St. Barnabas and St. Paul preaching in Lystra

St. Barnabas, Apostle
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

St. Barnabas, upon whom the Holy Church confers the title of Apostle, was born of the tribe of Levi, in the island of Cyprus. His parents, who were very wealthy, sent him to Jerusalem, that he might there be well instructed in the laws, by the celebrated Gamaliel, who had also been the teacher of Saul, afterwards St. Paul. From his youth he endeavored to lead an honest, quiet life; and avoiding idleness and frivolities, he found time and opportunity to acquire a thorough knowledge of the Mosaic law. As at that time all Jerusalem was full of astonishment at our Lord Jesus Christ, who had manifested so incontestibly His divine mission, it was not difficult for Barnabas to recognize in Him the true Messiah, who had been so frequently promised and predicted. Hence he went to Jesus, attended his sermons assiduously, and left him no more. The rich heritage bequeathed to him by his parents he sold, and gave the money to the poor. One acre of land he retained to meet his own necessities, but this he also sold after the ascension of our Lord, and laid the value received for it at the feet of the Apostles, as is related in the Acts, with the addition that he had formerly been called Joseph, but that the Apostles changed his name to Barnabas, which signifies, "Son of consolation."

So long as Christ lived, Barnabas was one of the seventy-two disciples who accompanied the Lord everywhere, and listened with avidity to His teaching. After the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles made use of him as a zealous co-laborer in preaching the Gospel. When St. Paul, after his miraculous conversion, came to Jerusalem and desired to join the disciples of our Lord, they refused to trust him, fearing that he was not truly a confessor of Christ, as he had so cruelly persecuted the followers of the Gospel. St. Barnabas, who as said above, had studied the law under the same teacher with Paul, went therefore to him, to learn more of him. Being soon entirely convinced of his conversion, he brought him to the Apostles and acquainted them with the event which had thus changed Paul; whereupon they were greatly rejoiced, and no longer hesitated to give him their confidence. After this, the Apostles sent Barnabas, to Antioch, there to plant the seeds of the Christian faith. He found many who had been converted to Christ. These he exhorted to remain constant to the true Church, while he persuaded others, who had obstinately remained in Judaism, to become followers of the Saviour. From Antioch he went to Tarsus to Paul. Accompanied by him he returned to Antioch, where both remained a year preaching the doctrine of Christ with such success, that those who became converted there, were the first who were called Christians, in order to confess openly to what faith they belonged.

As zealous as these new Christians were in confessing the teachings of Christ, so were they charitable to the needy at Jerusalem, to whom they sent liberal contributions by Paul and Barnabas. Both Apostles returned from Jerusalem again to Antioch, and there, by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they were sent by the Apostles to convert the Gentiles. Hence they repaired with another disciple of the Lord, named John Mark, to the City of Seleucia, and thence to the Island of Cyprus, where, on the Sabbath days, they preached in many cities the word of the Lord. Many Jews became converted; many, however, remained obdurate, and these calumniated the Apostles, who therefore said to them: "To you we had first to preach the word of God, but as you will not receive it, and deem yourselves not worthy of everlasting life, we shall turn to the heathens." They kept their word, and wandering through many heathen cities and places, they preached the Gospel and converted many. They had, however, much to suffer everywhere, as the Jews instigated the heathens against them.

After some years, both returned to Antioch, and as they found there some disturbance among the Christians on account of the belief which several of them entertained that they ought to keep the old laws, particularly that of circumcision, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to receive a decisive answer from the Apostles. Returning, they acquainted the Christians with what had been told to them and exhorted, them to live accordingly. It was in this city that St. Barnabas separated from St. Paul, and chose as his travelling companion, Mark, whom St. Paul would not keep longer with him because he had left him and Barnabas in Pamphilia. St. Paul took one of the most zealous disciples, named Silas, and went with him to Syria and Cilicia, while St. Barnabas, accompanied by Mark, left for Cyprus, and thence went to Rome. He went also to Milan, where he was the first to preach Christianity. There he remained seven years, and governed the newly-founded Church as its first bishop. After this he consecrated one of his disciples as his successor, and repaired to Bergamo and Brixen, where an altar is still shown, at which he said Holy Mass.

