“Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see.
This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.
Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.
The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.
In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.”
QUESTION: What are INDULGENCES and do we still believe in them?
ANSWER: First of all, YES, as Catholics we still do believe in INDULGENCES! So, what are they? Remember the difference between the eternal punishment due to mortal sin and the temporal punishment due to sin? Well, an INDULGENCE is the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven in the absolution we receive from the priest in the Sacrament of Penance, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful gains under certain and defined conditions by the assistance of the Church which, as minister of the redemption, dispenses and applies authoritatively from the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints (Code of Canon Law 992). The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following: “An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins. The Church does this not just to aid Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity” (CCC 1478).
In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions, and the performance of certain prescribed works. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed [have gone to Confession at least 8 days before or 8 days after the indulgenced work]. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day, while one may gain several plenary indulgences in a single day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace through the Sacrament of Penance: have the interior disposition of detachment from sin, even venial sin; received the Holy Eucharist on the day of the indulgenced work, and prayed for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope). Prayer for the Pope’s intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary” are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin). Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.
How to obtain a plenary indulgence for the Holy Souls
Plenary Indulgences which may be obtained only for the holy souls in purgatory each day from November 1st through 8th
From November 1st through 8th: Visit a cemetery* and pray for the holy souls (visit each day, plenary indulgence each day!);
On November 2nd, All Souls’ Day: Visit a church or a public oratory and pray the Our Father and the Apostles’ Creed once.
A partial indulgence can be obtained any time by visiting a cemetery and praying for the holy souls. The following prayer is especially recommended:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
* Does not have to be a Catholic Cemetery: any cemetery will be sufficient.
Six general rules for obtaining a plenary indulgence:
- Be in a state of grace at least when performing the indulgenced act;
- Detachment from sin, even venial sin (a devout praying of the Act of Contrition helps us with this);
- Go to Confessions (About 8 days before or after the indulgenced act);
- Receive Our Lord in Holy Communion each day you intend to obtain a plenary indulgence;
- Pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis; and
- Do the indulgenced act: a special good work with special conditions of place and time.
Plenary indulgences can be obtained only once a day, while one may obtain several partial indulgences on any given day. Indulgences may be gained for the holy souls in purgatory or for oneself personally, but never for another living person.
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI
ON THE ROSARY
TO THE VENERABLE BRETHREN, PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES,
ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE.
- More than once have We asserted – and We recently repeated this in the Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris (Acta Ap. Sedis, 1937, Vol. XXIX, p. 65) – that there is no remedy for the ever-growing evils of our times except a return to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to His most holy precepts. Truly, only He “hath the words of eternal life” (Cf. John, vi, 69), and individuals and society can only fall into immediate and miserable ruin if they ignore the majesty of God and repudiate His Law.
- However, anyone who studies with diligence the records of the Catholic Church will easily recognize that the true patronage of the Virgin Mother of God is linked with all the annals of the Christian name. When, in fact, errors everywhere diffused were bent upon rending the seamless robe of the Church and upon throwing the Catholic world into confusion, our fathers turned with confident soul to her “alone who destroys all heresies in the world” (Roman Breviary), and the victory won through her brought the return of tranquillity.
- When the impious Mohammedan power, trusting in its powerful fleet and war-hardened armies, threatened the peoples of Europe with ruin and slavery, then – upon the suggestion of the Sovereign Pontiff – the protection of the heavenly Mother was fervently implored and the enemy was defeated and his ships sunk. Thus the Faithful of every age, both in public misfortune and in private need, turn in supplication to Mary, the benignant, so that she may come to their aid and grant help and remedy against sorrows of body and soul. And never was her most powerful aid hoped for in vain by those who besought it with pious and trustful prayer.
- But also in our day, dangers no less grave than in the past beset civil and religious society. In fact, because the supreme and eternal authority of God, which commands and forbids, is despised and completely repudiated by men, the result is that the consciousness of Christian duty is weakened, and that faith becomes tepid in souls or entirely lost, and his afterward affects and ruins the very basis of human society.
