On the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Oct. 7, 1571, the Holy League won a crushing victory over the Ottoman Fleet at the Battle of Lepanto off the western coast of Greece.

Men and boys attending a Holy League rally at St. Leonard Church, Muskego, Nov. 12, look over memorabilia for sale. A renewed Holy League hopes to draw men back to the practice of their Catholic faith. (Submitted photo courtesy Mike Raboine)The victory is credited to Pope Pius V, who formed the league in order to break the Ottoman Turks’ control of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its members were the papal states, the Habsburg states of Spain, Naples and Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchies of Savoy, Parma and Urbino and the Knights of Malta. On the signing of the peace treaty in 1573, the league was disbanded, a short time after Pope Pius V died.

According to Fr. Rick Heilman and Michael Raboine, the church is in a similar situation to that of the church of the late 16th century; but rather than facing a physical war, the church and family are faced with a spiritual war of relativism, secularism, impurity and confusion regarding church teaching.

With hopes of fighting this escalating spiritual warfare, Fr. Heilman, pastor of St. Mary, Pine Bluff; St. Ignatius, Mt. Horeb; and Holy Redeemer, Perry in the Madison Diocese, and Raboine, a member of Immaculate Conception, Burlington, began working in June 2013 to bring back a new movement of the Holy League.

“Of course, we are not talking about the physical battles of the 1500s, but to use weapons of righteousness and spirituality

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The site gives directions on beginning a Holy League and where to attend Holy League Holy Hours

and prayer,” said Fr. Heilman. “I have been a priest for 26 years and have found that most of the volunteers, staff and Mass attendees are dominated by women. Men have been AWOL and there needs to be an initiative to draw men back into the faith.”

Through monthly Holy Hours with confession, Benediction, eucharistic adoration, spiritual talk and sustenance, Fr. Heilman and Raboine hope to encourage men to have a better understanding and greater commitment to their spiritual lives.

“We reached out to all of the leadership from the men’s apostolates in the state to join in the Holy League movement and we held six rallies around the state to get the men to learn more about this holy alliance with these men’s apostolates, and the Holy League was born of this collaboration,” said Raboine.

He compared the movement to a pending airplane crash.

“You are told to put on your oxygen masks first before helping the kids. It is the same thing in the church, in that we need to put our spiritual oxygen masks on first as we are called to be priests in our own home and in society,” he said.”

The Holy League began on Nov. 23, the Feast of Christ the King, after the rallies, led by Doug Barry, co-host of the EWTN program, “Life on the Rock.” Barry is the founder of the 20-year-old apostolate, Radix, named after the Latin word for “roots.”

“I was going around the country talking about spiritual warfare and being battle ready through the sacraments, prayers and church teaching in general, and through a friend, I got to know Fr. Rick (Heilman) and we realized that we were trying to accomplish the same thing, They decided to work together, and, with Raboine’s help, planned a tour throughout Wisconsin.

According to Barry, statistics show children in homes where the mother is the spiritual leader will follow in the faith about 35 percent of the time. However, when the father is the leader, the number jumps to more than 90 percent.

The rallies have been well attended by all ages, and when Barry speaks, some points really hit home, he said.

“Many of them come up to me afterwards and tell me that it is about time we engage the men of the church and that we need this,” he said. “Men and women of all ages are responding to this call to bring back holiness. When we think of warfare, we always think of some evil dictator trying to erase another country, but we are under spiritual warfare. We see 50-60 percent of marriages ending in divorce, people with addictions to pornography, and abortions. Like it says in the first book of Peter, “Be sober and vigilant: your enemy, the devil, is roaming around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

The Holy League is a non-profit organization supported by donations through Knights of Columbus councils, hosting parishes and private donors. Fr. Heilman is pleased with the reaction so far.

“Men have something special set on their hearts and need to have a sense of purpose, and the knight imagery of the Holy League speaks to the hearts of men,” he said. “We are called by our baptism to be the church militant and the noble knights, protectors and providers.”