Tag Archives: Apostles

Saint Barnabas

St BarnabasWhen he converted to Christ from being a Cypriot Jew, Joseph changed his name to Barnabas, a name that means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas seems to be the cousin of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Barnabas’ conversion was total:  all of his money and property were given to the Church (Acts 4:32); he completely and unreservedly gave his life to Jesus. Like Paul, Barnabas was an apostle without being part of the 12. The Lord sent (the meaning of the word ‘apostle’) him as a powerful missionary and preacher; he worked with Saint Paul. Barnabas’ concern was to advocate that pagans (unbelievers) could be baptized as Christians without being circumcised. “The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch…for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11).

The Episcopal and Lutheran liturgical calendars note Barnabas as an Apostle and a martyr. Biblically, Barnabas is mentioned 27 times in the New Testament. He exhorted the Antioch community: “With steadfast purpose of heart remain with the Lord.” Good advice for all Christians.

Some will say that Barnabas was the first bishop of Milan and is credited with bringing Clement to Christian faith (who later became the 4th bishop of Rome). Saint Barnabas was martyred by stoning.

Saint Bartholomew

St Batholomew DurerSaint Bartholomew, known also as Nathanael, apostle and martyr, died in AD 71, is liturgically recalled today. However, his feast comes after the Sunday’s precedence. Nonetheless, we need to closely attend to the life and ministry of the 12, those who personally and dramatically lived with the Lord for three years. Why? Because we follow their experience and we continually ask ourselves the key question of the Christian life: “Who are you, Jesus?”

Saint Bartholomew, Bar-Tolmai or son of Tolmai, was one of the twelve Apostles called to the apostolate by our Blessed Lord Himself. His name is more adequately rendered by his given name, Nathanael. If one wonders why the synoptic Gospels always call him Bartholomew, it would be because the name Nathanael in Hebrew is equivalent to that of Matthew, since both in Hebrew signify gift of God; in this way the Evangelists avoided all confusion between the two Apostles. He was a native of Cana in Galilee, a doctor of the Jewish law, and a friend of Philip.

Philip, advised by Peter and Andrew, hastened to communicate to his friend the good news of his discovery of Christ: We have found Him whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, wrote! Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, Behold a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile. (Cf. John 1:45-49) His innocence and simplicity of heart deserved to be celebrated with this high praise in the divine mouth of Our Redeemer. And Nathanael, when Jesus told him He had already seen him in a certain place, confessed his faith at once: Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel!

Being eminently qualified by divine grace to discharge the functions of an Apostle, he carried the Gospel through the most barbarous countries of the East, penetrating into the remoter Indies, baptizing neophytes and casting out demons. A copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew was found in India by Saint Pantænus in the third century, taken there, according to local tradition, by Saint Bartholomew. Saint John Chrysostom said the Apostle also preached in Asia Minor and, with Saint Philip, suffered there, though not mortally, for the faith. Saint Bartholomew’s last mission was in Greater Armenia, where, preaching in a place obstinately addicted to the worship of idols, he was crowned with a glorious martyrdom. The modern Greek historians say that he was condemned by the governor of Albanopolis to be crucified. Others affirm that he was flayed alive, which treatment might well have accompanied his crucifixion, this double punishment being in use not only in Egypt, but also among the Persians.

Reflection: The characteristic virtue of the Holy Apostles was zeal for the divine glory. A soldier is always ready to defend the honor of his prince, and a son that of his father; can a Christian say he loves God if he is indifferent to His honor?

Dictionnaire de la Bible, Ed. F. Vigouroux (Letouzey et Ané: Paris, 1912), Vol. 5, Philippe, Apôtre; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Apostles’ Fast 2013

Ss Peter and Paul coptic.jpeg

Recently on the Sunday of All Saints (26 May 2013) –the Byzantine Church observes a different feast of All Saints than do the Latin Christians– the Eparch (the Greek word for bishop) of the Melkites in the in the USA, Bishop Nicholas James Samra wrote to his people about preparing for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Yes, some Catholics do make preparations for other feasts!

One of the reasons I am drawing our attention to this matter is two-fold: 1.) being Catholic is more than merely following the Latin Church’s disciple — we can learn from others; and 2.) the discipline of those who belong to Christ is more than merely praying, fasting, and almsgiving for selfish reasons, that is, these spiritual activities are to break open our spiritual capacities. Remember what John Paul taught: Christians breathe with two lungs.

The liturgical feast of Ss. Peter and Paul is traditionally preceded by a period of concerted prayer and fasting. These saints –indeed, all of the apostles– are the pillars of our Church. In times past the period of fasting was significant while today it is much modified. The controlling idea is that before an important feast of the Lord, the Mother of God and some saints, the faithful are encouraged to prepare themselves to receive God’s graces in a worthy manner. We prepare by getting rid of sin and living virtuously: corporal and spiritual works of mercy are good things to do.

Bishop Nicholas recalls for us that the Monday after Sunday of All Saints the Byzantine Church begins a time of prayer and fasting leading us to the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June.  But now the preparation is modified to 10 days by the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Fittingly, the bishop notes: “We are given this “Apostles Fast” in order to fan into flame the grace of the Holy Spirit within us and to reflect upon the hardships endured by the Apostles as they preached Divine grace and truth to the world.”

Faith needs to be connected with reality. This is the context in which God acts. Several things in our own lives can and ought to be connected with life. Bishop Nicholas indicates that one good way to extrovert our faith by having some sense human ecology on the spiritual level is remember those suffering the effects of the war in Syria. Certainly, we pray for all but special attention to be paid to the Catholics and Orthodox peoples.

Hence, the proposal is to begin our spiritual discipline on June 19. I recommend that you make a confession of sin and receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope’s intention for June, and name the intentions. Select a charitable organization to to make a donation of funds.

Perhaps we can also use the Apostles’ Fast to pray for those living with cancer. I am thinking of my friend Jesuit Father Edward Oakes who is in need of a miracle due to his recent diagnosis of Type 4 pancreatic and liver cancer.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Saint Barnabas


With the Church we pray

O God, who decreed that Saint Barnabas, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, should be set apart to convert nations, grant that the Gospel of Christ, which he strenuously preached, may be faithfully proclaimed by word and by deed.

Saint Barnabas died in AD 61. What we know of Barnabas comes most from the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in today’s Mass readings but he also shows in several of Saint Paul’s Letters.

Who was Barnabas? Some scholars say that Barnabas was the cousin of Saint Mark on the basis of Colossians 4. We know he was of the tribe of Levi (making him a member of the priestly class), a native of Cyprus and a landowner there before selling the land to support the Church in Jerusalem, Moreover, he was trained in the Christian faith and a teacher of the same (see Acts 13).

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Where are the 12 Apostles buried?

Have you ever wondered about the details of the Apostles’ death and burial? It is a curious question for biblical studies and archeology, liturgical studies and piety in general. I caught this clever illustration the other day and it answers my question. I hope it is accurate. When in Rome I’ve been to some of the tombs; I guess I’ll have to wait to get to India, Spain and Germany.


About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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