The Man of Mary, Blessed Bartolo Longo

The Man of Mary, Blessed Bartolo Longo
The Man of Mary, Bartolo Longo
1841-1926

On October 5, 1926 Bartolo Longo passed away in Pompei, Italy. He was called the apostle of the . He was beatified by on October 16, 1980, and proclaimed “the man of Mary.” On that same day, the memorial of , ten years ago, (2002) Blessed John Paul II issued the Apostoloic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae). He concludes this letter with the following paragraph indicating that he was prostrating himself in spirit before the image of Mary in the shrine built by Bartolo Longo and concluding the letter with Blessed Bartolo’s prayer:

May this appeal of mine not go unheard! At the start of the twenty-fifth year of my Pontificate, I entrust this Apostolic Letter to the loving hands of the Virgin Mary, prostrating myself in spirit before her image in the splendid Shrine built for her by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary. I willingly make my own the touching words with which he concluded his well-known Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary: “O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May you be everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heaven”. (See the entire letter here)

What an honor for this man to have the tribute of Blessed John Paul II. He was a man lost in great darkness (a devotee of Satan at one point in his life). He was saved by God, and Bartolo devoted his life to evangelization by means of the rosary, and to charitable care of the orphans. Read about him here and about the shrine to Mary in Pompei here

I would like to share the other passages from the Apostoloic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary which mention Blessed Bartolo; his influence on Blessed John Paul II was profound.

John Paul II credits him with inspiring Pope Leo XIII to write his first letter on the rosary and to advocate devotion to “the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary.”

As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: “Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved!”. As a result, he felt called to build a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Pompei, against the background of the ruins of the ancient city, which scarcely heard the proclamation of Christ before being buried in 79 A.D. during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, only to emerge centuries later from its ashes as a witness to the lights and shadows of classical civilization. By his whole life’s work and especially by the practice of the “Fifteen Saturdays”, Bartolo Longo promoted the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary, and received great encouragement and support from Leo XIII, the “Pope of the Rosary”. §8

Bartolo urged us to think of the rosary as a way to deepen our friendship with Christ and Mary, and to learn from our friends:

 In this regard Blessed Bartolo Longo has written: “Just as two friends, frequently in each other’s company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection”.§15

Bartolo boldly spoke of Mary as “all powerful by grace.” Of course, St Louis de Montford said we cannot speak too highly of Mary, but all must be properly taken —

Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son. She is “all-powerful by grace”, to use the bold expression, which needs to be properly understood, of Blessed Bartolo Longo in his Supplication to Our Lady. This is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people. The supreme poet Dante expresses it marvellously in the lines sung by Saint Bernard: “Lady, thou art so great and so powerful, that whoever desires grace yet does not turn to thee, would have his desire fly without wings”§16

Finally, John paul II loved Bartolo’s notion of the chain of beads as a golden chain tying us to God:

As a counting mechanism, marking the progress of the prayer, the beads evoke the unending path of contemplation and of Christian perfection. Blessed Bartolo Longo saw them also as a “chain” which s us to God. A chain, yes, but a sweet chain; for sweet indeed is the bond to God who is also our Father.§36

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