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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
the boldness of
desparation I lifted
my face and hands to
the heavenly Virgin
and cried: "If it be
true that you
whoever spreads the
Rosary will be saved,
I will be saved,
because I will not
leave pompeii until I
have spread your
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."
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.
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.
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:
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
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."