- Thus on the one hand are seen citizens intent on an atrocious struggle among themselves because some are provided with abundant riches and others must gain bread for themselves and their dear ones by the sweat of their brows. Indeed, as we all know, in some regions the evil had reached such a pitch that it seeks to destroy all private right of property, so that everything might be shared in common.
- On the other hand, there are not lacking men who declare that they honor and exalt, above all, the power of the State. They say they must use every means to assure civil order and enforce authority, and pretend that only thus are they able totally to repulse the execrable theories of the Communists. However, they despise the light of evangelic wisdom and endeavor to revive the errors of the pagans and their way of life.
- To this is added the clever and lamentable sect of those who, denying and hating God, declare themselves the enemies of the Eternal, and who insinuate themselves everywhere. They discredit and uproot all religious belief from souls. Finally, they trample on every human and Divine right. And while they cast scorn on the hope of heavenly reward, they incite men to seek, even by illicit means, false earthly happiness, and therefore drive them with brazen temerity to the dissolution of the social order, causing disorder, cruel rebellions and even the conflagration of civil war.
- Nevertheless, Venerable Brethren, though such great and numerous evils hang over us, and others still greater are to be feared for the future, we must not lose heart nor let the confident hope that rests solely on God become fainter. He who “made the nations of the earth for health” (Cf. Wisdom i, 14) without doubt will not let those perish whom He has redeemed with His Precious Blood, nor will He abandon His Church. But rather, as We said in the beginning, shall We beseech God through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin, so acceptable to Him, since, to use the words of St. Bernard: “Such is the will of God, who has wished that we should have all things through Mary.” (Sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.)
- Among the various supplications with which we successfully appeal to the Virgin Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without doubt occupies a special and distinct place. This prayer, which some call the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, was described and recommended by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, with these vigorous passages: “Very admirable is this crown interwoven with the angelic salutation which is interposed in the Sunday prayer, and unites with it the obligation of interior meditation. It is an excellent manner of prayer . . . and very useful for the attainment of immortal life” (Acta Leonis, 1898, Vol. XVIII, pp. 154, 155).
- And this can well be deduced from the very flowers that form this mystic garland. What prayers in fact can be found more adaptable and holy? This first is that which our Divine Redeemer Himself pronounced when His disciples asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke xi, 1); a very holy supplication which both offers us the way – as far as it is possible for us – to render glory to God, and also takes into account all the necessities of our body and soul. How can the Eternal Father, when prayed to with the very words of His Son, refuse to come to our aid?
- The other prayer is the Angelic Salutation, which begins with the eulogies of the Archangel Gabriel and of St. Elizabeth, and ends with that very pious supplication by which we beg the help of the Blessed Virgin now and at the hour of our death. To these invocations, said aloud, is added the contemplation of the sacred mysteries, through which they place, as it were, under our eyes the joys, sorrows and triumphs of Jesus Christ and of His Mother, so that we receive relief and comfort in our sorrows. Following those most holy examples, we ascend to the happiness of the heavenly country by steps of ever higher virtue.
- This practice of piety, Venerable Brethren, admirably diffused by St. Dominic, not without the heavenly suggestion and inspiration of the Virgin Mother of God, is without doubt easy for all, even for the ignorant and the simple. But those wander from the path of truth who consider this devotion merely an annoying formula repeated with monotonous singsong intonation, and refuse it as good only for children and silly women!
- In this regard, it is to be noted that both piety and love, though always renewing the same words, do not always repeat the same thing but always express something new issuing from the intimate sentiment of devotion. And besides, this mode of prayer has the perfume of evangelic simplicity and requires humility of spirit; and, if we disdain humility, as the Divine Redeemer teaches, it will be impossible for us to enter the heavenly kingdom: “Amen, I say to you, unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. xviii, 3).
- Nevertheless, if men in our century, with its derisive pride, refuse the Holy Rosary, there is an innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who have always held it dear. They have recited it with great devotion, and in every moment they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word to attain real peace among men.
- Nor are there lacking men famous as to doctrine and wisdom who, although intensely occupied in scientific study and researches, never even for a day fail to pray fervently on bended knee, before the image of the Virgin, in this most pious form. Thus kings and princes, however burdened with most urgent occupations and affairs, made it their duty to recite the Rosary.
