Tuesday, August 24, 2010

St. Bartholomew's Day

In the Latin Church, today is observed as the feast of the apostle Bartholomew, traditionally identified with the Nathaniel mentioned in John’s Gospel. (The Eastern Churches generally celebrate St. Bartholomew on June 11; the Copts on January 1). He is traditionally supposed to have preached the Gospel in Ethiopia and possibly India and to have been martyred in Armenia. According to legend, he was flayed alive, hence his portrayal in Michelangelo's Last Judgment holding his own skin in his hand.

As if that weren’t gruesome enough, a number of famous historical calamities have occurred on this day. In A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 410, Alaric and his Goths sacked the city of Rome. In 1572, there occurred the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, in which some 70,000 Huguenots are supposed to have been slain. In 1814, the British burned the White House and the Capitol in Washington, DC, presumably in retaliation for the American attack on the Parliament of Upper Canada (Ontario) in York (Toronto). And in 1992, Hurricane Andrew did record damage in Florida.

It has not been a completely calamitous day, however. On this day in 1981, I (and seven others) entered the Paulist Novitiate at Mount Paul, Oak Ridge, NJ, (see photo above), and thus embarked upon an unparalleled experience of personal and spiritual growth, thanks to which I am here today as a Paulist, a priest, and a pastor. So, thank you, Saint Bartholomew!

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