St. Bartholomew (also known as St. Nathaniel) was introduced to Christ by St. Philip the Apostle. St. Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of our Lord and a witness of the Ascension. His mission to India and time in Armenia after our Lord's Resurrection brought about many conversions. He suffered martyrdom by being flayed. In this lesson we will study the life of St. Bartholomew as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. Bartholomew.
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The Early Church was just as interested in the lives of the Apostles as we are today. They therefore collected as much information as they could, some of it of doubtful authenticity, about the missionary activities of the early martyrs. St. Bartholomew’s time in India is described in the Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew. The Martyrdom, which dates from the fifth or sixth century, even gives a description of St. Bartholomew:
“He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middle height, and neither tall nor stunted, but middling…His voice is like the sound of a strong trumpet; …his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing; he foresees everything, he knows and speaks every tongue of every nation.”
In the Martyrdom, St. Bartholomew cured the daughter of Polymius, the Viceroy of Kalyana. Polymius was grateful and allowed St. Bartholomew to preach. The Apostle converted many people, including Polymius, his wife and children. Unfortunately, word soon reached the King of the Kalyana region, Astreges, the brother of Polymius, that idols were being destroyed. Worse yet, his own brother, Polymius, and others of the region, had converted to a new religion. In great anger, Astreges ordered St. Bartholomew to be bound and brought to him. Astreges demanded:
“Art thou he who has perverted my brother from the gods? To whom the apostle answered: I have not perverted him, but have converted him to God.”
Astreges grew more angry and ordered St. Bartholomew to be beaten with rods and then beheaded. (Roberts and Donaldson, eds. 1886. Pgs. 553-557)
Father A.C. Perumalil was able to identify Polymius and Astreges as actual rulers of the Bombay region:
“… lead us to conclude that St. Bartholomew the Apostle of Christ was on the Kalyana Coast of India during the reign of Aristakarman as King (37-62 A.D.) and Pulumayi, his brother as Viceroy of Kalyana... Futhermore, he came to India after long apostolic journeys in Asia Minor and Armenia. It is not improbable then that he arrived in India about 55 A.D.” (Perumalil. 1971. pgs. 130-131).
St. Bede the Venerable in his Martyrology adds that St. Bartholomew was flayed alive:
“Bartholomew the Apostle, who preached the Gospel of Christ in India, was flayed alive by the barba...
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St. Bartholomew is part of the following course(s):