- This mystic crown, then, not only is found in and glides through the hands of the poor, but it also is honored by citizens of every social rank. And We do not wish here to pass over in silence the fact that the Blessed Virgin herself, even in our times, has solicitously recommended this manner of prayer, when she appeared and taught it to the innocent girl in the Grotto of Lourdes.
- Therefore why should We not hope for every grace if We supplicate Our Heavenly Mother in this manner with due disposition and holiness? We desire very earnestly, Venerable Brethren, that the Holy Rosary should be recited in a special manner in the month of October and with increased devotion both in the churches and in homes.
- And so much the more must it be done since the enemies of the Divine Name – that is, those who have rebelled against and denied and scorned the Eternal God – spread snares for the Catholic Faith and the liberty due to the Church, and finally rebel with insane efforts against divine and human rights, to send mankind to ruin and perdition. Through efficacious recourse to the Virgin Mother of God, they may be finally bent and led to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.
- The Holy Virgin who once victoriously drove the terrible sect of the Albigenses from Christian countries, now suppliantly invoked by us, will turn aside the new errors, especially those of Communism, which reminds us in many ways, in its motives and misdeeds, of the ancient ones.
- And as in the times of the Crusades, in all Europe there was raised one voice of the people, one supplication; so today, in all the world, the cities, and even the smallest villages, united with courage and strength, with filial and constant insistence, the people seek to obtain from the great Mother of God the defeat of the enemies of Christian and human civilization, to the end that true peace may shine again over tired and erring men.
- If, then, all will do this with due disposition, with great faith and with fervent piety, it is right to hope that as in the past, so in our day, the Blessed Virgin will obtain from her divine Son that the waves of the present tempests be calmed and that a brilliant victory crown this rivalry of Christians in prayer.
- The Holy Rosary, besides, not only serves admirably to overcome the enemies of God and Religion, but is also a stimulus and spur to the practice of evangelic virtues which it injects and cultivates in our souls. Above all, it nourishes the Catholic Faith, which flourishes again by due meditation on the sacred mysteries, and raises minds to the truth revealed to us by God.
- Every one can understand how salutary it is, especially in our times wherein sometimes a certain annoyance of the things of the spirit is felt even among the Faithful, and a dislike, as it were, for the Christian doctrine. Therefore, revive the hope of immortal welfare, while the triumph of Jesus Christ and of His Mother, meditated on by us in the last part of the Rosary, shows us Heaven open and invites us to the conquest of the Eternal Country.
- Thus while an unbridled longing for the things of this earth has penetrated into the hearts of mortals and each one more ardently longs for the short-lived riches and ephemeral pleasures, all feel a fruitful call back to the heavenly treasures “where thieves do not break in and neither rust nor moth doth consume” (Matt. xii, 33), and to the wealth that will never perish.
- And the charity which has been weakened and cooled in many, how can it fail to be rekindled into love in the souls of those who recall with a full heart the tortures and death of our Redeemer and the afflictions of His Sorrowful Mother? From this charity towards God, then, there cannot but rise a more intense love of one’s neighbor if one dwells on the labors and sorrows that Our Lord suffered for all, reinstating the lost inheritance of the children of God.
- Therefore see to it, Venerable Brethren, that such a fruitful practice shall be more diffused, more highly esteemed by all, and that common piety be increased. Through your work and that of the priests who help you in the care of souls, its praises and advantages shall be preached and repeated to the Faithful of every social class.
- From it, the young will draw fresh energy with which to control the rebellious tendencies to evil and to preserve intact the stainless purity of the soul; also in it, the old will again find repose, relief and peace from their anxious cares. To those who devote themselves to Catholic Action may it be a spur to impel them to a more fervent and active work of apostolate; and to all those who suffer in any way, especially the dying, may it bring comfort and increase the hope of eternal happiness.
