The following paragraph is taken from the "Catholic Almanac"
Bartholomew (Nathanael): A friend of Philip; according to various traditions, preached the Gospel in Ethiopia, India, Persia and Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed and beheaded; in art, is depicted holding a knife, an instrument of his death; Aug. 24 (Roman Rite), Aug. 25 (Byzantine Rite.)
According to Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Editor of the Revised Edition of Saint of the Day (Lives and Lessons for Saints and Feast for the New Missal)
Bartholomew is mentioned only in the list of the Apostles in the New Testament. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip.
Again we are confronted with the fact that we know almost nothing about this Apostle from Scripture. However the few sentences that we do hear is all that is needed.
From the Master himself we learn that Nathanael is a true Israelite and that there is no duplicity in him. When Nathanael asked Jesus how He knew him, Jesus said: "I saw you under the fig tree." This statment so stunned Nathanael that he exlaimed "Rabbi (Teacher), you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
No other Apostles by far expressed greater belief in Jesus upon their first encounter as Nathanael. Jesus stated it exactly right. This apostle was devout, holy and a true Israelite. Imagine calling someone a king and never having seen him before! How could anyone call Jesus the Son of God unless his mind and heart was completely enraptured by the love of God.
Jesus swept Nathanael completely off his feet by revealing to him some personal information that for him was truly amazing.
During this brief meeting with Nathanael, Jesus told him that he would experience greater things than with this first meeting.
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection.
Taken from The Apostle by Otto Hophan, O.F.M. Cap. Found in the resources of www.doctorsofthecatholicchurch.com
Ripples of sunshine surround the name and figure of the apostle Bartholomew, whose full name was Nathanael Bartholomew. Every crown has at least one happy-go-luck character, and among the Twelve this was Bartholomew. The Lord Himself rejoiced to see this young man without guile enter His circle. Even today the name “Nathanael” suggests to us an agreeable and inoffensive person. Bartholomew lived on the brighter side of life, unruffled, serene, cheerful.
In the four lists of the Twelve in Holy Scripture this apostle was always called Bartholomew. In the Gospels his name was mentioned in the sixth place, immediately after his friend, Philip. In St. Luke’s enumeration in the Acts of the Apostles, Our Lord assigned Bartholomew and Thomas to the same group. Wisely did Divine Providence place these two individuals side by side, the optimist and the pessimist, the apostle of sunshine and spring with the apostle of doubt and cloud. Each in his own different way profited by this partnership. Thomas unburdened himself through Bartholomew, and it was to Bartholomew’s benefit that he was encumbered with Thomas, for through the doubter he was protected from the danger of becoming too free and lax.
It is very striking that the evangelist John never once mentioned an apostle by the name of Bartholomew in his entire Gospel. On the contrary he had much to say about a Nathanael, whom the three older evangelists, in turn, seemingly did know. John wrote about this Nathanael in the first and last chapter of his Gospel. Therefore Nathanael was with the other apostles for a long time, a proviso that Peter stipulated before choosing another apostle to replace Judas:
"Therefore, of these men who have been in our company all the time that the Lord Jesus moved among us, from John's baptism until the day that he was taken up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection"
From the two passages in John there is no doubt that Nathanael had heard the apostles; in the first chapter and in the last, this apostle was counted with the known and recognized apostles. Also, his calling was clearly and fully explained. There is no reason to doubt that Nathanael was an apostle, or that Nathanael and Bartholomew are two names for one and the same apostle. For if the Nathanael mentioned by the evangelist John was one of the Twelve, then he could have been no other than the one called Bartholomew by the other evangelists. All the other apostles in the four scriptural list were given by one name. Since Bartholomew was named in the lists by his father's name, Bar-Tholmai, son of Tholmai, he alone is the only apostle who could have had the personal name of Nathanael.
There are yet more significant allusions in the Gospels. In the enumerations of the Twelve, Bartholomew was listen in the sixth place. This is the same position in which Nathanael was mentioned by St John in his Gospel. And finally, according to John, it was Philip who led Nathanael to Jesus. And Philip was always named by the other three evangelists together with Bartholomew. After all this, only one correct interpretation remains: Bartholomew and Nathanael are one and the same apostle. In early Christians ages St Augustine and Gregory the Great expressed the contrary opinion. But today their reasons for such a decision are no longer recognized as valid. Their arguments have not withstood the test of time.
