The Saint who was once a Satanic priest
God can transform us if we want to be transformed:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” – Isaiah 1:18
“Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away” John 6:37
Matthew 11:28, Revelation 22:17, Joel 2:32, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20. These other verses express similar teachings of God’s forgiving love and the transformation it brings to the lives of people who open up their hearts.
The Story of Bartolo Longo:
Blessed Bartolo Longo was born in February 10, 1841, in Latiano near Brindisi, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was a lawyer and a former Satanist priest who upon conversion to the faith became a third order Dominican, dedicating his life to the Rosary and our Blessed Mother until death. In life he was awarded a papal knighthood of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and at death beatified by St John Paul II. He died on October 5, 1926 in Pompei, Naples, Campania, Kingdom of Italy. He was 85 years when he passed.
Bartolo Longo was born into a wealthy family on February 10, 1841 in the small town of Latiano, near Brindisi, in southern Italy. His parents were devout Roman Catholics. In 1851, Longo’s father died and his mother remarried a lawyer. Despite Longo’s stepfather wanting him to become a teacher, Longo was set on becoming a lawyer. In 1861, Longo succeeded in convincing his stepfather and was sent to the University of Naples to study law.
In the 1860s, the Catholic Church in Italy found itself at odds with a strong nationalistic movement. General Giuseppe Garibaldi, who played a key role in Italian unification, saw the Pope as an antagonist to Italian nationalism and actively campaigned for the elimination of the papal office altogether. The Catholic Church in Europe was also competing with a growing popularity in Spiritualism and Occultism. Because of this, many students at the University of Naples took part in demonstrations against the pope, dabbled in witchcraft and consulted Neapolitan mediums. Longo became involved with a movement that he claimed led him into a Satanist cult. After some study and several “spiritual” experiences Longo said that he was ordained as a satanic priest.
In the following years, Longo’s life became one of “depression, nervousness, and confusion”. Bothered by paranoia and anxiety, he turned to a hometown friend, Vincenzo Pepe, for guidance. It was Pepe who convinced him, in Longo’s account, to abandon Satanism and introduced him to the Dominican Father Alberto Radente who led him to a devotion to the rosary. On October 7, 1871, Longo became a Dominican tertiary and took the name “Rosario”. Around this time, he reportedly visited a séance and held up a rosary, declaring:
“I renounce spiritualism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood.”
He also came to know some Franciscans with whom he helped the poor and incurably ill for two years. Bartolo also kept up his law practice, which took him to the nearby village of Pompei. He went to Pompei to take care of the affairs of Countess Marianna Farnararo De Fusco.
In Pompei, Longo later recounted, he was shocked at the erosion of the people’s faith. He wrote:
“Their religion was a mixture of superstition and popular tradition. … For their every need, … they would go to a witch, a sorceress, in order to obtain charms and witchcraft.”
Through talking to the citizens, Bartolo came to recognize their severe lack of catechesis. When he asked one man if there was only one God, the fellow answered:
“When I was a child, I remember people telling me there were three. Now, after so many years, I don‘t know if one of them is dead or one has married.”
Longo wrote of his personal struggles with mental illness, paranoia, depression and anxiety. At one point, he noted struggling with suicidal thoughts, but rejected them by recalling the promise of Saint Dominic:
“he who propagates my Rosary will be saved.”
Longo wrote that this promise is what convinced him to encourage public devotion to the rosary.
Later life and death
At the suggestion of Pope Leo XIII, Bartolo Longo and the Countess Mariana di Fusco were married on April 7, 1885. The couple remained continent and continued to do many charitable works and provided for orphaned children and the children of prisoners which for its time was revolutionary. In 1906 they donated the entire property of the Pompeii shrine to the Holy See. Longo continued promoting the Rosary until his death on October 5, 1926, at the age of 85. The piazza on which his basilica stands has since been named in memory of Longo. His body is encased in a glass tomb and he is wearing the mantle of a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a papal order of knighthood.
On October 26, 1980 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, who would call him the “Apostle of the Rosary” and mentioned him specifically in his apostolic letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).
On October 7, 2003 Pope John Paul II prayed for world peace at the Basilica. More than 30,000 people were waiting to greet him as he flew in by helicopter. From Wikipedia