- The fathers and mothers of families particularly must give an example to their children, especially when, at sunset, they gather together after the day’s work, within the domestic walls, and recite the Holy Rosary on bended knees before the image of the Virgin, together fusing voice, faith and sentiment. This is a beautiful and salutary custom, from which certainly there cannot but be derived tranquillity and abundance of heavenly gifts for the household.
- When very frequently We receive newly married couples in audience and address paternal words to them, We give them rosaries, We recommend these to them earnestly, and We exhort them, citing Our own example, not to let even one day pass without saying the Rosary, no matter how burdened they may be with many cares and labors.
- For these reasons, Venerable Brethren, We have thought fit earnestly to exhort you, and through you, all the Faithful, to carry out this pious practice. Nor do We doubt that you, listening, with your usual response to Our paternal invitation will bring about abundant fruits once more.
- And in addressing this Encyclical to you, another motive impels Us. We wish that, together with Us, Our many children in Jesus shall unite and render thanks to the Mother of God for the better health We have happily regained.
- This grace, as We have had occasion to write (Cf. Letter to Cardinal E. Pacelli, Osservatore Romano, September 5, 1937), We attribute to the special intercession of the virgin of Lisieux, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. But We know, though, that everything comes to us from Almighty God through the hands of Our Lady.
- And lastly, as there has been launched in the public press with rash insolence, a very grave injury to the Blessed Virgin, We cannot do less than profit by this occasion to offer, together with the Episcopate and the people of that nation which venerates Mary as “Queen of the Kingdom of Poland,” and with the homage of our piety, due reparation to the august Queen, and denounce to the whole world this sacrilege committed with impunity, as a painful and unworthy thing.
- Meanwhile, with a full heart We impart to you, Venerable Brethren, and to the flock entrusted to the care of each of you, the Apostolic Blessing as an augury of heavenly graces and in token to Our Paternal benevolence.
Given at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, on the 29th day of the month of September, on the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel, in the year 1937, the sixteenth of Our Pontificate.
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
OCTOBER 20: Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross, confessor
St Vincent Strambi, Paul’s first biographer writing only 11 years after his death, stated that the Holy Spirit raised up Paul of the Cross to help people find God in their heart. Paul was convinced that God is most easily found by us in the Passion of Jesus Christ. He saw the Passion as being the most overwhelming sign of God’s love for us, and at the same time our best means for union with Him.
Paul often spent many hours in prayer and adoration before Jesus crucified. Throughout his many travels while preaching missions and making foundations of his Passionist Order, he always carried with him a large wooden crucifix in honor of our Lord’s Passion, thus he became known by the popular name of “Paul of the Cross”. Undoubtedly the two greatest characteristics of St Paul were his fervent devotion to the Passion of Jesus and also his extraordinary sacrifices and penances that he made for the conversion of sinners.
Throughout his religious life, Paul continuously sacrificed and made special penances and mortification’s for the success of his preaching missions, that many souls may be converted. An example of his many penances was that he went barefoot in all his travels throughout Italy, regardless of the harsh seasons and climates. And God, Who was pleased with the heroic sacrifices and devotion of His servant, chose to perform countless extraordinary miracles through Paul’s intercession and prayers. As he went about doing good, the frequent extraordinary signs from heaven that accompanied him were a sign to all that God was with him in a most remarkable way. Like his holy predecessors the Apostles, immense crowds gathered and followed him as he went about preaching from town to town. His great love for God and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary radiated to the crowds with remarkable unction through both his words and his actions, thereby causing countless conversions everywhere he went. His austere manner of life, full of sacrifices and penances, encouraged the people to make reparation to God for their own sins.
~St Paul of the Cross, pray for us!
Words and sayings of Saint Paul of the Cross:
“I want to set myself on fire with love…I want to be entirely on fire with love…and I want to know how to sing in the fire of love.”
“Look upon the face of the Crucified, who invites you to follow Him. He will be a Father, Mother–everything to you.”
“Oh Love, oh fire of charity; how powerful You are!”
