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Saints This Month - 5 October : Bl. Bartolo Longo, Apostle of the Rosary

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Many Saints begin their life as sinners. It is not very often that you come across one who was a Satanist priest. Bl. Bartolo however was an ordained member and leader of a Neapolitan Satanist cult. He was born in 1841 to a devout family but his mother died when he was ten and he slowly began to lose his faith. By the time he had gone up to the University of Naples he had renounced his Christian heritage. He tried to fill this gap by experimenting with witchcraft and magic. He became involved with a Satanist group and after having spiritual experiences was elected by his fellow devotees to be ordained in the priesthood of Satan.

His life became a mixture of depression, confusion, ill-health and diabolic visions. The physical and mental strain became too much for Bartolo and he turned to an old school friend for advice. His friend pleaded with him to renounce Satan and speak to Alberto Radente, a Dominican priest renowned for his spiritual counsel.

After a long period of reflection and repentance, Bartolo was received as a lay Dominican, taking the name Rosario. Whilst he had renounced his wicked life Bartolo still felt the need to offer reparation. He went to Pompeii and joined a charitable group, where he aided the good works of Countess Di Fusco. Whilst he did great work for the poor and sick, he still felt that his service at the altar of Satan had condemned him to Hell. As he fell deeper into despair the grace of God touched him and he remembered Fr. Radente telling him that the Blessed Virgin had told St. Dominic that "he who propagates my rosary will be saved". With peace in his heart he knew what God wanted him to do.

He found a run-down church and began to restore it. He then organised a festival in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1875 he obtained a painting of Our Lady of the Rosary to be hung in the church. People flocked to the church and miracles began to be reported. With the encouragement of the Bishop he began work on a much larger church. It was consecrated in 1891 and in 1939 was enlarged to become the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii.

At the suggestion of Pope Leo XIII, Bartolo Longo and the Countess Mariana di Fusco were married. The chaste couple continued to do many charitable works and provided for orphaned children and the children of prisoners which, for its time, was revolutionary. Longo continued promoting the Rosary until his death in 1926. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1980 and in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae called him the "Apostle of the Rosary".

Bl. Bartolo shows us the power of the Holy Rosary and the infinite mercy of God. It does not matter how far we are from God: because He who descended into Hell still holds out his hand for us to grab and be pulled to safety.

Mark Davoren


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