August 23, 2016

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

St. Bartholomew
The Feast of Saint Bartholomew is August 24th. Bartholomew is one of the twelve Apostles. He is mentioned in all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. John’s Gospel states he was from Cana and that Jesus said upon meeting him "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." It is clear, that our Lord appreciates the sincerity that He sees in Bartholomew.

While little is known about his early life, Bartholomew was most certainly a devout Jew. His name means "son of Tolomai". Most scholars believe that he, and the Nathanael referred to in John, are the same person. An authority in the law of Moses, Bartholomew was a close friend of the Apostle, Philip.

Following Pentecost, Bartholomew embarked on a missionary trip to India. Popular piety records him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Bartholomew and Saint Jude are credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia. Both are the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Pius Parsch in The Church's Year of Grace writes: "The Church of Armenia has a national tradition that St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew visited the Armenians early in the first century and introduced Christianity among the worshipers of the god Ahura Mazda. The new faith spread throughout the land, and in 302 A.D., St. Gregory the Illuminator baptized the king of Armenia, Dertad the Great, along with many of his followers. Since Dertad was probably the first ruler to embrace Christianity for his nation, the Armenians proudly claim they were the first Christian State."

A non-Biblical source called the "Martyrdom of Bartholomew," contends that Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armedia as follows: "And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded."

Other accounts of his martyrdom, however, assert that Bartholomew was flayed or skinned before being beheaded. Michelangelo’s painting, The Last Judgment shows Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The altar of San Bartolomeo Basilica in Benevento, Italy, contains his relics. Because St. Bartholomew was without guile, he immediately recognized Christ as the Messiah sent by God. Strengthen in us, O Lord, the faith, by which the blessed Apostle Bartholomew clung wholeheartedly to your Son; grant that through his prayers your Church may become for all the nations the sacrament of salvation.

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