“I enjoy remaining on the Cross. How beautiful it is to suffer for Jesus!”…..“I rejoice in the nails that hold me crucified”
“Ah, my Supreme Good. What were the sentiments of your Sacred Heart when You were scourged? My beloved Spouse, how greatly did the sight of my grievous sins and my ingratitude afflict You! Oh, my only Love, why do I not die for You? Why am I not overwhelmed with sorrow? And then I feel that sometimes my spirit can say no more but remains thus in God with His sufferings infused into the soul- and sometimes it seems as if my heart would break.”
“Your crosses dear God, are the joy of my heart. How beautiful to suffer with Jesus!”
“I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.”
“I am a bottomless pit and deserve no light, so unworthy am I.”
“Christ Crucified is a work of love. The miracle of miracles of love. The most stupendous work of the love of God. The bottomless sea of the love of God, where virtues are found, where one can lose oneself in love and sorrow. A sea and a fire or a sea of fire. The most beneficial means of abandoning sin and growing in virtue, and so in holiness.”
“At holy Communion I had much sweetness. My dear God gave me infused knowledge of the joy which the soul will have when we see him face to face, when we will be united with Him in holy love. Then I felt sorrow to see Him offended and I told Him that I would willingly be torn to pieces for a single soul. Indeed, I felt that I would die when I saw the loss of so many souls who do not experience the fruit of the Passion of Jesus.”
“Oh my Love, what happened to Your heart in the Garden! Oh, what suffering; what shedding of blood! What bitter agony, and all for me!”.
“I felt pain in seeing my dear God so offended. I could faint from seeing so many souls lost for not feeling the fruit of the Passion of Jesus. A desire to convert all sinners will not leave me.”
“Oh good Jesus, how swollen, bruised, and defiled with spittle do I behold Thy
countenance! O my Love! Why do I see Thee all covered with wounds? Oh
infinite sweetness, why are Your bones laid bare? Ah, what sufferings! What
sorrows! O my God, why are You all wounded? Ah, dear sufferings! Dear wounds! I wish to keep you always in my heart.”
“Oh Jesus, my Love, may my heart be consumed in loving Thee; make me humble and holy; give me childlike simplicity; transform me into thy holy love. O Jesus, life of my life, joy of my soul, God of my heart, accept my heart as an altar, on which I will sacrifice to Thee the gold of ardent charity, the incense of continual, humble and fervent prayer, and the myrrh of constant sacrifices! Amen.”
“The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus, which are the miracle of miracles of the Love of God”
“Oh my good God, how gentle You are! How sweet You are! Oh dear cross, I embrace you and press you to my heart!”
“We ought to glory in nothing other than the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are blessed and don’t know it. You have Jesus Crucified with you.”
Rosary Prayers of Blessed Bartolo Longo
The Joyful Mysteries
First Joyful Mystery. The Annunciation.
O Mary, immaculate lily, through the joy you felt when at the Angel’s message you became the Mother of God: obtain for me the virtue of purity and of humility, that I may become your worthy son/daughter and the brother/sister of Jesus.
Second Joyful Mystery. The Visitation.
O Mary, Mother of grace and of charity, through the joy you felt when, upon visiting Elizabeth, you brought joy to the home of Zechariah and the Baptist was sanctified at the sound of your voice: visit my soul, let it hear your Motherly voice, and fill it with love of God and love of neighbour.
Third Joyful Mystery. The Birth of Jesus.
O Mary, mirror of humility and of poverty, through the joy you felt when, turned away by the inhabitants of Bethlehem and forced to take refuge in a stable from the cold and darkness, you gave birth to the Divine Redeemer: grant that by accepting scorn and poverty I remain faithful to grace and gain the reward of eternal salvation by means of good works.
Fourth Joyful Mystery. The Presentation.
O Mary, the perfect model of obedience and of sacrifice, you who offered Jesus to the Eternal Father on our behalf: place your Child upon my bosom, that, together with you, I may offer him the sacrifice of my passions and of my whole being.
Fifth Joyful Mystery. The Finding in the Temple.
O Mary, a shining example of patience, through the joy you felt when, after three days of anxiously searching, you found Jesus in the Temple: grant that I too, seeking Jesus with love in every moment of my life in imitation of you, may find him at last in your arms at the hour of my death, never to lose him again.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
First Sorrowful Mystery. The Agony in the Garden.
