Instructions for the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
The Church’s Year
By Rev. Leonard Goffine, 1871
Bartholomew, a native of Cana in Galilee, is probably that Nathaniel whom Philip, when called by Christ, took with him to the Lord. When called by Christ to be an apostle, Bartholomew left all at once, followed Him, and witnessed His sufferings and death, His resurrection and ascension. When he had received the Holy Ghost, he preached the gospel first to the Jews, and gaining but little fruit from their stubbornness, turned to the heathens in India, where he carried a copy of the gospel of St. Matthew; from India St. Bartholomew went to Phrygia and Lycaonia, everywhere preaching the faith of the cross, coming finally to Great Armenia, where after gaining a rich harvest for the faith, he received the crown of martyrdom. In Great Armenia he smote with dumbness the devil who had been prophetizing in a temple of the idols, freed the king’s daughter of an evil spirit, and converted the king and many of his court to the Christian religion. Enraged at this, the priests of the idols swore an oath to put him to death, and at their instigation the saint was killed after frightful tortures by Astyages, a brother of the converted king and a zealous idolator. The general belief is, that he was crucified with his head downwards, and while still alive the skin stripped from his body. His sacred relics were brought to Benevent, Italy, in the year 809, and to Rome in 983, where they are venerated in a Church dedicated to him.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O Almighty and eternal God, who comfortest Thy people by the sacred and venerable solemnity of Thy blessed apostle Bartholomew: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may love what he believed, and practise what he taught. Through etc.
EPISTLE, (i. Cor. xii. 27 – 31.) Brethren: You are the body of Christ, and members of a member. And God indeed hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors, after that miracles, then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But be ye zealous for the better gifts.
EXPLANATION. The apostle here gives a beautiful picture of the holy Church. He teaches, that all faithful Catholics compose the body of Christ, the universal Church; every true Catholic is, indeed, a member of a single Church (diocese, congregation), and this a member of the universal Church. No one is the whole body, each one is only a member, some members higher than others, superiors of the Church, bishops, priests, and preachers, but no one should raise himself above the others; for as in a body all the members are necessary, so all the members of the body of Christ, the Church, are necessary, though they stand on the lowest step. But those members of the Church who do not possess the gifts which the apostle describes, and whom God has not called to special office in His Church, should not seek places and positions which are not in their vocation, but as every member keeps the place on the body which is given it, so should every member of the body of Christ, the Church, keep the place which God has appointed to him, and work according to his ability for the welfare of the whole Church. Has God placed you in a farmer’s place? then envy not the nobles and the officers; is another more skilful than you and fills a higher position? then murmur not: for as all the members of a body cannot be eyes, so in the moral body of the Church all cannot be in a high office or position, but all the members of Christ’s body, all the faithful of the Church, can be zealous for the more special gifts, for greater sanctity and perfection, each in his own position, and for a perfect love of God; for upon this path the king and the beggar may journey together to eternal life.
GOSPEL. (Luke vi. 12 – 19.) At That Time: Jesus went out into a mountain to pray, and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God. And when day was come, he called unto him his disciples: and he chose twelve of them (whom also he named Apostles): Simon whom he surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon who is called Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James and Judas Iscariot who was the traitor. And coming down with them, he stood in a plain place, and the company of his disciples, and a very great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, who were come to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. And they that were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the multitude sought to touch him, for virtue went out from him, and healed all.
Why did Jesus go out into a mountain to pray?
Because, as St. Bonaventura says, as a mountain is high, so also must our prayer raise us to God, and from the low valleys of the temporal life, we must elevate ourselves in all our thoughts and desires to God, if our prayer is to avail us.
Why did Christ pray in the night?
To teach us that night is the best time for prayer, because every thing is then quiet and we can better collect our thoughts; also that we may preserve ourselves by prayer from the snares and temptations which the devil spreads for us at night; that we should pray at night for the graces which during the day we have found necessary for ourselves and our neighbor. St. Gregory says, that on this account Christ was accustomed to pray during the night, and during the day to work by teaching and by miracles for the salvation of souls. For these reasons, prayers are said in monasteries in the night, as advised by David (Ps. cliii. 2.), and it is a commendable custom for families to say the rosary, a litany, and the night prayer in common.
Why did Christ pray during this particular night?
Because He was to choose His twelve apostles in the morning, and He, therefore, prayed to His Heavenly Father to give them all the graces required by the mighty mission. In the same spirit the Church prays four times during the year, on the Ember days, for those who are dedicated to the priesthood and to receive holy orders, as Christ prayed and as the apostles fasted and prayed before consecrating Paul and Barnabas. (Acts xiii. 3.) Besides this, the Church has appointed the fast at Ember time, and requires the faithful to ask with prayer and fasting for pious priests, for on the priesthood depends the temporal and eternal welfare or grief of the faithful. Let us pray fervently and often, that God may give us zealous and exemplary priests.
Why did Christ on this day call those twelve apostles, who before were only disciples?
Because the apostolic dignity is the highest after Christ’s, and He desired, that they should first, as disciples, prepare themselves for it. He who wishes to teach, must first learn. No one should enter into an office for which he is not fitted.
What beautiful example is given us in our Saviour’s coming down from the mountain, and in the conduct of the people awaiting Him?
The Saviour’s descending shows us His goodness and kindness to the poor and lowly, and to the sick. He especially teaches the great ones of the earth, how they should kindly descend to their subjects, the weak and poor, hear their complaints, and relieve them. The conduct of the people who had come to hear Christ and sought to touch Him, because virtue went out from Him, curing them, teaches us first to seek the salvation of our soul, the voice of Jesus, and then in our physical needs to seek help from Him, sure to find it.
PETITION. O blessed Apostle Bartholomew! who left all to follow Christ, even giving thy life for Him, pray for us, that we also may give up all for Christ that interferes with our love for Him, that we may imitate Him, and be eternally happy. Amen.