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Bartholomew: On being a forgotten saint

August 23, 2014

Bartholomew is one of the 12 apostles that isn’t mentioned that much. We do not hear much about him in the Gospels and he as no letters recorded in our New Testament. We remember Peter, Andrew and John, and even Paul who was not one of the 12. But poor old Bartholomew so easily gets forgotten.

Christians may forget Bartholomew but God has not. This reminds me of a very important spiritual lesson: fame on earth does not equate to eternal fame. Which, in turn, reminds me of another saint who did not die quite so long ago but is now with Bartholomew in heaven. It reminds me of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez.

The poetry lovers may know of him from Gerard Manly Hopkins’ poem, “In Honour of St. Alphonsus Rodriquez” – a poem that I’ve quoted once before on this blog but it’s such a wonderful poem that here it is again:

In Honour Of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
(Laybrother of the Society of Jesus)

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

The thing that made Alfonsus special was his devotion to his simple duty, as a Jesuit lay brother and doorman for their house in Majorca. Alphonsus represents all of the ordinary, devoted Christians who, by the world’s standards have done nothing noteworthy. But who are nevertheless great in the eyes of God.

Getting back to Bartholomew, we know little of his life. We have traditions that say he became a missionary in India and Turkey. But, we know so little about him and the earthly things that he did. I know so little, but I do know the most important thing of all – that he is great in God’s eyes.

So what does all this mean for me?

Well I’m unlikely to be great or famous. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot be great – that I cannot be a saint.

It is my devotion to the little things, often the mundane things, that may be my road to fulfilling God’s purpose for me and I need to hold that in mind. No matter what the world might think of the things that I do – I too can be great in God’s eyes. I know that God has a purpose for me; just as much as God had a purpose for St. Bartholomew, St. Alphonsus, St. Peter, St. Paul and all the rest.

The Father lavishes no less attention on you than on me, or than he did on the great saints like Bartholomew. It’s amazing: God loves me and cares for me, as though I were his only child, because Jesus has brought me into God’s family. That’s enough for me.


From → Martial Thoughts

  1. I’m glad to see that my love of GMH has rubbed off.

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