St. Bartholomew the Apostle — From Skeptic to Believer in a Moment
St. Bartholomew, whose feast day is Aug. 24, is the patron saint of butchers and leatherworkers.
Nathanael [Bartholomew] said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” ―John 1:48–49
The name Bartholomew has Aramaic roots and means “Son of Tolmai.” Because he is usually considered to be the same as the Nathanael in John’s Gospel, many believe that Bartholomew’s full name was probably Nathanael Bartholomew.
Nathanael Bartholomew’s introduction in John’s Gospel is very intriguing. His close friend, Philip, had just met Jesus and was struck with Jesus’ mysticism and goodness. Philip had complete confidence that Jesus was the Messiah. He ran to tell his friend Bartholomew ― but Bartholomew, evidently a bit prejudiced, found it unbelievable that anyone of importance could come from Nazareth. However, when Bartholomew came face-to-face with Jesus himself, his heart quickly changed. Jesus’s first words about Bartholomew were peculiar: he called Bartholomew a “true Israelite with no duplicity.” Bartholomew’s nature evidently was clear and easy to read, lacking pretense and deceit. He spoke his true feelings.
Bartholomew then asked Jesus how he knew him. When Jesus replied that he had seen Bartholomew under a fig tree one day, Bartholomew’s whole countenance transformed. Jesus being from Nazareth no longer mattered; Bartholomew was ready to profess that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and the King of Israel.
There are no specific stories on Bartholomew outside of John’s “calling” story. However, because he was an apostle, we know that Bartholomew spent a great deal of time with Jesus, learning from him and experiencing many wondrous and miraculous events. Because he was selected as an apostle, Bartholomew had the authority to preach, cure people, and drive out demons. He was blessed to have witnessed the risen Christ, watched as Jesus ascended into heaven, and encountered the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Legends state that Bartholomew traveled to India, Armenia, Ethiopia, and Persia after Pentecost. Ancient historians wrote that he lived an austere yet happy life. It is believed that he was flayed alive in India. Most of his relics are believed to be entombed within the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in the Tiber River in Rome.
Biblical Novena to St. Bartholomew
The Church honors St. Bartholomew on Aug. 24 — he is considered to be the patron saint of butchers, leatherworkers, and serenity. Although this New Testament saint was initially dismissive of Jesus, his heart quickly shifted when they actually met. St. Bartholomew’s story might call out to someone who feels burdened with doubts and distrust. If you’d like some prayerful time with St. Bartholomew, try the Biblical Novena below. Read one passage a day, perhaps include a few surrounding verses, write down thoughts that come to mind, and ask St. Bartholomew/Nathanael to pray for your intentions!
- Day 1) Matthew 10:1–15
- Day 2) Luke 6:12–16
- Day 3) John 1:43–51
- Day 4) Matthew 26:26–30
- Day 5) John 20:19–23
- Day 6) John 21:1–14
- Day 7) Acts 1:6–14
- Day 8) Acts 2:1–4
- Day 9) Acts 4:32–35
- st. bartholomew