The feast of Saint Bartholomew was celebrated in some countries of Europe already in the 8th century. In Rome it began to be celebrated in the 9th century on 24 or 25 August. In the Byzantine Church this latter date was the feast of the translation of the relics of the Apostle, while the proper feast was celebrated on 11 June, together with that of Saint Barnabas. The calendar of Pope Pius V fixed the feast on 24 August.
The Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke list Bartholomew along with the other Apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). He was from Cana and was closely associated with the other Apostles after the Lord’s resurrection (John 21:1-14). Experts are of opinion that he is probably the same person as Nathanael (gift of God) whom the Lord declares as a true Israelite in whom there was no guile and who in turn was the first to declare ” (John 1:45-51)! Saint John mentions Nathanael among the Apostles, while he leaves out the name of Bartholomew. It is therefore likely that both names belong to the same person. According to Aramaic etymology Bartholomew means bar Talmai, that is, son of Talmai (son of the farmer). Therefore this could have been his family name, while Nathannael could have been his personal name.
It is very unlikely that he who was among the earliest disciples of Jesus would be left out totally the the first three Evangelists, nor is it likely that Saint John leaves him out. Besides, in the Synoptic Gospels Bartholomew is associated with Philip; similarly in the Gospel of John Nathanael is associated with Philip. We see in John 1:45-46 that Philip brings Nathanael to Jesus while in the Synoptics that Bartholomew is mentioned with Philip.
Like the other Apostles, Bartholomew too was privileged to live and move with the Lord Jesus, to hear His teaching, to witness His miracles and to be trained by Him. He loved the Lord, preached Him, worked miracles in His name , lived for Him and died for Him. Now he also shares in the glory of the exalted Lord. According to various traditions, Apostle Bartholomew worked and preached the Gospel in western India (around the Kalyan region near Mumbai) and was martyred there. According to Rufinus he preached in Ethiopia. Some say he preached in what is today called Yemen.
Another tradition, a stronger one, says that he labored in Greater Armenia. There is a belief that in Armenia, Bartholomew converted King Polymnius, his Queen and twelve entire cities to Christianity. Therefore the priests of that nation hated him and instigated Astyages, the King’s brother, to punish and kill the Apostle in the cruellest manner. By his orders Bartholomew was skinned alive and beheaded. Similarly several other places also claim to have has the Apostle as missionary.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, strengthen in us that faith with which Saint Bartholomew gave himself wholeheartedly to Christ Your Son. Grant, at his intercession, that Your Church may become the sacrament of salvation for all the nations of the earth. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 24 August 2020
A Christian Pilgrim