At length he returned to Cyprus and gloriously ended his earthly career, as the Jews, who had come thither from Syria, had made a conspiracy to kill him. God revealed to him his approaching death, and the Saint, rejoicing at the tidings, assembled all the Christians, and after having said Mass, he gave them his last instructions, in which he encouraged them to constancy in the Christian faith, and exhorted them to lead an edifying life. After this he went fearlessly into the Synagogue and clearly proved to the Jews that Christ was the promised Messiah. Not able to refute his words, they attacked him with fearful rage, dragged him out of the Synagogue and stoned him. His holy body was buried by his disciple Mark. At his tomb God wrought at first numberless miracles on the possessed and sick, but as it happened that, on account of the persecutions which the Christians had to endure, it became forgotten and neglected, the Saint himself appeared to a bishop in Antioch, and made known where his remains lay buried. The holy body was then raised, with great solemnity. Upon the breast of the Saint was lying the Gospel of St. Matthew, which he had copied with his own hand. Particularly noteworthy in the life of this Saint is the fact, that during many years, he was the travelling companion of St. Paul, and had a share in all the labors, troubles and dangers which this holy Apostle suffered; also, that in Holy Writ he is called, "a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith " (Acts ii.).

Practical Considerations

St. Barnabas rejoiced when God revealed his approaching death to him. The same sentiments are found in the lives of many other Saints. They desired death, sighed after it, and when they saw it coming, they manifested great joy. There are also in our day persons who long for death, who desire it. But the cause of this is generally anger, impatience, trouble about work, long sickness, or great affliction. But these wishes, in such cases, are neither agreeable to God nor useful or wholesome to men; but are on the contrary detrimental. Quite different were the reasons for which the Saints longed for death and rejoiced at it; first, because God made men subject to the law of death, as a just punishment, to which we ought willingly to submit; secondly, because death frees man from numberless miseries of this life and brings him, if he is worthy, to his last end; thirdly, because death saves him from many dangers and occasions of sin, which might cause him to die in God's disgrace and consequently go into eternal punishment; fourthly, because only by death can we go into heaven, see God, and love and glorify Him much more perfectly than we are able to do in this world. Consider all this thoroughly, and if it does not lead you to long for death after the examples of the Saints, it will at least help you to conquer your inordinate fear of death and make you willing to depart when your hour has come.

St. Barnabas was buried, according to his desire, with the Gospel lying on his breast, as a sign that he had loved and revered the precepts which it contains. Whoever loves and reveres Christ with his whole heart, must also love and revere the Gospel, because it contains the life and teachings of Christ. Whoever loves and reveres the Gospel must love to read it, or hear it read and expounded, as is done in sermons. "We listen to the Gospel in the same manner," says St. Augustine, "as if Christ stood before us and spoke to us." The benefit that is derived from reading or hearing the word of God, St. Chrysostom explains in the following words: "Satan cannot easily find entrance into those who frequently read or hear the Gospel explained." How is it with you? Do you also duly love and esteem the Gospel and the teachings of Christ which it contains? Why do you not read it more frequently? Why are you not present more assiduously at the expounding of it? Do you expect to derive more benefit from the reading of those frivolous, unwholesome or sinful books which are so often seen in your hands? Do you think Satan will not easily find entrance into your heart on account of these books? Just the contrary: for, by reading licentious books, we open our heart to Satan and invite him to take possession of it, or at least to disturb it with all manner of dangerous thoughts. Acknowledge your fault while it is time. Keep the Gospel carefully and thoroughly, go frequently to hear explanations of it, as well as sermons, and then endeavor to form your life according to its precepts. "Our lives must harmonize with the Gospel," says St. Chrysostom. Read, therefore, the Gospel, listen to the explanation of it, and consider what is commanded you by Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lawgiver. In this manner alone will the Gospel benefit you; not otherwise.