There is no ready explanation why John used the name of Nathanael when speaking of this apostle, whereas the Synoptic used his father's name, bar-Tholmai. Yet it is clear from many biblical examples that it was a custom among the Jews either to name a son after his father or call him by his own name, Simon Bar-Tholmai. Yet it is clear from many biblical examples that it was a custom among the Jews wither to name a son after his father or to call him his own name: Simon-Jona, Bartimeus, Barnabas, Barsabbas, and many more.
Bartholomew, the Cheerful Apostle
It was necessary, first of all, to point out and to prove the identity of Bartholomew and Nathanael. The little that is known about this apostle is found only in the two verses that St. John recorded. The other evangelists gave no information about Nathanael save the name of his father. Perhaps this father, the old Tholma-the name means a "drill-blough" was such a well known and influential person that his son was simply called by his name. A legend concerning Bartholomew, recorded by Peter de Natalibus around the year 1372, corroborates such a supposition. According to this legend Bartholomew was a Syrian from a distinguished, royal family. But in this form the legend contradicts the Gospel.
A much earlier writing, from between the middle of the fifth and sixth centuries, the "History of the Sufferings of Bartholomew," paid special attention to externals. It noted this apostle's
physical appearance and his refined clothing.
Bartholomew had black, curly hair, which covered his ears. His complexion was fair. He had big eyes and a rather large nose. His stature was well-balanced, not too small and not too large. He wore a white robe trimmed in crimson, and also a white cloak, the hem of which was embellished with red jewels.
Other passage recounted that Bartholomew kept his costly garment and even dared to wear it when he followed Christ.
It can easily be understood that such accounts, and others similar to this, from apocryphal and legendary literature, are certainly not trustworthy. They prove nothing, nor can they themselves be proved. Yet perhaps at times they may reflect a kernel of truth. One may conjecture that Bartholomew came from a wealthy family. This apostle was seemingly reared in a very wealthy atmosphere.
Legend and conjecture to the contrary notwithstanding, St John noted that Nathanael Bartholomew came "from Cana in Galilee." With no further apparent reason, many commentators immediately concluded that Bartholomew was the bridegroom at the wedding feast of Cana.
This apostle was probably a fisherman by profession. for as Simon Peter stood on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after the Resurrection and said he was going out to fish, Nathanael called out with the other apostles, "' We also are going with thee.' "
St Augustine conjectured that Nathanael was a teacher of the law. He based his judgment on the manner in which Philip spoke to him . Philip wanted to persuade Bartholomew to go and meet the Messias: " ' 'We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.' " Yet it is a bit difficult to conclude so much merely from this one passage. Still other commentators took for granted that Nathanael was one of the followers of John the Baptist, but such a conclusion can scarcely be proved by the Gospel.
The evangelist John wrote only a few lines-but what precious ones they are!-concerning Bartholomew. These brief statements do give an insight into the soul of this apostle. The Church has chosen this small segment of Scripture, which reflects a certain charm of the apostle, for the closing prayer of the Votive Mass of the Holy Angels. One might even wish that the Liturgy on the feast day of the apostle Bartholomew would also be taken from this cherished and solemn part of the Gospel.
"Philip found Nathanael...." It was not an accidental meeting; our Lord had intended that it happen thus. He himself said, " ' Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.' " Christ called Nathanael through Philip, and He had called Peter through his brother Andrew. It is the way of Divine Providence to call and guide us through others. God does not want to labor alone; in His wisdom and goodness He graciously grants man a share in the creation and guidance of things.
When Nathanael made his appearance in the Gospels, he did so with a touch of friendly sarcasm and smiling irony. Philip was advising Nathanael somewhat in detail and dogmatically, " ' We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.'" Philip's friend objected to this way of putting it. The mischievous Nathanael replied discreetly, " ' Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' " Perhaps Nathanael spoke these words of mockery about Nazareth with certain contempt of familiarity that is so often found between two neighboring villages. Cana, the home of this apostle, lay only about nine miles from Nazareth.
Nazareth must indeed have been despised, however, and apparently it had an evil reputation. For that very reason the evangelist Matthew saw the prophesied abasement and humiliation of the Messias fulfilled in Jesus, because Jesus was reared in Nazareth . In all the books of the Old Testament the town of Nazareth was never mentioned. It was only a small, unimportant village. Its very name-literally "watch-tower"-indicates its size in contrast to a large market town.
