finish them off. Hunyandi was able to seize some of the Turks’ guns and use them on his enemy, and an arrow struck the body of Mehmet, the wound compelling the sound for the retreat. And as all of this took place, there stood the saintly fighter, Capistrano, with arms stretched above his head toward Heaven, and his hands gripped on the crucifix. (Carroll, A History of Christendom, vol. iii, ch. xiii, pp. 571-572; Moczar, Islam at the Gates, ch. iii, pp. 76-9) By this we are so reminded of that holy day in which the Hebrew saints defeated the heathen Amelekites as Moses stood holding his staff up to the air:
“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek, and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13)     
The Holy Spirit never ceased to work through His saints, from Israel onwards, it continued, from Moses to Capistrano, from Hunyandi to Joshua. The warpath of the infidel Turk had been hindered by this great victory, which moved Pope Calixtus III so much that he called it, “the happiest event of my life.” They massacred fifty-thousand Turks in that battle.  Calixtus III would also appoint an ex-Muslim from Albania who converted to Christianity, named Skanderberg, as “Captain-General for the Turkish war,” and he would lead successful attacks on the Turks until his death in 1468. (Carroll, A History of Christendom, vol. iii, ch. xiii, pp. 372-373) Now was the time to set the final blow upon the Turk, if only Christendom arose at that moment the crescent would have been driven fully out of Europe. (Moczar, Islam at the Gates, ch. iii, p. 81) 

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