“My only desire is to see Mary who saved me and who will save me from the clutches of Satan.”
- Blessed Bartholomew Longo’s last words
Perhaps one of the most remarkable conversions in the history of the Church was that of Bartholomew Longo, who went from being a Satanist priest to a beatified, through the extraordinary assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Born in 1841 to a practicing Catholic family, he was not an irreligious youth, but when he went to university in Naples to study law, all that changed. He first went from being a practicing Catholic to being involved in anti-papal demonstrations and then an atheist, following that a Satanist, eventually being ordained to the Satanist priesthood. He had become a complete apostate.
However, Bartholomew’s family and friends continued to ardently pray for him and his conversion back to the faith of his childhood. A university professor of his hometown in southern Italy began to have discussions with him and with much perseverance managed to persuade him of the irrationality of his position. This was the beginning of his road to sainthood. He then was referred to a Dominican priest named Father Albert who directed his deprogramming and finally guided him back into communion with the Church.
He had recovered his faith, but realizing the awful scandal and damage he had caused, he wished to make reparations. He learnt first-hand of the awful poverty of the tenant farmers near his hometown. It is said that at the sight of their destitution the words of Our Lady of the Rosary came to his mind: “One who propagates my Rosary shall be saved.”
He believed that from this point on he would devote his life to spreading devotion to the Rosary. His first step was to organize Rosary groups around a shrine he established in his neighborhood church around a picture of Mary called Our Lady of the Rosary. The shrine grew and became a basilica in 1901, attracting thousands of pilgrims daily, and still does today.
Bartholomew was aided in his work by the Countess di Fusco, a devout widow. Pope Leo XIII suggested that they marry to quiet rumors that their work together was leading to an amorous relationship. In obedience to the Pope they did so but vowed to live in celibacy.
They opened an orphanage for children of prison inmates, which achieved unexpected results for children who were considered lost causes and hereditary criminals at the turn of the century.
Bartholomew lived his last 20 years of his life under constant ill health and attacks against his reputation by those envious of him and the success of his apostolate.
His reliance on and dedication to the Rosary was extremelly pronounced in his life, as he acknowledged how vital Mary had been in his rescue from Satanism and conversion to the truth. He was an active proponent of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, which was proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
Bartholomew died on October 5, 1926 at the age of 85. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
“Rosary in hand, Blessed Bartolo Longo says to each of us: "Awaken your confidence in the Most Blessed Virgin of the Rosary. Venerable Holy Mother, in You I rest all my troubles, all my trust and all my hope!”
- Pope John Paul II at Blessed Bartholomew Longo’s beatification ceremony.