A passage in Matthew's Gospel serves as an expressive example of the rude character of the inhabitants of Nazareth. When Jesus came
to his own country, he began to teach them in their synagogues, so that thy were astonished, and said "Where did he get this wisdom and these miracles? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Then where did he get all this?" And they took offense at him. but Jesus said to the, " A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and in his own house." And because of their unbelief, he did not work many miracles there.
Giving his account of this incident, St. Luke pointed out how these people of Jesus' own home town wanted to murder Him:
And all in the synagogue, as they heard these things, were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him forth out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill, on which their town was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But he, passing through their midst, went his way.
After Mary and Joseph returned from the flight into Egypt, they did not go back to Bethlehem. Divine Providence had directed them to Nazareth. In this village Jesus was reared, a village about which nothing good could be said, a village from which no good was expected. This is a thought of consolation to the many people who must remain and work in unimportant and disdained places, or in forsaken posts.
The welcome which Jesus nevertheless extended to Nathanael Bartholomew is surprising. No one of all the other apostles did our Lord receive so warmly and cordially.
Jesus could forget this cautious discipline's judgment against Nazareth and his prejudice against the Messias Himself. As He saw Nathanael coming, joyfully He could say, "'Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile. '" St. Augustine made the remark about this passage: ""A great testimony! That which was said neither to Andrew nor to Peter nor to Philip was said of Nathanael. How highly the Jews esteemed the honor of being an Israelite is easily seen in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and in his second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Still when our Lord greeted Nathanael, He did not say this disciple was merely an Iaraelite. He stressed that He was an Israelite without guile. It was not often that an Israelite received such praise. Even Jacob, the father of the tribe of Israelite, was no more than a man "without guile." Frankness and sincerity had ceased to be universal virtues of the Israelites; nevertheless, Nathanael was a simple and candid person. He did not act as others and pretend. He did not have "two-hearts, a fold in his heart where he saw the truth, and another fold where he engendered lies."
The few words of Nathanael recorded in the Gospel, then, were spoken from a true heart, and remain as fresh and clear as a spring. There was nothing artifical or affected in this follower of Christ, nothing made up or thought up on the spur of the moment. Jesus, the eternal truth, readily and gladly accepted this Isrelite who was without a shadow of pretense.
Nathanael was more surprised than flattered by Christ's words of praise. Startled, he immediately asked, "' Whence knowest thou me?'" Then our Lord cast a second, even brighter, ray of His infinite wisdom into the happy and perhaps too carefree soul of this fisherman. He wanted to rouse him from his contentment, to stir the very depths of his soul. "Jesus answered and said to him. 'Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.'"
What happened under that fig tree remained a secret between Jesus and Nathanael. Maybe it was a triumphant struggle. Maybe it was a decisive resolution. Maybe it was a brilliant confession. In any case, under that fig tree-Palestinians loved to plant fig trees around their homes-a profound, personal experience must have occurred.
The revelation of the Messias so stirred Nathanael that he was inspired to cry enthusiastically, "'Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art King of Israel.'" Only an hour before he was laughing to think that Jesus from Nazareth was supposed to be the Messias, and now, after hearing only a few words of His infinite wisdom, he was paying Him homage. His confession far surpassed the blustering, joyful confessions of Andrew and Philip. Truly, Nathanael Bartholomew, the cheerful apostle, was an Isralite" without guile," without "a fold in his heart."
The meaning of this homage should not be overestimated. Yet it appears to be as great as Peter's confession of the Messias in Caesarea Philippi: "'Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" Nevertheless, in reality it was a long way between the Jordan and Caesarea Philippi, between the happy calling of the warm spring and the first belief of the hot summer. To the disciples on the Jordan, Jesus was the Messias, but their expectations of an earthly Messias were anything but spirtually refined. The apostles still had to withstand many difficulties, doubts, and conflicts before they were to reach their pure and unconditioned credo. The Lord said to Peter, "'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona...'" But He did not say, "Blessed art thou, Nathanael Bar-Tholmai..." Bartholomew's confession on the Jordan was the first spring, beautiful but frail. Jesus called him to mold him and to strengthen him.
