“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15: 39).
The aforementioned centurion is known to the Church as Saint Longinus. Longinus was the chief of the soldiers who were standing guard at the Crucifixion. Not much else besides this is commonly known about him, making him very famous in some ways and very mysterious in others.
If Longinus was a Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a lance and did not believe, how, then, did he become a saint recognized by the Church? Longinus had become blind in one eye during a battle previous to the Passion of Christ. When he pierced Jesus’ side with his lance, the blood and water that poured out fell into his eye and healed his sight. Then, when the Romans tried to bribe the soldiers to spread a rumor that the Apostles stole Jesus’ body, he refused. He had come to believe in the Savior. After he was baptized by the Apostles, he secretly left Judea to preach about the Son of God in his homeland of Cappadocia.
In Cappadocia, Longinus became a monk. Though he was arrested for his faith and had his teeth forced out and his tongue cut off, he miraculously continued to speak clearly, quickly spreading Christianity to the town and its surrounding villages. He was also able to destroy many idols in the presence of the governor. When St. Longinus was beheaded, the governor, who had been made blind by the demons in the idols, had his sight restored by Longinus’ blood.
St. Longinus’ story provides perhaps the perfect example for us this Easter season. At times we are all the soldier, prodding the Lord’s side to make sure that He is truly dead. We question whether He is truly doing this by His own will for each of us. Not only are we the ones who nail Him, but we are also the ones who are miraculously healed by Him. He opens our eyes of faith so that we may spread His Word far and wide as St. Longinus did.
“The happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy, has a name and a face: Jesus of Nazareth.” ~ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
St. Longinus experienced the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ firsthand, and was forever transformed. By his example, we can use our new eyes of faith to proclaim the Word of God this Easter Season and beyond. We have been healed with Longinus, and turn our doubt into praise just as he did. The lance that Longinus used to pierce the side of Jesus is now contained in one of the four pillars of the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, reminding the faithful of the healing power of Christ. So, every morning, as we say “Live Jesus in our hearts, forever,” know that St. Longinus is saying it, too.
The Crusader Raid, Vol. 6, Num. 4.
The Spring/Summer Issue
Written by Maura Shimmens