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Blessed Bartolo Longo "From Priest of Satan to Apostle of the Rosary"

Thursday, November 25, 2004

+JMJPT+ Blessed Bartolo Longo pray for us and lead us to Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
A link to Catholic.net is posted above. There is also a link to the Holy See website at the bottom of this posting. +++++++++++++++++++++

From Priest of Satan to Apostle of the Rosary

by Robert Feeney

Bartolo Longo was born on February 11, 1841 in Latiana, Italy. His father was a well-to-do physician and man of culture. His mother was a devout woman who always saw to it that her children prayed the family rosary every night. Bartolo derived his great love of Mary from her. As a young boy, Bartolo was lively, intelligent and at times a mischievous lad. He loved music, played the piano and flute and was the conductor of the school band.

During the 19th century, Italian universities became hotbeds of resistance. A wave of anti-clericalism swept through the universities. Bartolo studied law and received his law degree in 1864 at the age of 23. He graduated from the University of Naples, the alma mater of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori.

During his studies in Naples, Bartolo's faith weakened, as he came under the influence of friends who were involved in the occult. He attended seances and eventually was ordained a priest in a Satanic cult. He took on such severe fasts, that he endangered his health. He became depressed and nervous and seemed to hear the voice of his dead father: "Return to God! Return to God!"

During this time, he publicly derided the Church, priests and anything connected with the Faith. The Satanic sect that he belonged to, ridiculed priests, bishops, and the rites of the Catholic Church. The experiences that Bartolo underwent in this sect were so horrible that Bartolo went into a state of insanity for a short period of time. His family prayed hard and long for Bartolo.

Our Lady chose a good friend of the young lawyer to help redirect his shattered life. His name was Professor Vincente Pepe, who taught near Naples. Bartolo would talk to him about his activities in the Satanic cult. Vincente was disgusted at what he heard and his angry reproach stung Bartolo. The young lawyer came to admit that he was mentally confused. He very much needed support of God-loving people. Vincente introduced Bartolo to a learned Dominican priest, one trained in the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. His name was Fr. Alberto Radente, O.P., who was chosen by Mary to be the friend, confessor and spiritual director of the young lawyer. The Dominican helped Bartolo withdraw from the Satanic cult. He gave the lawyer, a comprehensive review of theology and prepared him for the reception of the sacraments. This great Dominican priest prayed earnestly and even fasted for Bartolo Longo.

Fr. Radente professed him into the Third Order of St. Dominic on March 25, 1871, after explaining to him the history of the Order, founded by St. Dominic and confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1216. The Pope stated at this time that Dominicans would be "Champions of the Faith and True Lights of the world." This new lay Dominican lawyer was now bent on repairing his past. He visited a seance for the last time, holding a medal of Mary and cried out: "I renounce spiritism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood." He then went to student parties and cafes denouncing spiritism and proclaiming his faith in Christ and the Church. Fr. Radente said to him: "If you are looking for salvation, propagate the Rosary. It is the promise of Mary. He who propagates the Rosary shall be saved." This young lay Dominican lawyer was destined by God to become one of the greatest modern apostles of the Rosary. In prayer, Bartolo said to Mary: "I shall not depart from this earth without first displaying before you, the triumph of your Rosary."

Bartolo went to the Valley of Pompeii in 1872, which was to be his area of work. He was determined to evangelize the people of Pompeii by means of the Rosary as his spiritual Father, St. Dominic did in southern France in the early 13th century. There is the Dominican tradition that in 1208, in the Chapel of Notre Dame in Prouille, France, Mary appeared to St. Dominic and said: "Wonder not that until now you have obtained so little fruit by your labors; you have spent them on barren soil not yet watered with the dew of divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore, preach my psalter, composed of 15O Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest of souls." Pope Leo XIII confirmed this tradition over and over. Since the days of St. Dominic, the Rosary has been the special charism of the Dominican Order. The Catholic Church looks to the Dominicans as official promoters of the Rosary. Bartolo Longo was destined to be a true light to the world, a true Dominican in the spirit of St. Dominic.

At the age of 44, Bartolo married Marianna de Fusco on April 7, 1885. They were married in the private oratory of the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Naples. Bartolo's dear friend, Pope Leo III, encouraged the couple to get married.

Bartolo was an avid writer. His words were: "O God! In one hand, you placed the Rosary, in the other, a pen." Of the Rosary he wrote:

"The entire Rosary has the beauty of reproducing the theological thoughts concerning Mary, they are reproduced in the entire dialectic of truth and deduction. Marian theology and the Rosary are two poems that are united into one, two hymns forming one hymn, two magnificent temples, two cathedrals of thought and piety, that come together as one... Here in the Rosary, piety speaks in the language of theologians. Here meditation rises to the heights attained by scholars. Here prayer dwells where the scholars are brought to a halt. Marian theology and the Rosary are therefore similar to two temples having at the same height their pinnacles and spires. The people of God in the Church have found the Rosary, its Book of Psalms. The clergy have the Divine Office, the people have the Rosary. Like The Divine Comedy, the Rosary is a trilogy: it recall the joys, sorrows, and triumphs of Jesus and in perfect symmetry, for each part it has five chants, and each chant in turn is an episode. The Rosary could very well be called the poem of human redemption. The Rosary is a poem that takes its lively but simplistic hues from the pure palette of the Gospel; while at the same time it draws its logical ties, its harmonious responses, its entire intimate dialectic from the highest theology."

