The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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August 10, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

A saint incapable of deceit

Bartholomew needs no other description than the depths of his faith

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

History seems to omit far more than it includes. For example, we have the four Gospel accounts of Jesus' words and deeds, but not a word about the color of his hair or eyes, his height or build.

Of the Twelve Apostles, we know considerably more about Peter, James, John and Judas, than we do about say Bartholomew.

As far as Scripture goes, his name, which means "son of Tolomai," is listed in the synoptic gospels and Acts of the Apostles as being one of the 12 (Mk 3:16-19, Mt 10:1-4, Lk 6:12-16, Acts 1:13), but no more.

Many scholars say Bartholomew and Nathaniel are the same person because Matthew's Gospel links Philip to Bartholomew and John's Gospel links Philip to Nathaniel as among the first apostles.

In Jn 1:45-51, Nathaniel is identified as being from Cana and is said by Jesus to be an Israelite incapable of deceit.

After Jesus says that, Nathaniel asks how Jesus knows about him. Jesus answers that he saw him under the fig tree when Philip told him they had found the one spoken of by Moses and the prophets.

With that information, Nathaniel expresses his belief that "Jesus is the son of God, the king of Israel."

Jesus then demonstrates his sense of humor, responding, "Is this the ground of your faith, that I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You shall see greater things than that" and then assures him that he will see "God's angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

With that, Nathaniel/Bartholomew becomes a follower of Jesus.

The Roman Martyrology says that King Astyages had Bartholomew skinned alive and beheaded after the apostle preached in India, where he is said to have carried a copy of Matthew's Gospel and converted a governor, and Greater Armenia.

Tradition says that took place on the west coast of the Caspian Sea at Abanopolis. Tradition also says that Bartholomew preached in Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt.

The apochryphal Gospel of Bartholomew falsely attributed to him was condemned in the decree of Pseudo-Gelasius.

We celebrate the feast of St. Bartholomew on Aug. 24, a custom dating back to 8th century France. His relics have been moved to various places, including Armenia in the 7th century, Benevento in the 9th century and Rome in the 10th. His skull has been venerated in Frankfurt, Germany, since 1238. He is a patron of the sick.

In honor of his feast, pay attention to someone special in your life. Ask them some questions and write down the answers. Include a description of what the person looks like and things you like and consider important about that person. Maybe someday it will be used in the biography of a saint.

(Sources: Dictionary of Saints, Saint of the Day, Saints for Our Time, Saints of the Roman Calendar and 365 Saints.)

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