Hymn: Exsultet orbis

Now let the earth with joy resound,
And heaven the chant re-echo round;
Nor heaven nor earth too high can raise
The great Apostles' glorious praise.

O ye who, throned in glory dread,
Shall judge the living and the dead,
Lights of the world forever more!
To you the suppliant prayer we pour.

Ye close the sacred gates on high;
At your command apart they fly:
O loose for us the guilty chain
We strive to break, and strive in vain.

Sickness and health your voice obey;
At your command they go or stay:
From sin's disease our souls restore;
In good confirm us more and more.

So when the world is at its end.
And Christ to Judgment shall descend,
May we be called those joys to see
Prepared from all eternity.

Praise to the Father, with the son,
And Holy spirit, Three in One;
As ever was in ages past,
And so shall be while ages last. Amen

(Roman Breviary for the Common of Apostles)

St. Barnabas Curing the Poor

Saint Barnabas, Apostle
(from the Liturgical Year, 1904)

The month of June all aflame with the fires of Pentecost, sees the Holy Ghost setting upon its predestined foundations, the first layer of stones, in the Church's construction; to this month, that is, belongs the honour of proclaiming the memorable names of Peter and Paul, wherein are summed up all the services and trophies of the whole Apostolic College. Peter declared the Gentiles admitted to the grace of the Gospel; Paul was named their Apostle; but still, before rendering the homage so justly due to these two leaders of the Christian people, fitting is it that nations should throng, in grateful veneration, around the sainted guide given to Paul himself, in the opening days of his apostolate, that is, around Barnabas, whose name is interpreted, the son of consolation (Acts, iv. 36) and by whom the convert of Damascus was presented to the terrified Church, anon so sorely tried by the violence of Saul the persecutor. The 29th of June will derive its chief radiance from the simultaneous confession of the two Princes of the Apostles, united in death, as they had been one in life (Ant.Oct. Ap. ad Bened). Be then honour due, first of all, to him who first knit together this fruitful union, by leading to the Head of the infant Church, the future Doctor of the Gentiles (Acts, ix. 27). Barnabas presents himself before us, as a herald; the feast which the Church is celebrating in his honour is a prelude to the gladness which awaits us, at the end of this month so rich in light and in fruits of holiness.

Let us read his history, drawn up, as it mainly is, from the Acts of the Apostles. Notwithstanding its brevity, there are, on the pages of the sacred Liturgy, few more glorious than this.

Barnabas, called also Joseph, a Levite, was born in Cyprus, and was the one designated by the apostles, together with Paul, to preach the Gospel of Christ, to the Gentiles. He having land, sold it, and brought the money to the apostles. Being sent to Antioch to preach there, he met with a great number of people already converted to the faith of Christ, the Lord, which thing filled him with much joy, and he multiplied his exhortations, that they might persevere in the faith of Christ. His word had great success, for he was looked upon by all as a good man and one filled with the Holy Ghost.

Traveling thence to Tarsus, there to seek Paul, he came with him as far as Antioch. They here passed one year with the Faithful who formed the Church of this city, labouring to instruct them in the Christian life and in faith; and here also it was, that the worshippers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. The disciples of Paul and Barnabas aided with alms, the Christians that were in Judea; and sent these subsidies by the hands of Paul and Barnabas. Having performed this work of charity, joining unto them John, surnamed Mark, they returned to Antioch.

Whilst Paul and Barnabas were serving the Lord in the Church of Antioch, fasting and praying with the other prophets and doctors, the Holy Ghost spoke and said: Separate Me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them. Then with fasting and prayer, they imposed hands upon them and let them depart. They went to Seleucia, and thence to Cyprus; besides this, they passed through many towns and countries preaching the gospel everywhere with much fruit, amongst all who heard them. After this Barnabas separated himself from Paul and together with John surnamed Mark, returned to Cyprus. Here, about the seventh year of the reign of Nero, on the third of the Ides of June, he joined the martyr's crown to the dignity of an Apostle. In the reign of the Emperor Zeno, his body was discovered, in the Island of Cyprus: on his breast lay a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, written by the hand of Barnabas himself.


