Two Roman Centurion Saints ~ Longinus and Cornelius

Centurions were commanders of 100 soldiers within a Roman legion.  They were well-respected members of society, known for their leadership and strong sense of responsibility.  In the New Testament days, two of these Roman Centurions became saints …

Saint Longinus
You actually won’t find the name “Longinus” in Scripture, however, it is sort of a nickname given to the soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Jesus with a spear (John 19:33-34).  This man has traditionally been considered to be the same as the centurion in the other Gospels who proclaimed the divinity of Jesus.

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

Saint Cornelius
Cornelius’s story appears well after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  He was a “God-Fearing” centurion of a Cohort called the Italica (a cohort was typically a group of 10 Centurion groupings) and had a deep reverence for the Jewish Faith.  After a strange vision and an out-of-the-ordinary meeting with Peter; Cornelius, his family, and close friends were all baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  (Acts 10)

~  Other Notably Nice Centurions in the Bible  ~

The Centurion Who Felt Unworthy to Have Jesus Enter His House
Matthew and Luke both shared in their Gospels the story of a centurion who was distressed over a deathly ill servant.  This un-named centurion let Jesus know about his difficult situation, and Jesus set off to see the servant.  The centurion, though a Gentile, felt overwhelmed at the thought of Jesus entering his home and so replied:

Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.         ~ Matthew 8:8

These words of tremendous faith have inspired the “Lord, I Am Not Worthy” prayer that we say shortly before receiving the Eucharist during mass …

          Lord, I am not worthy
          that you should enter under my roof,
          but only say the word
          and my soul shall be healed.”

Julius the Centurion
When Paul was sent on his way to a Roman imprisonment (Acts 27), there was a centurion named Julius who was put in charge of Paul and some other prisoners.  When the ship made a stop in Sidon, Julius the Centurion kindly allowed Paul to visit with some friends.  Later, after a frightening storm at sea, the ship ran aground on a sandbar in a bay of Malta.  Some of the soldiers on board wanted to kill all of the prisoners, afraid that they may try to escape by jumping overboard and swimming to the island.   Julius the Centurion, however, felt compelled to save Paul and so prevented the killings from taking place by organizing an orderly way of getting everyone on shore safely.