Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in aeternum! Amen.
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
I love saints’ lives (hagiographies), I don’t think I have ever made a secret of that reality. It’s one of the aspects of Catholicism that I really love reading saints’ lives. There is a saint for every single vocation, occupation, place, etc. There are saints who were priests, brothers, monks, married, and single men. There are saints who were nuns, sisters, virgins, married women, and single women. While their individual vocations were unique, there objective was the same thing: the attainment of union with God (aka salvation) through the fulfillment of His will with His grace by means of practicing heroic virtue.
Besides the Saint Jean-Marie Vianney-s and the Saint Maria Goretti-s in the Communion of Saints, we always have Our Lady who is the saint par excellence; she is the Queen of All Saints after all.
Under Our Lady who is worthy of what is called in Theology geek circles hyperdulia (highest reverence and honor due to a created being), there is Saint Joseph who is worthy of protodulia (second highest degree of reverence due to a created being). After those two are covered, all the other saints are worthy of dulia or veneration due to a created being because of their sanctity. Of course, God being God, the Uncaused Cause and the Source of everything, is worthy of all possible glory and adoration aka latria. Latria is adoration due to God alone because it possesses a sacrificial characteristic that is decidedly absent in all other types of reverence.
There is a hierarchy to the Communion of Saints besides the whole Church Triumphant (souls in Heaven), Church Suffering (souls in Purgatory), and Church Militant (souls of the faithful on earth). It’s kinda apparent if you every flip through the Commons in a Breviary or a Missal. It always starts with Our Lady, then it goes onto the Apostles, then the martyrs, then the pastors (and Doctors of the Church), then the virgins (and religious), and then the holy men and women.
Saint Bartholomew was an Apostle, one of the Twelve who were chosen by Christ to spread the Good News and foster the growth of His Church and thus bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.
Every one of the Apostles suffered martyrdom except Saint John. It is said that Saint John was spared a martyr’s death because remained with the Lord throughout His Passion and Death when all the others fled in fear of being arrested themselves. I have read that the other Apostles suffered a martyr’s death because they did not remain faithful to the Lord in His time of need so they had to prove/demonstrate their fidelity to the Lord and His teaching by means of offering their lives. Saint John proved his fidelity by remaining at His side and taking His Mother into his home after the Lord gave her to him (“Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son.”).
Saint Bartholomew was the Apostle to Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia. I think the thing that stuck out in the Gospel as it was proclaimed at Mass this morning was the fact that there was “no duplicity in him,” that is, he was straightforward, he wasn’t two-faced. You got what you saw. You saw what you got. The Lord, being the Lord, knew Bartholomew before they “met” and even before the Lord saw him under the fig tree. The omniscience thing can help with those kinds of things. It just goes to show that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows every aspect of our being from the quirks in our personality and the crosses we bear spiritually to the number hairs on our head and the number of years we will live on earth. We can’t hide anything from Him. Christ saying that Bartholomew was not two-faced demonstrated that he did not hide things about himself. He was honest. He played with an open hand for the most part.
But he did flee from the Lord when He was arrested and underwent His Passion and Death so his faith and fidelity still had to be proven.
Thus, after he had worked to spread the Gospel to different peoples far from Jerusalem, he suffered a martyr’s death. And he wasn’t “just” beheaded. Nope.
Which leads to my point. The Truth of Jesus Christ as taught in its entirety and purity by the Holy Catholic Church is such an invaluable treasure and such a sure way of attaining true happiness (aka salvation) that people are willing to die for Him.
Would you die for your iPhone? Would you die for your car? Would you die for your growing Theology library? Would you die for your pet ring-tailed lemur, Armando Maria Luis della Tierra del Fuego (I just like saying and typing “tierra del fuego” … land of fire … heh heh)?
I would hope not. Sorry, people, your lemur is an animal and thus does not have an eternal soul like you do therefore … odds are not very good that they will be in Heaven (let the debate begin) so you probably shouldn’t offer your life for him … no matter how awesome it is when he uses his tail to open your frosty cold Faygo root beer.
