As baptized Catholics, we are all called to lives of supreme holiness. As Pope St. John Paul II explained in his message on the 39th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, “Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God… it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity… The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living.”
Yet, in a culture that glorifies sin and, in many ways, looks down upon holiness, where do we turn for inspiration, for encouragement, and for strength to live out our baptismal call to holiness? We turn to Christ and His Church. In a particular way, we can focus on the saints. These many men and women are ordinary humans like us. They rose above the norms of the day, embraced the call to holiness, and lived the call to the best of their abilities until the end of their lives. In some cases, it was their courage to live the call to holiness that brought them to the end of their lives!
St. Bartholomew, whose feast day we celebrate on Aug. 24, is one such man. One of the Twelve Apostles during the time of Christ, St. Bartholomew lived a life of extraordinary holiness. Throughout the Gospels, we see him going from town to town, preaching the message of Christ. Then, according to tradition, as it is recorded in the Roman Martyrology, he was skinned alive and then crucified upside down after preaching in and around India and Great Armenia. St. Bartholomew displayed tremendous courage in the face of trial and tribulation. He serves us as an amazing example of strong faith and a real commitment to live Christ’s call — even in the face of death.
Most of us in the modern world will never face the prospect of martyrdom, as did most of the Apostles and so many of the early Christians. Our challenge is to remember that “to give your life for Christ” means to live for Him – not necessarily to accept martyrdom in witness of our faith. We have opportunities every single day to live our faith, to witness by our actions that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. As we face obstacles and challenges in this world — even in the small arenas in which most of us live our lives — we might call on the intercession of St. Bartholomew. We can look to him as an example of courage as we strive to live out our Catholic call, even when it seems incredibly difficult!
For more inspiration from St. Bartholomew and from our many brothers and sisters who have preceded us into eternal life, why not challenge yourself to become acquainted with the saints? There are volumes of stories of the ways in which people like us have met the challenges of their own lives with courage born of faith, with the many virtues in which we might grow by taking our faith seriously and keeping Christ at the center of our lives. Reading about the lives of the saints is a great way to be a good steward of your time, and meeting those who now live with the Lord can be a precious blessing in your life. Think about it!