Today, 15 Mar 2012, is the memorial of St Longinus, one of the Roman executioners who witnessed the death of Jesus on the Cross. To him was given the task of piercing the heart of Jesus with a lance, which proved that Jesus truly died upon the Cross because blood and water poured out of the wound. In St Longinus many of us find great hope in obtaining pardon from God for our sins.
St Longinus was definitely a Roman soldier who served under orders on Calvary that first Good Friday. He could also be the centurion who declared that ‘In truth this was a son of God.’ (Matt 27:54). For us, the important thing was that he was involved in crucifying Jesus our Saviour, and that the death of Jesus made such an impact upon him that he became a Christian.
St Longinus has had a special place in my heart ever since I read Maria Valtorta’s account of him in ‘The Poem of the Man God’ Volume 5. In more recent times the pro-life movement has seen in St Longinus a model and heavenly patron for all of those who have killed innocent life and who now wish to serve Jesus to the best of his or her ability. At the Cross Our Lady represents all those who mourn a loved one, St John represents the innocent and pure among us, St Mary Magdalene represents all repentant sinners and St Longinus represents all of those going about their own business without a thought of God until He intervenes (usually with a tragic event) and offers them the grace of pardon and conversion.
Following the Resurrection of Jesus, the story goes that Loginus sought out the apostles to learn about Jesus from them and was of great assistance to the fledgling Church. Retiring to Caesaria in Cappadocia, Longinus lived a long life of almsgiving and penance that brought many others to accept the grace of conversion. Eventually he was arrested for not sacrificing to the gods and had his teeth pulled out. Freed for a short time, he was arrested a second time and brought before the provost again. This time Longinus’ arrest ended with his beheading, and his death led to the conversion of the provost.
Longinus is proof that the prayer of Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:24) was answered in his case, and that whatever horrible crimes we have committed Jesus will continue to plead for our forgiveness and complete conversion.
St Longinus, pray for us.