If push came to shove, you probably would die for your family or friends. Of course you would, it is what the Lord said when He said “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Dying for someone that you love is the ultimate sacrifice to make.
Greater yet is the love that one shows than when one offers one’s life for God and His Church. The martyrs were so confident in their faith in Jesus Christ that they were willing to undergo horrible tortures (just read the Roman Martyrology or any book of saints’ lives) and offer their lives in sometimes unimaginable ways.
I mean, being beheaded is all well and good and it is definitely is a sign that the person was faithful to the Lord until the bitter end.
But getting flayed alive?!?!
Flayed like a cat in an anatomy and physiology class. Why that image? Because I was the master of the dead cats in my A & P class in high school. We were given a cat to dissect and after we had taken our lab practical, we were to clean off our cats (I had a really powerful bleach cocktail that cleaned and whitened the bones to a dogmatic white), rebuild their skeletons, and mount it. Some of the girls in my class were squeamish so they couldn’t get the cat’s head off of theirs (I hate it when that happens) so they would give their deceased feline to me. I am a bit too skilled with a scalpel when it comes to decapitating. I assure you, I am not a serial killer or some kind of animal torturer (I was a Franciscan, people!). I just thought it was cool. Don’t judge me.
I mean, imagine yourself in Bartholomew’s shoes. You are awaiting your execution by flaying. Being the sick in the head people they were (who else would think to flay another human being alive as punishment?), they probably sharpened their knives in front of him.
Could you imagine what was going through his head? How he could not have imagined what the very near future held for him I know not.
He could have taken the easy road and just abjured. He could have denied Christ and thus saved his skin … literally (sorry, couldn’t help it) for the time being.
But he didn’t.
Heck, he could have been in the process of being flayed. The knives could have been removing layers of his skin (which is highly innervated with … sensitive nerves … hence one of the primary purposes of the skin besides a shield against outside pathogens) when the pain became too hard to handle and he could have denied him then.
But he didn’t.
Heck. This Jesus guy must be legit. The Church He established and all she teaches (which is revealed to her by God Himself and thus the Truth) must be legit. If this guy and countless others are willing to die for Him/her. To undergo terrible tortures. The North American martyrs underwent terrible tortures like having their thumb and forefingers cut off with a shell so they couldn’t say Mass (they got dispensation). They had sharp pieces of glass and other bits of nasty jammed into their nail beds. They were scalped and forced to run a gauntlet where they were beaten to a pulp.
Why the North American Martyrs? Because I will never forget when I read in this book about the wood chips being jammed into nail beds. I wince every time I read that part.
But it teaches us something about the strength of the faith of the martyrs. If these people, who were sinners just like every one of us, were willing to undergo such horrible tortures and such for Christ, who are we to deny Him? Who are we to deny the treasure we have in our Faith?
The fact that people have died for the Faith demonstrates to me and others that we should take our Faith and the practice thereof seriously. We shouldn’t treat it like a burden. We should not take it for granted. We should not just practice it when I feel like it or when it would look good (like vainglory), which really isn’t true faith. We should not let it be trampled upon by others. We should be proud of our Faith. We should be always willing to defend her even to the point of offering our lives for her.
Christ and His Church are pretty amazing. They must be legit. The fact that people die for Him and His Church must make some think “Dang, there must be something there if these people are willing to die for it.” As Tertullian said in his Apologeticum, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (“Semen est sanguis Christianorum.” Okay … so that literally means “The seed is the blood of Christians” … but the idea remains.) (Chapter 50.13). I know it makes me think that.
All right. I have to take care of some other stuff today before evening falls. Make sure your Infant is wearing red. I think my Infant looks the most regal in his red vestment. Of course, that’s the typical vestment because red is the color of royalty. Duh. He looks so cute. I was digging through some of the stuff I found in my great-grandmother’s jewelry stash after she went up to see God and I came upon some broken strings of little pearls (idk if they are real or not but they look real). I think one day Imma make a rose vestment for my Infant and embellish it with them. I think He’d look sooo cute.
Have a nice evening!