"Answering, Jesus said to him, 'Because I said to thee that I saw thee under the fig tree, thou dost believe. Greater things than these shalt thou see.'" Then He turned also in the other, and continued, "'Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'" Once before, the patriarch Jacob, the father of all Israelites, saw an angel ascending and descending. Nathanael and his companions, these Israelites without guile, were from then on to await the lasting, spiritual fulfillment of that vision of Jacob: Jesus in constant communication with heaven. The power of His words and miracles began and reached its completion in heaven. Jesus on earth and the Father in heaven were together, united, one in an eternal exchange of power and love.
Jesus is not, as Philip, so well, but wrongly, believed, "the son of Joseph of Nazareth." He is the "Son of God." "King of Isarel.""Knower of Hearts," as Nathanael praised Him. He is the Lord of Heaven and the Master of Angels. Nonetheless, one is glad to hear this practical confession which flows like a glittering mountain stream in spring in the first chapter of John's Gospel. Solemnly had this first chapter been opened: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God." And now the earthly echo of these words resounded triumphantly upon the eternal seething of waves: "'Rabbi, thou art the Son God, thou are King of Israel.'"
It is a pity that the evangelist John did not give a fuller picture of Nathanael in the first Chapter of his Gospel. With the exception of the brief mention of this apostle in the twenty-first chapter of the fourth Gospel, there is no other mention of him through the wide span between the first and last chapter. The evangelists, inspired by the Holy Spirit, limited themselves to a fuller account of the life of Jesus. The very fact that these comments were made so brief is already an indication of the direction in which their inspired thoughts were to venture.
One cannot go wrong if he keeps that happy meeting between Jesus and Nathanael before his eyes. Thoroughly honest, happy, cheerful, and inspired, he has been an inspiration to men of all ages. He was popular and much liked by the other apostles; his colleagues eagerly sought his friendship. Clear, truthful, and frank in everything, he was so simple that anyone could see through him. He was really the apostle without guile or deceit.
At the Last Supper revealed, "'One of you will betray me.'" No one thought of Bartholomew. Not even a slight suspicion was raised against him. Only sunshine and spring surrounded this apostle. When the disciples walked along the long, hot roads, with the Lord, tired and stickly with dust, and when the pressing of a crowd was so taxing that they could not find time even to eat, when they, along with the Lord, had no place to lay their head at night, there was Bartholomew, cheerful, tireless, and happy as ever. He alone of the followers of Christ could lift up their sinking spirits. Then the eyes of the Lord would benevolently fall upon this disciples as they had in the hour of their first meeting. Nathanael Bartholomew was called because of his natural ability to reflect the goodness, kindness, mercy, and love of the Savior.
For the melancholy Thomas, for the sober Philip, for the objective Matthew, it was a real blessing that Bartholomew occasionally led this second group of apostles to look at the brighter side of life. He put some cheer and life into this melancholy, sober and objective group. He brought the fragrance of spring and a bit of poetry into this somewhat too cool, somewhat too dry, somewhat too gloomy atmosphere. With his keen natural perceptiveness, he could brighten and enliven Thomas, tease and animate Philip, transfigure and perfect-Matthew. He could rub against all three of their natures and get away with it three times as often as any other apostle. It is good to stand to the sunshine, but it is better to be the sunshine for others. In doing all this, Nathanael did not overstep the fine border of tact. It is very striking how old legends again and again allude to this apostle's distinguished origin and refined speech. The silence of the Gospels also gives an indication of his quiet reserve. He could hold back his happiness lest he becomes too frolicsome, or even loud and boisterous.
This noble harmony of directness and reserve, of gaiety and courtesy, suggest the symbolism of the full name of this apostles, Nathanael Bartholomew. Literally the Hebrew name, Nathanael means "gift of God." Ever cheerful person is a gift of God to a friendship. Bartholomew means "son of a drill-plougher." A "Nathanael" must also be a "Bartholomew," a man who goes below the surface of things. And a "Bartholomew" must be a "Nathanael," a sunny gift of God that penetrates to the depths of life, but remains on the outside also, so that, once buried in these depths, it does not lose sight of the blue heavens from where it came, where the angels of God ascend and descend.
Bartholomew, the Courageous Martyr
Concerning the labors of the apostle Bartholomew we have only unreliable and partially contradictory statements. The earliest accounts have been lost. The first that have been preserved originated between 450 and 550 in the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. They bear traces of Nestoriansim.
