St. Bartholomew the Apostle, whose name means son of Tholomy, is believed to be the same as the Nathanael whom the Master praised as the Israelite in whom was no guile. He preached the Faith in India and Armenia. He was flayed alive and beheaded in 71 A.D.
He is the patron of our son, Garrett Nathaniel.
I have been anticipating writing about St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, for quite some time. He is the patron saint of our 2nd son and St. Bartholomew’s little known life and character is very interesting. He is listed as one of the Twelve Apostles, identified and called personally by Our Lord Jesus. The Scripture mentions him only briefly, but those passages offer a tremendous insist into the man Jesus called “the Israelite without guile.”
Guile is one of those words the English language has lost to political correctness. Fortunately for humanity, Jesus did not fancy political correctness. He was a Man who didn’t mince words. So when he called Bartholomew, he could see that his heart was pure. The Jews had become synonymous with lies, wickedness, and deceit. Very, very few of them could be trusted. Since Bartholomew was from Cana, it was likely that no one aside from his friend, Philip, knew him. For Our Lord to identify Bartholomew from the beginning as guileless or without deceit was quite significant. And just as Our Lord was able to see into St. Bartholomew’s heart, St. Bartholomew immediately was able to recognize Our Lord as the Son of God.
Perhaps because his heart was so pure, St. Bartholomew was quickly identified as the cheerful Apostle. He brought humor, softness, and optimism into a group of men who were otherwise somber, serious, and overburdened with troubles. Upon first introduction to Jesus, St. Bartholomew replied in both jest and seriousness, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Certainly St. Bartholomew’s sarcasm had some merit, since, at that time, Nazareth was viewed as a pretty vile and corrupt town. But Jesus, nonetheless, welcomed His Apostle with tremendous warmth and when He spoke, St. Bartholomew understood that this Man from Nazareth was indeed the King of Israel.
From tradition, we understand that Bartholomew was a bright spot in the lives of the other 11 Apostles. It was tireless Bartholomew who encouraged them to keep walking through the heat and dust into the next town. With his natural perceptive ability, he was able to help draw Thomas to understanding. With his friendly nature, he was able to soften the over-serious Philip. For the logical and objective Matthew, he was a source of kindness and compassion. Bartholomew was the one who best reflected the mercy, kindness, gentleness, and compassion of Our Lord so the others, too, could feel it. It is no surprise, then, that Our Lord allowed St. Bartholomew to witness His Glorious Ascension into Heaven.
Due to his nature, it is not hard to understand that St. Bartholomew welcomed with gladness the opportunity to spread the Gospel throughout the world as Our Lord commanded. He traveled into India, possibly with St. Matthew, taking that Gospel to the pagans there. Through is gentleness and joyfulness, St. Bartholomew was able to convert many souls. He later traveled into Armenia, which borders Turkey and Iran. It was here he worked hard to convert the nation, but he also made many enemies among the pagans. It was here that the brother of the King became so angry with the Cheerful Apostle that he ordered him to be skinned alive and beheaded.
After his death, the Armenia Christians took St. Bartholomew’s bones and head and buried them in a lead sarcophagus. Due to the number of miracles attributed to his burial site, many more souls were converted. The pagans began to fear the situation and threw the entire sarcophagus into the sea. Instead of sinking, the sarcophagus floated by Divine Providence to the island of Lapari, Sicily. When the Muslims invaded the area, the relics were moved to Benevento, Italy in 840. Eventually, they were transferred to Rome and onto other parts of the world.
Many miracles regarding weights of objects and healing of the sick have been attributed to St. Bartholomew’s relics.
He is the patron saint of Armenia, bookbinders, leather workers, and tanners.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us, that we may have a pure heart to truly see Our Lord.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us, that, in the midst of our gloomy world, we may be infused with joy and gladness.