Two saints have their feast days this week. St. Rose of Lima (August 23) is noted for her piety and chastity. Born and named Isabel in 1586 in Lima, she was exceptionally beautiful – so much so that she was nicknamed “Rose”, so she took this name officially at her confirmation. From an early age, Rose often prayed and fasted in secret with the ambition of becoming a nun. She performed secret penances, some of which were painful for her, and daily adoration and communion.
When her beauty began to attract suitors, to deter this so that it would not interfere with her ambition to take a vow of chastity, St. Rose marked her face rubbing it with pepper to make it blister and she kept her hair very short. Her parents opposed her ambition and wanted her to marry but her father eventually relented. He gave her a room to herself where she spent all her time in long periods of prayer. It was said she slept only two hours per night so as to have more time for prayer.
Not much is known about the life of the Apostle St Bartholomew whose feast day is August 24. He is mentioned by name in lists of Christ’s apostles in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14) and once in Acts 1:13. However the name Bartholomew is a family name, meaning the “son of Tholmai” and so Bartholomew is usually identified as Nathaniel, whom St John mentions in this Wednesday’s gospel reading (John 1:45-51) when Nathaniel was brought to Christ by the apostle Philip (Bartholomew is always placed next to Philip).
John’s gospel has a different vision from the Synoptics in two areas: evangelisation and divine encounter. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus chose his followers but in John word-of-mouth brought others to Jesus. The narrative of Nathaniel was a case in point. Philip evangelised Nathaniel despite his scepticism.
When Nathaniel met Jesus the Lord paid him a high compliment. “How do you know?” the sceptic replied. In His answer Jesus revealed Himself and Nathaniel responded in faith. Here was the Messiah. Then, Jesus challenged Nathaniel to see something greater; the new disciple would witness revelation, angels would bear communication between the Father and the Son. Seeing this communication, Nathaniel would become part of that heaven and earth give-and-take. The follower would be swept up in this revelation.
For John, evangelisation meant more than following the Lord. It meant life in the Lord, living in union with God Himself. How can we open ourselves to an encounter with the Lord? How can we improve our fellowship with other Christians?
Following Christ’s Death, Bartholomew evangelised in the East, around the Black Sea, and perhaps also India. He is credited with many miracles related to the weight of objects. This arose out of a lightweight silver statue being carried through the streets in Lipari, Italy, suddenly becoming so heavy that the carriers had to put it down. Their lives were saved because, had they reached the statue’s planned destination, all would have perished as that building collapsed minutes later.
Bartholomew is said to have converted the king of Armenia by casting out a demon in the temple and then destroying all the idols. The king’s older brother was angry at this and ordered Bartholomew’s execution. He was martyred in Armenia, being either decapitated or skinned alive. He is therefore depicted in Christian iconography with a tanner’s knife, used to separate an animal’s hide from its carcass. Michelangelo’s Last Judgment shows Bartholomew with his skin draped over his arm.
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