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Saint Longinus

Saint Longinus
  • Century: 1st Century
  • Patronage: blind, people with poor eyesight, discernment, Mantua
  • Feast Day: March 15th

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:33-34).

“From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.  And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, rocks were split…The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God’” (Matt. 27:45, 50-51, 54).

Tradition holds that this soldier’s/centurion’s name was Longinus.  While Sacred Scripture is silent as to the Roman’s name, Sacred Tradition and early documentation (including apocryphal and gnostic texts) identify the soldier as Longinus (cf the gospel of Nicodemus, the Acts of Pilate), as well.

An avowed pagan in the Roman Praetorian, St. Longinus was converted by two events.  The first event is recorded in St. Matthew and St. Mark’s Gospels where it seems that the physical events accompanying Jesus’ death (the darkness and the earthquake) caused him to believe.  However, the second event is connected to St. John’s Gospel and is not found in the text.  Legend has it that St. Longinus had poor eyesight.  When he thrust the lance into Jesus’ side, the ensuing spray of Sacred Blood and Water trickled into his eyes, immediately curing him of his blindness. 

While particular cause may be contended, the subsequent effect, the conversion, seems clear.  St. Longinus left the Roman guard, sought instruction from the Apostles and retreated to Caesarea of Cappadocia to become a monk who preached and converted many.  It was here that he lived until times of persecution intensified.  St. Longinus was called before the governor, ordered to make sacrifice to idols, but stubbornly refused.  The governor then had his teeth and tongue cut out.  However, upon recovering, still in the torturing presence of the governor, his guard, and the idols, St. Longinus rose, grabbing a near-by ax and shattered the idols, miraculously crying out (despite lacking a tongue), “Now we shall see whether they are gods.”  He was then beheaded and martyred.

Practical Take-Away: Christ’s Name, the Crucifix and the Holy Home

When St. Longinus smashed the idols of his persecutors, the legend tells that the demons driven from them entered into the governor and his guards.  St. Longinus, was therefore able to converse with the idols, whom he asked, “Why take ye up your abode in idols?”  The demons answered, “Where the name of Christ is not heard and the sign of His Cross not imposed, there is our dwelling-place.”  If you want your dwelling-place (your home, your dorm, your apartment) to not be the dwelling-place of demons, take courage—put up a Crucifix on your wall, read Scripture aloud, praying in the sanctuary of your home (making Christ’s name a regular utterance).  By making Him your roommate, your guest, your company, you transform your dwelling-place a domestic Church, wholly unattractive to the Devil and his apostate hosts.