O Grieving Virgin, through the anguish of that saddest of nights in which Jesus in agony in the garden sweat blood at the sight of my sins, and, betrayed, was tied as a criminal: obtain for me the perfect sorrow of my sins and perseverance in prayer, that I may never again betray his most loving Heart.
Second Sorrowful Mystery. The Scourging at the Pillar.
O most grieving Mother, through the pain you felt in knowing that your innocent and holy Son had been publicly stripped and bloodily scourged with biting whips: obtain for me the spirit of true repentance and the virtue of chastity and of the mortification of the senses.
Third Sorrowful Mystery. The Crowning with Thorns.
O Mother of sorrows, through the atrocious torment which pierced your heart when you saw Jesus, the King of glory, then become the King of suffering, crowned with thorns and shame, with a reed in his hands, derided by the crowd: ah!, encircle my intellect and my heart with these very thorns, that I may never offend him again with evil thoughts and sentiments; and obtain for me pureness in my thoughts and the right intentions in my actions.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. The Carrying of the Cross.
O grieving Mother, through the martyrdom of your heart, when you met your Son weighed down beneath the heavy cross, staining the road to Calvary with his blood: grant that I, clinging to Jesus’ cross, follow behind, daily carrying the cross of my troubles with meekness and with perfect conformity to the will of God.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.
O Queen of the Martyrs, through the extreme spasm of your heart when you witnessed Jesus dying on the cross in the midst of a thousand torments, forsaken and without comfort: grant that I die to myself, to the world and to sin, and live in the heart of Jesus alone, having abandoned myself in his most holy arms.
The Glorious Mysteries
First Glorious Mystery. The Resurrection.
O Most Holy Mother of God, through the joy you felt in seeing Jesus risen from the dead and surrounded in glory: obtain for me that I too rise from the death of sin to a life of grace and of faith, and may persevere in it till my very last breath.
Second Glorious Mystery. The Ascension.
O Queen of the Heavens, through the joy you experienced in seeing Jesus rising to Heaven triumphant as King of the Universe and as our Advocate by his Father: obtain his blessing for me also, so that I be changed by him from a sinner into a saint; moreover, by separating me from all earthly affection, through the virtue of hope may he kindle in me the desire of paradise.
Third Glorious Mystery. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.
O Queen of the Universe, through the joy you felt when the Holy Spirit descended on you and on the Apostles: grant that he come into my soul and fill it with his holy gifts and the heavenly fruits of charity, of joy, of patience and of peace.
Fourth Glorious Mystery. The Assumption.
O Queen, Lady of the Angels, through the joy you experienced when you were taken into heaven body and soul: come with Jesus to assist me at the hour of my death, and lead me with you to everlasting happiness.
Fifth Glorious Mystery. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
O Queen of all the Saints, and the honour and delight of humankind, through the joy you felt when the Most Holy Trinity crowned you as Queen of Heaven and Earth: inflame me with your love and with the love of God, that I may love and serve you on earth, and glorify you, O Queen of my heart, in heaven.
The tomb of Blessed Bartolo Longo is in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii. About three million pilgrims visit the basilica each year.Pompeii has more to offer than dusty ruins filled with plaster casts of people, and one unfortunate puppy, frozen in time. It is also, coincidently, home to the only church in Christendom built by an ex-Satanist.
It’s the same old story: boy from a religious family goes away to university, falls in with a bunch of New Age Satanists, becomes a satanic high priest, thinks better of his decision and ultimately reverts to the Church; it’s the basic satanic-rags-to-saintly-riches story.
I didn’t believe this story when I first learned about Blessed Bartolo Longo either. Having grown up the son of Italian immigrants, I was regaled with all of the lurid stories of El Barto’s excesses, debauchery and general dissoluteness. I came to Pompeii not just for the ruins but also to see if the stories were true.
Bartolo Longo was born on February 10 1841 to a wealthy family in the small town of Latiano, near Brindisi in southern Italy. His parents, Dr Bartolomeo Longo and Antonina Luparelli, were devout Catholics who prayed the rosary together daily.
