St. Longinus: A Saint for Conversions

On Oct. 16, we can celebrate that the heart of one particular Roman soldier was transformed.

Simon de Vos (1603–1676), “Christus am Kreuz”
Simon de Vos (1603–1676), “Christus am Kreuz” (photo: Public Domain / Public Domain)

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

Longinus is the name given to the soldier who drove a spear into the side of Jesus upon his death. The name might come from the Greek word longche, which means “lance.” Not a great deal of information is offered in the Bible on Longinus, but it is believed that he is the same as the centurion mentioned in the other Gospels who was awestruck at the moment of Jesus’ death. As the noon sunshine darkened and the earth trembled, Longinus faced Jesus and suddenly knew the truth: this gentle man nailed to the cross, now dead, was undoubtedly the innocent Son of God.

This unexpected acceptance of Jesus by the soldier-centurion Longinus is truly startling. During the Crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman military in charge gave all appearances of enjoying their part in the horrendous deed. They made cruel sport of the situation: mockingly dressing Jesus in a purple robe, crafting a painful crown of thorns, and spitting on and ridiculing him. These brutal behaviors make the spontaneous confessions of faith from one of them seem miraculous.

Although many curious legends about Longinus make it difficult to verify actual truths, we can be sure of one important fact. We can celebrate with certainty that the heart of one particular soldier was transformed. Longinus openly glorified God before his demeaning comrades with a profound declaration of belief and outward conversion.

Within the beautiful dome of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome stands an enormous statue of Longinus pensively holding his lance. It is believed by some that the Holy Lance ― the actual lance that was embedded within the abdomen of Christ ― is securely contained within a reliquary below this inspiring image.


Six Days of Bible Journaling with St. Longinus

Older saint books might have St. Longinus listed on the March 15 page; however, the current Roman Martyrology has his memorial moved to October 16. People who serve in the military, converts, or those with a renewed sense of faith might feel particularly drawn to this soldier saint. The six passages below are offered to read and reflect upon—as a way to better fathom the Crucifixion of Christ and St. Longinus’s dramatic declaration. If desired, pull out some paper and jot down thoughts and revelations that come to you as you read the narratives. Ask St. Longinus to pray for any special intentions during your six days of study and prayer. 

  • Day 1) John 19:31–37
  • Day 2) Matthew 27:27–31
  • Day 3) Mark 15:16–20
  • Day 4) Mark 15:33–39
  • Day 5) Matthew 27:45–54
  • Day 6) Luke 23:44–47
José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)