Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the feast of St. Bartholomew

The collect for the day always makes me smile:

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It makes me smile because the very first thing that is said about Bartholomew in Lesser Feasts and Fasts is that "Bartholomew is one of the twelve Apostles known to us only by being listed among them in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke."

So what did he believe? Did he ever preach at all? And if so, what did he say? There's no record. So why are we emphasizing his belief and teaching? I'm guessing it's because doing something sounds better than...nothing.

"Nothing more is heard of him in the four Gospels." And what if that's because there's really nothing more to say? Maybe he didn't write a gospel, as some suggest; maybe he didn't travel to India, as one legend has it. Maybe he wasn't flayed alive in Armenia, as another tradition holds. Maybe he just stuck around Jerusalem, raised a family, told them about his time with Jesus, and was faithful to God. I don't know. It's just as possible than other suggestions, and more possible than some.

And what if that's all right? Wouldn't it be lovely to have a patron saint for followers of Christ who don't do anything in particular? All this striving and seeking and struggle...maybe there's one apostle who simply lived his life. And maybe that's acceptable.

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