When Longo’s mother died in 1851, he slowly drifted away from his Catholic faith. He was left to his own devices when he studied law at the University of Naples and became involved with a New Age pagan group which ultimately “ordained” him a satanist priest. He participated in séances, fortune-telling and the de rigueur orgies. Unsatisfied with merely practising his new pagan religion, he felt it important to publicly ridicule Christianity and did everything within his power to subvert Catholic influence. He even convinced many other Catholics to leave the Church and participate in occult rites.
But none of these activities brought him joy. In fact, his life was marked by extreme depression, paranoia, confusion and nervousness. He even began to show signs of demonic obsession, as opposed to demonic possession, which included being inflicted by diabolical visions and continually declining poor health. He ultimately experienced a mental breakdown.
In his despair, he heard the voice of his deceased father urging him to “Return to God! Return to God!” In fear and desperation, Longo turned to Professor Vincenzo Pepe, a friend from his home town, for guidance. Vincenzo convinced Longo to abandon Satan and introduced him to the Dominican priest, Fr Alberto Radente. Fr Radente heard his Confession and helped him to further reclaim his life.
One evening, as he walked near-chapel at Pompeii, Bartolo had a profound mystical experience. He wrote: “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.'”
To prove his new-found commitment to Christ and His Church Bartolo even attended a séance. In the midst of it, he stood and raised a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mother and cried out: “I renounce spiritism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood.”
On March 25 1871, as part of his self-imposed penance, Longo became a Third Order Dominican, taking the name Brother Rosario in honour of the rosary. He joined a charitable group in Pompeii and worked alongside Countess Mariana di Fusco, a wealthy local widow whom he married a year later on Pope Leo XIII’s recommendation.
The happy couple decided to start a confraternity of the rosary. To serve as a spiritual focus for this group, Bartolo needed a painting of the Blessed Virgin. Sister Maria Concetta de Litala of the Monastery of the Rosary at Porta Medina offered him one that she got at a Neapolitan junk shop. She paid only 3.40 lire – a tiny, insignificant sum even at the time.
The painting portrayed Our Lady of the Rosary with St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena. Though it was of modest artistic accomplishment and in very poor condition, it served Bartolo’s purpose. He described it in his journal: “Not only was it worm-eaten, but the face of the Madonna was that of a coarse, rough country-woman . a piece of canvas was missing just above her head . her mantle was cracked. Nothing need be said of the hideousness of the other figures. St Dominic looked like a street idiot. To Our Lady’s left was a St Rose. This I had changed later into a St Catherine of Siena . I hesitated whether to refuse the gift or to accept . I took it.”
In addition, the sorcerer turned born-again Catholic restored a ramshackle church in October 1873 and then sponsored a feast in honour of Our Lady of the rosary. He installed the repaired painting in this very church. Within hours of its installation miracles began to be reported and people came to the church in droves. Seeing the devotion of the pilgrims, the Bishop of Nola encouraged Bartolo to construct a larger church. He approached architect Giovanni Rispoli to build it, making the following appeal: “In this place selected for its prodigies, we wish to leave to present and future generations a monument to the Queen of Victories that will be less unworthy of her greatness but more worthy of our faith and love.”
Work on the larger building began on May 8 1876 and was consecrated in May 1891 by Cardinal La Valetta who represented Pope Leo XIII. In 1906, he and his wife donated the Pompeii shrine to the Holy See but this didn’t diminish his evangelistic zeal. Bartolo continued promoting the rosary until his death in1926, at the age of 75. To spread devotion to the rosary and to the Blessed Virgin Mary Bartolo would evangelize young people at parties and in local cafes, explaining the dangers of occultism. He would witness continually as to the glories of Christ, the munificence of His mother and the beauty of the Catholic Faith.
In 1939 the church was enlarged and re-consecrated as a basilica and officially renamed the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii. It soon became a focus of pilgrimages for more than a century as most Catholics and non-Catholics alike found a church built by a reformed ex-Satanist to be devilishly irresistible.