To thee, O Barnabas, we offer the gratitude of the nations. Thou didst watch, O faithful Levite, beside the figurative sanctuary of the days of expectation, observing the coming of the Lord God (Lev. viii. 35), until at last the true ark, the Incarnate Word, having appeared in Sion, thou didst at once take thy place at His side, to defend and serve Him, the ark of holiness, that had come to rally all nations, to give unto them the true manna, to establish amongst all a new covenant; this was to require from the sons of the Old Testament, the sacrifice of the privileges that had been theirs, since the first prevarication of the Gentiles. Though a member of the favoured tribe of Levi, prompt wast thou to abandon its sacred titles which thou didst recognize to have been but limited, and to be now set aside; yea, outstepping mere precept, thou didst not hesitate to renounce all thy family possessions and give them up, together with thyself, to the Church yet in her infancy and scorned by the Synagogue. Therefore, the Holy Ghost would not be out-done in generosity; to thee He reserved the signal privilege of presenting to the Gentiles, their apostle. Saul was thy friend; blinded by the prejudices of his sect, he scorned to follow thine example; and the Faithful trembled at his very name, seeing in him their most relentless persecutor. But silently thine intercession arose from earth, and blending with that of Stephen, pleaded a strong prayer for the murderer. The hour of grace had sounded; and thou wast the first in Jerusalem, to hear of its victory; on the strength of thy testimony alone, the terrified assembly of believers opened their doors to the recent convert.

Thus appearing before the Church, as guarantee for the future Doctor of the Gentiles, to thee belonged the honour of leading him forth to the scene of his labours. Thine it was not, to be numbered among the Twelve by our Lord, yet thine authority was of a kind that almost equaled theirs. After the baptism of Cornelius, thou wast delegated, by the apostles to Antioch to direct the evangelization of the Gentiles. There Paul, the new labourer, was joined to thee; and then did the word of salvation falling from thy lips, begin to produce conversions so numerous, that the Faithful were then called, for the first time Christians, to distinguish them at once from both pagans and Jews. The emancipation of the nations was thus accomplished and Paul in the eyes of all, as also according to the language of the Holy Ghost Himself, was still but thy disciple and thy client (Acts, xi; xii. 25; xiii. 1). For which reason the Divine Spirit was pleased that thou shouldst share in common with him, that solemn ordination whereby he was constituted Apostle of the Gentiles. But very soon after this, the greater good of souls required that thy journeys and labours, hitherto inseparable from his, should be divided. Thine apostolate was then directed more specially to the Island of Cyprus, so abused in pagan times, by the demon of voluptuousness : there hadst thou first seen the light and now thou didst gladly devote thy sweat and even thy blood to diffusing throughout this thy native Isle, the purifying light of the Son of God.

But the Pentecostal fires burning in thy breast, urged thee ever forwards and onwards to more distant missions. Of thee it was written as of Paul: I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles: that thou mayest be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts. xiii. 47). Thus, Italy also heard thy sweet voice, redolent of the joy and consolation of the Paraclete; she beheld thy noble countenance, the serene majesty whereof had made the pagans of another land mistake thee for one of their gods, veiled under human features (Ibid. xiv. 11). Bergamo, Brescia, and other places, especially Milan, claim thee as their Father. Then, O Barnabas, from thine exalted throne, look down and ever protect the faith thou didst deposit in these spots, which, more fortunate than the fated cities of Cyprus, have remained faithful. Vouchsafe to protect the Order, so useful to the Church, which claims thy powerful patronage; may its apostolate continue to carry out thine own, and may its members deserve unto the day of doom, the high esteem in which it was held by Saint Charles Borromeo, thy glorious successor in the see of Milan. In one word, O Father of the Gentiles, extend thy solicitude to all nations, for all, without distinction, were confided to thee by the Holy Ghost, suffer them to enter into the way of light so exquisitely described in that precious Epistle which bears thy blessed name (Epist. Cathol. S. Barnab. Ap. xix.): may the Gentile world become the true temple, of which that of Moriah was but a figure (Ibid. xvi).

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty: from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.