Still, a general picture of the apostolic labors of Bartholomew can be drawn from the Gospels. He who could recognize Christ in the first hour of his acquaintance with Him as the "Son of God" and "King of Israel" certainly went out into the world to preach what Christ had commissioned him to preach. He who had seen "greater things"-the life of Jesus, Easter Sunday, Pentecost-was certainly inspired to go into the world to preach. He was the happy messenger of our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to traditional versions of the Coptic and Arabic and Ethiopic Acts, the region in which Bartholomew labored lay in the "oases" of Egypt. An Armenian source named as the first six apostolic journeys of Bartholomew those to the county of "Eden," which today is Aden. Eusebius reported that Pantaenus, the founder of the Catechetical school of Alexandria, on a journey to "India" at the end of the second century, had entered a Christian community which was founded by the apostle Bartholomew. At the time "India" was understood as all the lands lying outside of, and east of, the Roman and Parthian Empires. This included not only present-day India proper, but also Abyssinia, the "prosperous Arabia," and Caramenia. In an interesting manner these Acts often portrayed Bartholomew in company with Matthew. According to the account of Eusebius just mentioned, this apostle had brought the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew into these regions.
According to the "Acts of Philip," Nathanael labored and suffered together with his companion and friend, the apostle Philip, in the Phryian city of Hierapolis. As a faithful friend, he stood by Philip even in martyrdom, and afterwards was taken to Lycaonia, which lay on the southeast border of Phrygia-to day this is the southeastern corner of Asia Minor. Barthlomew's work in Lycaonia among the Syrians was also mentioned and it is also reported that this apostle was crucified here. These legends prevail even today in the Greek Church. A sermon attributed to St John Chrysostom concerning the twelve apostles contained a remark to the effect that Bartholomew preached "temperance to the Lycaonians."
The "Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew" also made mention of the apostlic labors of these two disciples in the land along the shores of the Black Sea. In the "Acts of Matthew" it was Matthew who appeared as the apostolic companion of Bartholomew, so in the "Acts of Andrew" it was the apostle Andrew who assumed this position. These accounts gave rise to a tradition among the Armenians that Bartholomew was specifically sent to them as their own apostle. Moses of Chorene said, "Armenia was assigned to the apostle Bartholomew. He was martyred in the city of Areban." An Armenian source concerning the life and suffering of Bartholomew recorded that this apostle brought the Gospel first to the "Indians," and then to the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and finally to the Armenians,
In a lesson from the Roman Breviary read on the feast of the apostle Bartholomew, are collected various and sundry bits of information:
The apostle Bartholomew, a Galilean, journeyed through the side of India that had fallen to him when the earth was divided up for the preaching of the Gospel. He proclaimed the advent of the Lord Jesus to those nations according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. After he had converted many to Christ in that region and had suffered many toils and difficulties, he came to Great Armenia.
Just as these various accounts concerning the place of this apostles's labors contradict each other, so do the statements concerning the nature of his death. The Roman Breviary, relying on such information, explains,
In Great Armenia Bartholomew led the king, Poplymius, and his wife, in addition to twelve cities, to the Christian belief. These conversions very much enkindled the jealousy of the clergy there. The priests succeeded in stirring up the brother of King Polymius, Astyages, to such an anger that he gave the gruesome order to have Bartholomenw skinned alive and then beheaded. In this martyrdom he gave his soul back to God.
The tradition concerning the flaying of this missionary in Armenia was spread by the Greeks, Latins and Syrians. Skinning alive was a form of Persian capital punishment, and therefore it points to Persia as the place of the last labors and death of the apostle. In the part of Syria which is under Persian sovereignty a tradition concerning the grace of the apostle Bartholomew has held its own.
Artists, as perchance Ribera and Rubens in their well-known pictures of Bartholomew (which hang in the gallery of Prado), therefore associated a knife with this apostle as his symbol. It was with a knife that he was flayed. Others, such as Bernini in his statue of Bartholomew (which stands in the Lateran), portray him holding his skin over his arm as he would carry a mantle. Michelangelo also created a very expressive portrait of the flayed apostle.
