Ray Sullivan reminds us at The Catholic Stand that God has a way of raising up champions from among the ranks of His enemies:
What could be a more fascinating tale than a satanic high priest becoming a saint? Blessed Bartolo Longo is such a story. Born in Italy in 1841, Bartolo grew up in a very Catholic household, where the family said the Rosary regularly. But his mother died when he was 10, and Bartolo’s life began its way downward. When he enrolled at the University of Naples as a young man, he was ripe for the new agers to confuse him and lead him astray. He soon started to attend séances and fortune telling “parties.” And of course, there was the bait that always draws young men into this kind of thing, sex orgies.
Soon, Bartolo aspired to be a satanic priest, and he was ordained into the devil’s brigade as a high priest. The walls shook and there were strange voices and visions when the ordination took place. Bartolo fainted with sheer terror, and soon became very sick and was deeply tormented by the evil one. But the die was cast, so Bartolo was off to the races, performing blasphemous black masses and publicly ridiculing the Catholic faith in public. Many were drawn away from the faith of the saints as a result. Bartolo’s mind was becoming more and more twisted and confused as his belief in the false promises of Satanism took their toll.
The Internal Battle
However, in the meantime, what was left of Bartolo’s family was praying for his return to the faith. Like St. Monica praying for the conversion of her wayward son Augustine, his family never gave up on him. One day, Bartolo thought that he heard the voice of his dead father urging him to return to the Catholic Church. Isn’t it wonderful how God uses our family members to save us, even when they are no longer here on earth?
So Bartolo decided to pay a visit to an old friend that he hadn’t seen in a while, Professor Vincenzo Pepe. The good professor was shocked at the degraded appearance of his old friend, and asked a very good question of Bartolo:
“Do you want to die in an insane asylum, and then be damned forever?”
Go here to read the rest. In repentance of his Satanism, he dedicated his life to good works and championing the rosary, reclaiming many souls from the clutches of the occult. He was beatified by John Paul II on October 26, 1980. In his beautiful encyclical on the rosary, ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE, Pope John Paul II wrote of Blessed Bartolo Longo:
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!”.(13) 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”.
The grace and love of God lives in all our souls, and that includes the most evil of us. Even a slight turning of us toward God can be sufficient to start a process that will culminate in the Beatific Vision. As long as we live in this Vale of Tears there is ever hope, even among those of us who are most far from Him.