SAINT BARNABAS (?-c.61), Apostle – Patron saint of Antioch and Cyprus
Today, the universal Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Barnabas, the Apostle and missionary who was responsible for welcoming Saint Paul into the Church.
Barnabas, whose Hebrew name is Yosip (Joseph), was born to wealthy Jewish parents from the tribe of Levi on the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus, possibly around the time of Christ’s own birth. Some traditional accounts tell us that his parents sent him to study in Jerusalem, where he studied at the school of Gamaliel (who also taught Saint Paul), although this is not historically certain. Later on, when Christ’s public ministry began, according to Eastern Christian tradition, Barnabas became one of the seventy-two disciples sent out by Christ (Luke 10:1).
After our Lord’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Barnabas committed himself in a radical way to the needs of the early Church by selling property he had owned, contributing the proceeds entirely to the Church, and joining Christ’s other Apostles in holding all of their possessions in common (cf. Acts 4:36-37).
Saul of Tarsus, who was later to be known by the name Paul, approached Barnabas after the miraculous events surrounding his own conversion, and was first introduced by Barnabas to Saint Peter and the other Apostles. About five years later, Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, building up the Church community whose Greek members were the first to be known by the name of “Christians”(Acts 11:28).
Both Paul and Barnabas received a calling from God to become the “Apostles to the Gentiles”, although the title is more often associated with Saint Paul. The reference to the laying-on of hands in Acts 13:3 suggests that Paul and Barnabas may have been consecrated as bishops on this occasion.
The remarkable success of Barnabas and Paul led to one of the earliest controversies in Church history, regarding the question of whether Gentile converts would have to observe Jewish rites. During the landmark Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the Book of Acts, the assembled Apostles confirmed Saint Peter’s earlier proclamation that certain prescripts of the Old Testament, such as circumcision, would not be mandated for Gentile Christians.
Barnabas and Paul finally separated in their ministries, while remaining Apostles of Christ’s Church. After some twenty years of serving the Church, we loose sight of Barnabas in the Scriptures. Luke carries on with the story of Paul’s ministry, but Barnabas is not mentioned again in the Acts of the Apostles; he disappears as quietly as he appeared, a Levite from Cyprus, who encouraged others in their service to the Lord.
Accounts tell us that Barnabas was martyred in Cyprus about the year 61; but, again, this is not historically certain.
We commemorate his feastday on June 11.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Barnabas)
“God our Father, You filled Saint Barnabas with faith and the Holy Spirit and sent him to convert the nations. Help us to proclaim the Gospel by word and deed.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”