Christian antiquity, nevertheless, had other versions of the death of Nathanael. Among them was even a simple and natural death. According to a very old and widespread opinion this disciple was supposed to have been crucified-as were almost all those called on the Jordan. Some artists have depicted him on a cross, some of them even the same ones who had given him the knife as a symbol of his have been flayed alive. A local saying in Armenia maintains that he was beaten to death with clubs. According to an Arabian-Jacobean tradition he was thrown into the sea in a sack filled with sand at the command of King Aghiras.
Equally vague is any knowledge of the whereabout of Bartholmew's relics. An Armenian tradition maintained that his body was buried in Albanopolis-also written urbanopolis-a city of Armenia where the apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom. Then his remains were taken to Nephergerd-Mijafarkin. Around the year 580 these relics, or perhaps only a part of them, were carried over to the Lipari Islands near Sicily. Here legend has it that the relics of Bartholomew, sealed in a coffin, actually swam through the sea and landed on the shores of Lipari. Perhaps such a legend concerning this coffin swimming over the sea evolved and developed from another legend that related how Bartholomew was thrown into the sea in a weighted sack.
After a Saracen invasion of the Lipari Island in 838, these relics supposedly escaped by fleeing to Benevent. Then, in 983, through the maneuvering of Kaiser Otto III, they finally found their way to Rome. Here they were placed in the Church of Bartholomew on a small island in the Tiber. As late as 1238 the skull of this apostle was brought to Germany, to Frankfurt on the main river, and preserved in the Cathedral of Bartholomew.
Since the decree of the Congregation of Rites, dated October 28, 1913, the feast of this apostle was fixed to be celebrated on August 24 in the Roman Church. In the Greek Church it is celebrated on June 11. In the Orient this apostles's feast and also that of the transer of his relics are observed on different days. In Armenia both December 8 and February 25 were appointed as his feast days. In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church June 18 and November 20 are observed. And in the Jacobite Church the day set aside is August 29.
A Gospel, later proved to be spurious, also was attributed to Bartholomew. St. Jerome mentioned it in his introductory comments on the Gospel of St. Matthew. Today only fragments have been preserved. It allegedly contained the manifestation of the risen Savior's descent into hell, which was instigated by the questions of Bartholomew. Besides this, information concerning Mary's secret of God's Incarnation was included. The original Greek text sprang up on the Gnostic circles of Egypt in the third century. This version had nothing to do with the apostle Bartholomew.
Finally, we turn once again to the Gospel, to the hour in which the young and carefree Nathanael met the Messias for the first time. With flashing eyes and inspired lips he called out openly to Jesus, "'Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art King of Israel.'" But this cheerful and lovable man had not surmised in the least what a tremendous burden he was to bear for the Son of God. He was portrayed by artist as a gray and stooped old man. For the Son of God he had gone half way around the world. Through the many long journeys. For centuries, even, his remains were not permitted the quiet rest of the grave.
In his hand he held the horrible knife with which he was allegedly skinned alive. It is not certain in what manner he died. Maybe he was flayed and maybe he was not. But it is certain that inwardly he had completely stripped himself of self and had become the faithful and devoted servant of the King of Israel. This shedding of the world right down to the very nerve-center was demaned by Christ Himself. Twice Matthew recorded Jesus' words about this:
"And if thy hand or thy foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee! It is better for thee to enter life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if thy eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee! It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into the hell of fire.
For this reason some like to represent Christianity as a big, dismal "no" to anything that might have the slighest trace of joy in it. It supposedly forbids the "yes" in life. But such men as Nathanael Bartholomew, who work and suffer the most for Christ, are the most joyful. Nathanaels are those without the guile of a pessimistic bearing, dressed-up heroism, or weary resignation. They know sadness and they know hope; they know the nakedness and on completeness of their own existence, and wait for the fulfillment of another life.
St. Paul, writing to the Christians of all ages, exhorted, >
Let us conduct ourselves in all circumstances as God's ministers, in much patience; in tribulations, in hardships, in distresses; in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults; in labors, in sleepless nights, in fastings; in innocence, in knowledge, in long-sufferings; in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love; in the word of truth, in the power of God; with the armor of justice on the right hand and on the left; in honor and dishonor, in even report and good report
Nathanael's appearance in the Gospel gives us the explanation for this rare and mysterious union of sorrow and bliss in the same person: "Greater things than these shalt thou see... You shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'"
The following links provides insight on St Bartholomew: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden258.htm