St. Barnabus

St. Barnabus is an apostle featured heavily in the book of Acts and some Epistles. He was influential in the other apostles' acceptance of St. Paul, as well as in the conversion efforts among the Gentiles. After the Paul himself, Barnabas may be the most esteemed man of the first generation of Christians besides the Twelve.


Lifetime: Unknown to ~60
Region: Roman Cyprus
Patronages: Cyprus; Antioch; Against hailstorms
Iconograpy: Flame; Gospel scroll; Olive branch
Feast Day: June 11

Barnabas appears in scripture in the book of Acts, where he is introduced as a landowner who sold all he owned and laid it at the feet of the apostles. He is identified as being known as Joseph, or Joses prior to the apostles bestowing his new name upon him.

Barnabus was a Levite, the tribe of Israel dedicated to religious and educational duties serving the priests and other tribes. After his conversion, he becomes an apostle in his own right, and is entrusted with several important missions.

Barnabus introduced Paul to the other apostles when Paul first arrived in Jerusalem after his famous and dramatic conversion. The other apostles were wary of Paul, who had persecuted Christians severely, but Barnabas, who may have known Paul from school, sponsored him and the other apostles accepted Paul to their mission.

The duo was then sent to Antioch, the site of the first Gentile Christian church, and the site where followers of Jesus were first described as "Christians". The community there was thriving, but the apostles wished to send one of their own to investigate personally how it was doing. Paul and Barnabas spent a year helping in Antioch, before returning to Jerusalem with donations the Antiochians wanted to send for the poor.

Paul and Barnabas soon retuned to Antioch, along with Barnabas' cousin John Mark. The church in Antioch were called to send out Paul and Barnabas, with John Mark as a helper, to begin witnessing to the other Gentile communities around them. The church laid hands on them and sent them off, first to Cyprus, Barnabas' birthplace.

They preached at many locations in the area, even into hostile territories. They faced increasing persecution as word of their ministry spread, and were attacked and wounded, but escaped with their lives and eventually returned to Antioch, having made many successful converts on their journey.

Barnabas and Paul stayed in Antioch for a while, but soon controversy came to their booming community. Some preachers from Jerusalem came to Antioch and told the church there that they couldn't be true Christians unless they underwent circumcision, a Jewish ritual procedure that was painful for adult men. The church in Antioch was especially worried that requiring this procedure would severely hamper their mission to the Gentiles and sent some of their own to Jerusalem to debate it. Peter ruled in favor of Antioch and their mission was able to continue.

Barnabas and Paul eventually were called to go out again on mission, this time choosing to go separate ways. Barnabas and John Mark returned to Cyprus to preach. Barnabas lived and worked for a while. He is considered the founder of the Church of Cyprus, and while the exact time and place of his death is unknown, he is traditionally believed to have been martyred for his ministry in Cyprus.

Prayer to St. Barnabas

With the Apostles, Barnabas the Levite

Shines in the glory won by many labors,

Through love of Jesus, he despised as nothing

     All that he suffered.

 

Land and possessions he abandoned also,

Charity’s ardor marked his earnest teaching;

Antioch’s converts won the name of Christians,

     Proof of their fervor.


Quickly perceiving Paul’s sincere conversion,

Gladly he welcomed such a keen companion,

By divine choosing, many miles they traveled,

     Spreading the Gospel.


Tireless and eager, he would spare no effort,

Preaching Christ Jesus by his words and goodness,

‘Til martyr’s glory sealed his never failing

     Life-long devotion.


Lord God Almighty, through the intercession

Of your great servant, give us strength to labor

For our salvation, that we may in heaven

     Praise you for ever. Amen. 

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