The Catholic Defender: From Son of Satan to "Man of Mary"
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. Act's 19:13-19
The above scripture shares the story of how the Gospel touched peoples lives through signs and wonders. Those formerly involved in Occultic practices turned to the Lord and was received into the Church. Blessed Bartolo Longo was raised in a Catholic family but when he was about 10 years old, his mother, Antonina Luparelli, died leaving young Bartolo without religious instruction. As a result, Bartolo became a secularist, and anti-clerical atheist.
This would send him on a most terrible journey as by the time he was 20, Bartolo started going to seances where he was introduced to the drug culture and loose women. People began to seek him out because of his interest in Occultic things. He became a lure to those seeking supernatural truth who likewise became interested in the Occult.
Soon, Bartolo would be ordained a priest of Satan conducting Black Masses desecrating the the Holy Eucharist and demonic manifestations became an erie reality as walls shook and horrible screams were heard terrifying those present.
Despite having developed a following, Bartolo became miserable, he would often times be a paranoid hearing and seeing things that he believed he had control over. The worse things became, the more his family prayed for him, interceding for him.
A Professor at the University, Vincenzo Pepe tried to reach Bartolo told him “Do you want to die in an insane asylum and be damned forever?” What taunted Bartolo even more was hearing his father, Dr. Bartolomeo Longo who had passed away calling out to him, “Return to God!”
Later, Bartolo would recall:
"As I pondered over my condition, I experienced a deep sense of despair and almost committed suicide. Then I heard an echo in my ear of the voice of Friar Alberto repeating the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘If you seek salvation, promulgate the Rosary. This is Mary's own promise.’ These words illumined my soul. I went on my knees. ‘If it is true ... I will not leave this valley until I have propagated your Rosary."
Soon, Bartolo agreed to meet with Dominican Father Alberto Radente who was able to hear the young man's Confession. Given the grace and healing of Confession, Bartolo began witnessing for the Catholic faith intending to bring back those he led astray.
On campus, Bartolo was seen everywhere, crashing parties and going to clubs telling people about Jesus and denouncing Satanism and the Occult. After six years of serving the poor and teaching the Catholic Faith, on March 25, 1871, he became a lay Dominican on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Once more Bartolo felt the urge to go to a seance as he would use to do, but this last time was different. He walked in, held up a rosary and called out, “I renounce spiritualism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood.”
One time later, while reflecting on his past, the thought came to him that almost caused his heart to stop, Bartolo thought, “Despite my repentance, I thought: I am still consecrated to Satan, and I am still his slave and property as he awaits me in Hell. As I pondered over my condition, I experienced a deep sense of despair and almost committed suicide.”
It was like Satan was working on Bartolo's mind as he felt unworthy of God's forgiveness. I wish I had a nickel every time I heard someone say that? This conflicted his soul until he remembered his family praying the Rosary. Our Lady's Rosary became a scarlet thread that Bartolo began to take hold off.
Bartolo began establishing Rosary groups having great affect bringing people to a closer relationship to Jesus though Mary. Despite taking a vow of chastity, Bartolo took a wife at the request of Pope Leo XIII, the Countess di Fusco for the purpose of working on Marian processions, Rosary groups and a shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary.
For the next 50 years Bartolo reached the lost bringing many to the Catholic Faith, restoring many to their faith. Through his work, schools were founded for the poor, orphanages established for children of criminals and many dedications to Mother Mary to help them in their faith.
At his beatification, St. John Paul II, proclaimed Blessed Bartolo Longo “a Man of Mary.” October 5 is Blessed Bartolo's feast day, the Church celebrates with joy the truth of Our Holy Faith. I am reminded of St. Paul's writing, "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."