Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Saint of the Day for August 24
(b. 1st century)
Saint Bartholomew’s Story
In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary—without thereby being demeaned—to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word Made Flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.
The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.
Saint Bartholomew is the Patron Saint of:
The Golden Legend: The Life of Saint Bartholomew
The Apostle Bartholomew, His Words Present a Double Aspect of Jesus’ Identity
HOMILIES PREACHED BY FATHER ALTIER ON THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW,APOSTLE
Feast of St. Bartholomew
Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle, Bartholomew
A WITNESS OF THE SON OF GOD, one of the princes who announced his glory to the nations, lights up this day with his apostolic flame. While his brethren of the sacred College followed the human race into all the lands whither the migration of nations had led it, Bartholomew appeared as the herald of the Lord, at the very starting point, the mountains of Armenia whence the sons of Noe spread over the earth. There had the figurative Ark rested; humanity, everywhere else a wanderer, was there seated in stillness, remembering the dove with its olive branch, and awaiting the consummation of the alliance signified by the rainbow which had there for the first time glittered in the clouds. Behold, blessed tidings awake in those valleys the echoes of ancient traditions: tidings of peace, making the universal deluge of sin subside before the Wood of salvation. The serenity announced by the dove of old was now far outdone. Love was to take the place of punishment. The ambassador of heaven showed God to the sons of Adam, as the most beautiful of their own brethren. The noble heights whence formerly flowed the rivers of Paradise were about to see the renewal of the covenant annulled in Eden, and the celebration, amid the joy of heaven and earth, of the divine nuptials so long expected, the union of the Word with regenerated humanity.
Personally, what was this Apostle whose ministry borrowed such solemnity from the scene of his apostolic labors? Under the name, or surname of Bartholomew, the only mark of recognition given him by the first three Gospels, are we to see, as many have thought, that Nathaniel, whose presentation to Jesus by Philip forms so sweet a scene of St. John’s Gospel?—a man full of uprightness, innocence and simplicity who was worthy to have had the dove for his precursor, and for whom the Man-God had choice graces and caresses from the very beginning.
Be this as it may, the lot which fell to our Saint among the twelve, points to the special confidence of the divine Heart; the heroism of the terrible martyrdom which sealed his apostolate reveals his fidelity; the dignity preserved by the nation he grated on Christ, in all the countries where it has been transplanted, witnesses to the excellence of the sap first infused into its branches. When, two centuries and a half later, Gregory the Illuminator so successfully cultivated the soil of Armenia, he did but quicken the seed sown by the Apostle, which the trials never wanting to that generous land had retarded for a time but could not stifle.
How strangely sad that evil men, nurtured in this turmoil of endless invasions, should have been able to rouse and perpetuate a mistrust of Rome among a race whom wars and tortures and dispersion could not tear from the love of Christ our Savior! Yet, thanks be to God! the movement towards return, more than once begun and then abandoned, seems now to be steadily advancing; the chosen sons of this illustrious nation are laboring perseveringly for so desirable a union by dispelling the prejudices of her people; by revealing to our lands the treasures of her literature so truly Christian, and the magnificences of her liturgy; and above all by praying and devoting themselves to the monastic state under the standard of the Father of Western Monks. Together with these holders of the true national tradition, let us pray to Bartholomew their Apostle; to the disciple Thaddeus who also shared in the first evangelization; to Ripsima the heroic virgin, who from the Roman territory led her thirty-five companions to the conquest of a new land; and to all the martyrs whose blood cemented the building upon the only foundation set by our Lord. Like these great forerunners, may the leader of the second apostolate, Gregory the Illuminator, who wished to see Peter in the person of St. Sylvester, and receive the blessing of the Roman Pontiff—may the holy kings the patriarchs and doctors of Armenia, become once more her chosen guides, and lead her back entirely and irrevocably to the one Fold of the one Shepherd!
We learn from Eusebius and from St. Jerome that before going to Armenia, his final destination, St. Bartholomew evangelized the Indies, where Pantænus a century later found a copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew characters, left there by him. St. Denis records a profound saying of the glorious Apostle, which he thus quotes and comments: “The blessed Bartholomew says of Theology, that it is at once abundant and succinct; of the Gospel, that it is vast in extent and at the same time concise; thus excellently giving us to understand that the beneficent Cause of all beings reveals or manifests himself by many words or by few, or even without any words at all, as being beyond and above all language or thought. For he is above all by his superior essence; and they alone reach him in his truth, without the veils wherewith he surrounds himself, who, passing beyond matter and spirit and rising above the summit of the holiest heights, leave behind them all reflections and echoes of God, all the language of heaven, to enter into the darkness wherein he dwelleth, as the Scripture says, who is above all.”
The city of Rome celebrates the feast of St. Bartholomew tomorrow, as do also the Greeks who commemorate on the 25th of August a translation of the Apostle’s relics. It is owing, in fact, to the various translations of his holy body and to the difficulty of ascertaining the date of his martyrdom that different days have been adopted for his feast by different churches both in the East and in the West. The 24th of this month, consecrated by the use of most of the Latin churches, is the day assigned in the most ancient martyrologies, including that of St. Jerome. In the 13th century, Innocent III, having been consulted as to the divergence, answered that local custom was to be observed.
The Church gives us the following notice of the Apostle of Armenia.
On this day of thy feast, O holy Apostle, the Church prays in her Collect for the Mass, for grace to love what thou didst believe and to preach what thou didst teach. Not that the Bride of the Son of God could ever fail either in faith or love; but she knows only too well that, though her Head is ever in the light, and her heart ever united to the Spouse in the Holy Spirit who sanctifies her, nevertheless her several members, the particular churches of which she is composed, may detach themselves from their center of life and wander away in darkness. O thou who didst choose our West as the place of thy rest; thou whose precious relics Rome glories in possessing, bring back to Peter the nations thou didst evangelize; fulfill the now reviving hopes of universal union; second the efforts made by the Vicar of the Man-God to gather again under the shepherd’s crook those scattered flocks whose pastures have become parched by schism. May thine own Armenia be the first to complete a return which she began long ago: may she trust the Mother-Church and no more follow the sowers of discord. All being reunited, may we together enjoy the treasures of our concordant traditions, and go to God, even at the cost of being despoiled of all things, by the course so grand and yet so simple taught us by thy example and by thy sublime theology.