This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8 -- Feast of Our Lady of Pompeii

Bartolo Longo
This post is actually about Blessed Bartolo Longo, but for reasons that will not surpass your understanding, I am celebrating him today rather than on his own feast.

Bartolo was a well-educated, upper middle class nineteenth century lawyer.  He was apparently a multi-talented fella.  He distinguished himself in oratory, fencing, dancing, flute, and piano.  His mom had been a devout Catholic who taught him to pray the rosary, but when he was around ten, she died.  He began to drift from the Catholic Church, but most of Italy was drifting from it.   Politically, the move toward unification inevitably clashed with the Pope's claim to be king of the Papal States.  Intellectually, it was quite unfashionable to believe superstitious old nonsense about communion and penance when exciting new ideas like magnetism and phrenology could be studied instead.  He moved on to contacting spirits through media, and then wound up as a priest of Satanism.  And even worse, a lawyer.

Peter Gilmore, current Satanic high priest
I apologize for the previous cheap shot about lawyers. 

Being a Satanic priest was not as spiritually fulfilling as he had expected.  He addressed his depression by fasting (didn't help), which just seemed to lead to poor health and diabolical visions.  An old friend introduced him to a Dominican priest who carefully guided him back to the Church.  He returned with such zeal that he joined the Dominicans as a tertiary, taking the name Fratel Rosario -- Brother Rosary.  This was apparently a direct reference to Saint Dominic's vision of Mary in which she said, he who propagates my rosary will be saved.  I guess he figures the only way a Satanic priest can enter heaven is by extraordinary devotion, and Mary's comment may the string of rosary beads look like a life line to him. 

The very painting, restored
He found a broken down old church in Pompeii and began to restore it, hoping to renovate it as Our Lady of the Rosary.  He also got an old painting of Mary, St. Dominic (how appropriate), and Saint Catherine of Siena to hang in his restored church. It had been purchased at a junk shop and stashed at a local convent -- nothing special, but it helped to inspire donors.  Then word of miracle cures began to spread, and soon, the faithful and their lira were coming in droves.  The Church got built and then expanded; the painting got touched up, and then fully restored; Bartolo got married to the wealthy widow who had been patronizing his efforts, the Countess di Fusco.  Together, they built a little village of charitable institutions called the City of Mary, including an orphanage and two schools for the children of imprisoned criminals.  

The saint in his restored church
In his beatification of Bartolo Longo, Pope John Paul II called him "the Apostle of the Rosary."  He had been desperate for redemption and, having taken to heart Dominic's vision of Mary, set about restoring a church in her honor.  Today, there are churches called Our Lady of Pompeii in Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Connecticut, and New York.

His faith led him from Satanic priest to Dominican church-builder.  Although he is feasted on October 10, his death day, I figure it is sensible to tell his story today, on the feast of that aspect of the BVM to which he was so gratefully, adoringly devoted.


  1. Thank you for keying your reruns as you have today! Both are treats.
    I once lived around the corner from our local satanist, Anton LaVey. I concluded that it was a depressing business. There were no lurid acolytes; so he still had to take out the garbage on Tuesday for collection on Wednesday. He still had to walk his black Labrador and clean up its poop. And we lived in a foggy commonplace neighborhood. A handy Dominican can certainly cheer things up a bit!

  2. That's a hilarious image. Mr. Lavay (Father Lavay? His Unholiness?) presented Sammy Davis Jr. with some sort of honorary priesthood in the Satanic church. There have been accounts on the internet about Mr. Davis releasing an album entitled "Satan Swings, Baby" and including such tracks as "That Old Black Magic" and "Sympathy for the Devil." Untrue, but still entertaining.