Bartolo had died a saintly death and his Cause for canonisation was almost immediately called for. He was beatified by John Paul II on October 26 1980 who called him the “Apostle of the Rosary”. More than 30,000 people attended the ceremony, and 50,000 pilgrims attended Pope Benedict’s historic pastoral visit to the shrine on October 19 2008. He consecrated the world, entrusting it to Mary’s hands, offering the Blessed Virgin a golden rose. In his homily, Benedict XVI likened Bartolo Longo to St Paul of Tarsus, who also initially persecuted the Church, described Bartolo as being “militantly anticlerical and engaging in spiritualist and superstitious practices”.
He continued by saying: “Wherever God comes in this desert, flowers bloom. Even Blessed Bartolo Longo, with his personal conversion, bears witness to this spiritual power that transforms man from within and makes him capable of doing great things according to God’s designs. This city which he re-founded, is thus a historical demonstration of how God transforms the world: filling man’s heart with charity.”
It’s not easy to get lost in Pompeii but I somehow managed to do exactly that. I finally spied the famous bronze cross that adorns the Basilica’s campanile. Apparently I am not the only person in the Sarno Valley to use it to orient myself. Technically speaking, every Christian uses the cross to orient himself so I wasn’t in the least bit ashamed for having to do so.
The white surface of the domed basilica and its lateral chapels both strike and comfort the visitor. The façade is only a little more than a century old, having been re-pointed by the architect Rispoli in 1901. As I passed the long passageways adjacent to the basilica, I noted that this is where Bartolo and his wife would stand to hand out food to the poor who would gather daily.
Upon entering the church one is struck not by its silence but rather the pervasive hushed susurration of pilgrims who stand in awe at the church’s beauty and God’s presence. The walls are replete with frescos, marble ornaments, mosaics, paintings and the ever-present votives. These small silver or tin plaques in the shape of heads, hands, legs and eyes hang everywhere as tokens of thanksgiving for Mary’s received protection and prayers.
The neoclassical Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii is decorated in the stereotypically exaggerated, over-the-top, pietistic art of the Italian peasantry that makes you smile and secretly wish you were Italian. It is, for good or bad, the art one associates with ancient churches and an even older faith. Stepping into this basilica reconnects one with 2,000 years of Christ’s presence in the world and in our hearts.
I asked as to the whereabouts of Blessed Bartolo and soon found myself face to beatified face with the Apostle of the Rosary himself. Like every other pilgrim standing next to me, I realised that this former, self-professed enemy of the Church rests peacefully in a tomb in its bosom of the very church he had hoped to destroy. More delicious and blessed irony one can hardly imagine.
As I looked at the oversized painting of Our Lady of Pompeii hanging over the church’s altar, I recalled St Maximilian Kolbe’s poignant words: “If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.”
One can’t but be moved when seeing this painting of him and recall the pain, horror and revulsion that this satanist-turned-saint experienced when he was confronted by his own sins.
Every student knows what happened to the city of Pompeii on August 24 79 AD. But most people don’t realise that the “new” Pompeii rose from the destroyed city’s ashes 1,796 years later because of Our Lady of the Rosary and her devotee. In his The History of the Shrine of Pompeii Bartolo wrote:
“Next to a land of dead appeared, quite suddenly, a land of resurrection and life: next to a shattered amphitheatre soiled with blood, there is a living Temple of faith and love, a sacred Temple to the Virgin Mary; from a town buried in the filth of gentilism, arises a town full of life, drawing its origins from a new civilization brought by Christianity: the New Pompeii!. It is the new civilisation that openly appears beside the old; the new art next to the old; Christianity full of life in juxtaposition to long-surpassed paganism.”
The newly constructed basilica attracted new families, a railway station, postal and telegraph services, the police, roads, water, electricity, hotels, restaurants and shops. About three million pilgrims come to the basilica every year, thus bringing to life the long-dead city of Pompeii.
Thus, the resurrection and salvation of Pompeii is now eternally linked with the resurrection and salvation of Blessed Bartolo Longo; the prodigal son returned home.
In God, all things are possible. Thankfully.