During the month of October, the Church honors Our Lady of the Rosary. We began this month with a call to pray the Rosary daily for peace in the world and for peace, unity, and harmony in all Christian families. As the month comes to a close, we want to reiterate the importance and efficacy of praying the Rosary daily for these intentions.
The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by Pope St. Pius V to honor Mary for the Christian victory over the Islamic Ottoman Empire at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. He attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked through praying the Rosary throughout Europe for protection from the invasion. This victory severely curtailed attempts by Islam to control the Mediterranean region. Had this battle been lost, Western Christianity as we know it today would not have come about.
To illustrate the power of praying the Rosary, consider Blessed Bartolo Longo. He was born on February 10, 1841, in Latiano, a small town in southern Italy. His parents, Dr. Bartolomeo Longo and Antonina Luparelli, were exceptionally devout Catholics who prayed the Rosary daily.
After his mother died in 1851, Bartolo drifted from the Church. Depressed and confused, Bartolo became involved with a movement that led him into a Satanist cult. In time, he was ordained as a satanic priest. Bartolo began to publicly denounce Christianity and did everything he could to subvert Catholic influence in the culture. He even convinced many other Catholics to leave the Church and participate in satanic rituals.
Sinking deeper into demonic obsession, joy and peace, like God, were far from him. Bartolo was afflicted by frightening diabolical visions which caused his health to decline. Ultimately, he experienced a mental breakdown. In his darkest moments, he heard his deceased father begging him to: “Return to God! Return to God!” Deeply moved by this vision, Bartolo abandoned Satanism and came back to God and His Church.
One evening, as he walked near a chapel at Pompeii, Bartolo had a profound mystical experience. “As I pondered…my condition, I heard an echo in my ear of…the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘If you seek salvation, promulgate the Rosary.’ 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.’”
Bartolo was deeply touched by the Blessed Mother’s words. He made one final visit to a séance, held up a medal of Our Lady, and cried out that he renounced Satanism because it was “a maze of error and falsehood.” Later he wrote, “What is my vocation? To write about Mary, to have Mary praised, to have Mary loved.”
On March 25, 1871, Bartolo became a Third Order Dominican and took the name Br. Rosario in honor of the Rosary. He made repeated trips to the Valley of Pompeii to teach the people how to pray the Rosary. Beginning in 1873, he organized a yearly Rosary feast. In 1875, as part of a parish mission, he invited a group of priests to speak about devotion to the Rosary. To conclude the mission, he displayed a painting of Our Lady of the Rosary, to which numerous miracles of healing have been attributed. He constructed a church to hold this image and then around it, an entire city dedicated to helping orphans and the poor. He joined a charitable group in Pompeii and worked with Countess Mariana di Fusco, a wealthy local widow who he married a year later at Pope Leo XIII’s recommendation. Together they rebuilt his little church into a Shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii.
When Bartolo died, the call for his canonization was immediate. Pope St. John Paul II beatified him on October 26, 1980 calling him the “Apostle of the Rosary.” The ex-Satanist had been transformed through the praying of the Rosary.
Marriage and family life is in a state of disrepair. Like the conversion of Blessed Bartolo Longo and the Victory of Lepanto, lives and even the course of history can be transformed through praying daily the Holy Rosary. Please join us in this battle for the sanctification of marriage and family life. The prayers of even one person can have profound results in the hands of our Blessed Mother.
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 Pompeii, 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. Amen.
Blessed Bartolo Longo, the Apostle of the Rosary