SAINT BARTHOLOMEW (?-1st century), Apostle and martyr
Patron saint of butchers, cobblers, bookbinders and tanners
Today, the universal Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Bartholomew, one of the chosen Twelve, mentioned in the lists of Apostles in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and also in the Acts of the Apostles.
Other than being listed as an Apostle, he is not otherwise mentioned in the New Testament. At least, not under the name of Bartholomew. Many ancient writers and Christian tradition have identified Bartholomew as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John.
The Gospel passage we read today is precisely this passage from John (1:45-51) where Nathaniel is introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip, and Jesus says of him “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”
In his lack of “duplicity”, his heart was undivided and his intentions pure. His openness to reality was always ready to recognize and surrender to the truth when he encountered it. He remained open to Philip’s invitation to “Come and see” (John 1:46b).
In encountering Jesus and hearing His words, he found himself face to face with Eternal Truth, Himself. What he saw and experienced changed his life forever.
Nothing is known for sure about the life of Bartholomew/Nathaniel after the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. But tradition tells us that this relatively unknown Apostle carried the Gospel message to Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India and Armenia.
Many of the images which have been painted of him, however, are rather gruesome. And, if the stories of his martyrdom are to be believed, his death greatly earned for him a martyr’s crown for all eternity.
He is said to have been flayed – skinned – alive for having won converts to the new faith in Albanopolis in Armenia. And the most famous image of him (and one of the least offensive), painted by Michelangelo in the “The Last Judgment” located in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, shows him holding his own skin.
May the life of this true Apostle of Jesus Christ be a shining example of what it truly means to be a child of God, embracing the fullness of His Truth, no matter what hardships we may find ourselves facing in life.
We commemorate this special Feastday of Saint Bartholomew on August 24.
(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 Bartholomew)
“Lord, sustain within us the faith which made Saint Bartholomew ever loyal to Christ. Let Your Church be the sign of salvation for all the nations of the world.
“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.”