Modern Day Saint
Blessed Bartolo Longo
Bartolo Longo was born in Latiano, Italy in 1841 to wealthy and devout Catholic parents. His chosen profession was law, however when he attended law school in Naples he fell into the same trap many of our young people are experiencing today. Following a philosophy class taught by a fallen away priest, Bartolo began to slide away from the Catholic faith. As a typical rebellious youth he eventually became hostile to the Church. He fell in with occultist friends and experimented with spiritualism, attended seances, became a Satanist and even became an ordained Satanist priest. Eventually, he injured his health through severe fasting, developed mental health problems and slid into depression. Then one day he thought he heard his dead father telling him to return to God. He sought help from an old friend who introduced him to a Dominican friar, Father Alberto Radente. Father fasted and prayed for Bartolo and eventually guided him back to the Church.
Bartolo received his law degree in 1864 and worked in Naples as a lawyer. His bout with Satan ended in 1871 when he became a Third Order Dominican. Father Alberto gave him the name of “Brother Rosary” and told him of Mary’s promise of salvation to those who spread her rosary. Bartolo sought to make amends for the grave scandal he had caused by preaching against the occult in cafes frequented by students.
In 1872 Bartolo went to the valley of Pompeii to establish legal title to properties inherited by a countess after the death of her husband. The valley visited by the young lawyer was a desolate wasteland inhabited by a few scattered peasants. The moral and spiritual abandonment of the poor peasants so touched his heart that he vowed to Our Lady that he would sacrifice his life for their salvation.
With the help of the countess and friends from Naples, he undertook the evangelization of the valley going from house to house instructing the peasants in the knowledge and power of the rosary. Urged by the local bishop, he constructed a small rosary chapel that today has become the great basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii.
Our Lady assisted in the construction of the shrine by granting graces and favors to benefactors. By 1885 some 940 cures were recorded and described in Bartolo’s history of the shrine. It was also in this year that Bartolo married the countess who had provided him with so much help.
In addition to construction of the shrine, Bartolo provided thousands of abandoned orphan children with a loving home near the shrine. This group of homes was known as the City of Charity.
Bartolo Longo was beatified by Pope John Paul ll on October 26, 1980. In his recent apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariiae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary) he praised Blessed Bartolo as a true apostle of the rosary and a model for today’s Catholics. His feast day is observed on October 6.
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