Bartolo Longo ended his long and fruitful life on October 5, 1926, at the age of 85. His last words were "My only desire is to see Mary, who has saved me and who will save me from the clutches of Satan." In his last will and testament he declared: "I wish to die a true Dominican tertiary in the arms of the Queen of the Rosary with the assistance of my holy Father St. Dominic and of my mother St. Catherine of Siena." His death was followed by miracles and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 26, 1980. This Marian pope greatly admires Blessed Bartolo Longo and called him Man of Mary on the day of his beatification. On that occasion, 50,000 people cried out at St. Peter's in Rome, "Blessed Bartolo, pray for us."
Robert Feeney, a lay Dominican, is author of The Rosary: The Little Summa.


Wednesday, 8 May 2002

Dear Concelebrants,
Distinguished Authorities,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

For 2,000 years the Church has addressed the Blessed Virgin Mary with the inspired words of the Angel Gabriel: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (cf. Lk 1,26).

This is the greeting which all of us coming here from all over Italy wish to direct to the Mother of the Lord: "Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!".

Luke the Evangelist told us that on hearing these words the humble Virgin of Nazareth was troubled and wondered what they could mean. In her heavenly glory, the Mother of Christ is now fully aware of the meaning of this cry of admiration that the Church raises to her from every corner of the earth.

It is the testimony of the redeemed who know well what marvels of grace the Almighty has worked in her and through her in the world.

The meaning of the feast

1. Today, I came on pilgrimage to this famous Shrine of Pompei, to celebrate the glories of Mary with you and to implore her motherly protection upon the whole Church and the whole world. The Holy Father also joins in our prayer, raising in Rome his fervent prayer to Our Lady, venerated here with the beautiful name of Our Lady of the Rosary and Queen of Victories. When he visited this shrine on 21 October 1979, he said to those present: "I have come to this shrine in the spirit of fervent and humble pilgrimage, to venerate the Blessed Virgin and fulfil my secret vow of devotion, gratitude and love" (Address in the Basilica of Our Lady of Pompei, 21 October, 1979; ORE, 3 December 1979, p. 4). John Paul II, as he began his Pontificate, put himself in Our Lady's footsteps and came here to find light and comfort for his apostolic mission.

Today we feel his presence with us, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, beg the Lord to give him her greatest graces. We rejoice that he expressed the desire to return to this Shrine [on Sunday 6 May during the visit to Ischia]. Let us entrust his state of health and his tireless apostolic ministry to "Our Lady of Victories".

Mary's victory

2. I would like to reflect briefly on this title, "Our Lady of Victories", that is the central idea of the prayer that we will shortly recite.

This was the Marian title that was particularly loved by the founder of this oasis of prayer, Bl. Bartolo Longo. It is a name that recalled the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, established by Pope St Pius V after the victory of Lepanto in 1571. On the occasion of that famous battle, the Christian community experienced the special protection of the Mother of God, and invoked her as "Help of Christians".

The great founder of this shrine saw in the devotion of the Holy Rosary a powerful weapon of victory for Christians today.

For more than a century, Bartolo Longo's message has echoed in our midst. Yes, even today, in all the difficulties of the present time, we can address Mary as "Our Lady of Victories", if we see the deeper meaning of the title.

Victory of Christians

3. Indeed, beyond external conflicts, the war between good and evil is always being waged in the world, and is fought in the first place within each one of us. The struggle goes back to the dawn of humanity when God's plan was upset and a gaping wound was opened in human nature that only Christ's Redemption could heal.

The theme of victory fits into the drama of the fall and redemption. Certainly in the first place, the victor is Christ who gave us those words of ongoing comfort: "I have overcome the world" (Jn 16,33).

Then, in union with Christ, every disciple can repeat what the Apostle John wrote: "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (1 Jn 5,4).

Of course, evil exists in the world, inside and outside of us; but it is certain that the victory over evil is within our reach if we believe in the Lord.

With this Christological background, the Marian title so beloved by Bl. Bartolo Longo acquires its full meaning.

Mary is indeed "Our Lady of Victories", for, with her motherly intercession, she helps us to win our daily battles against evil for she shows us the tenderness that only a mother can show to her children.

The secret of victory

4. By her example, the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us the path of victory. The Gospel of the Annunciation that we heard describes to us the secret of every Christian life: obedience to the will of God. To the Angel, the Virgin of Nazareth spoke the words that signal the dawn of our redemption: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word".

Mary's "Let it be to me"rendered to God the obedience that Eve had denied him and signaled the beginning of salvation. A similar "let it be to me" opens for every Christian the doors of grace.
Thus Mary becomes for each one of us the One who teaches us the way of victory,namely, the path of total abandonment to God's will.

A weapon of victory

5. Brothers and sisters, dear pilgrims!

Gathered round the gentle person of Our Lady of Pompei, let us resolve to call on her every day for our needs and the needs of the world.

We are surrounded by a society that needs more than ever the light of the Gospel. Our world is seeking peace. There are so many sufferings that cry out for help. There is such a great longing for justice and charity!

We wish to entrust our hopes to Mary's motherly intercession. With the repetition of the prayers of the Rosary, we will turn to Mary with the insistent, trusting prayer of a child to his mother.

In this way the Rosary will become a weapon of victory, an effective weapon, to which Christ's promise applies very well: "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Lk 11,9).

This is the message that we would like to take away from the celebration of this beautiful Marian feast in this famous shrine, that the Holy Lawyer, glory of the Church of Naples, built in the last century to honour Mary. In the past, Pompei was known as the city that was destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today Pompei has become the city of life, because it has become the city of Mary.

For this reason, dear friends of Pompei, I would like to leave you with a fraternal invitation to continue to work together, pastors, faithful, men and women religious, men and women of faith who belong to the various associations and ecclesial movements. Work to make this shrine, the glory of your land, flourish even more so that it may reach out to Italy and to the world with the message of Christian hope. Amen.
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