Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, an apostle and martyr.  St. Bartholomew’s name is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but not in John.  In the former gospels, Bartholomew is usually mentioned alongside of Phillip, his brother.  John’s gospel, on the other hand, usually pairs Phillip with a brother called “Nathanael,” and so, traditionally, Bartholomew and Nathanael are considered the same person.  The accuracy of this identification is debated by scripture scholars, today.

In art, St. Bartholomew is often depicted in the context of his martyrdom.  According to one tradition, he was skinned alive.  This gruesome death has been an inspiration for countless artists, who often show him being tortured, or offering his own skin to God, or holding the knife by which he was killed.

The macabre history of this day doesn’t end there.  The St. Bartholomew’s day massacre took place on this day in 1572.  Towards the end of the French wars of religion, a Catholic mob attacked and killed thousands of Protestant Calvinists called Huguenots.  The Catholic mob had been afraid that the Huguenot forces would revolt and conquer parts of France, as they were already doing in the Netherlands.

When we are forced to suffer evil, as St. Bartholomew was, may God grant us the grace of perserverance, and when we ourselves are guilty of doing evil, as were some of our brothers and sisters in faith in the St. Bartholomew’s day massacre, may God grant us the grace to seek for his mercy, pardon and reconciliation.

August 24th, 2015