Saint of the Day – 16 July – Blessed Bartholomew of the Martyrs or St Bartholomew of Braga O.P. ArchBishop of Braga (1514-1590) – Portuguese Dominican Friar and Priest, Writer, Theologian, Advisor, Teacher and Catechetical writer, Apostle of Charity founding a series of hospitals and hospices in Braga and surrounds – born as Bartolomeu Fernandes on 3 May 1514 in Lisbon, Portugal and died on 16 July 1590 in the monastery of Viana do Castelo, Minho, Portugal of natural causes. Patronage – Archdiocese of Braga.
Blessed Bartholomew was born near Lisbon on 3 May 1514 to Domingos Fernandes and Maria Correia. He was baptised mere hours after, in the local parish church of Nossa Senhora dos Mártires.
He entered the Order of Preachers on 11 November 1527 and later made his solemn profession into the order on 20 November 1529. On the completion of his own studies in 1538 he taught philosophical studies in the Convent of the Order at Lisbon and then for about two decades taught theological studies in the various houses of the Dominicans. In 1551 he received his Master’s degree at the provincial chapter of Salamanca in Spain. He also served as the prior of the Benfica Convent from 1557 to 1558 and was in Évora as a teacher from 1538 until 1557.
During the course of teaching theological studies at the Batalha Convent, he was summoned to Évora at the request of Luis of Portugal, Duke of Beja to undertake the religious education of his son who was entering the ecclesiastical life himself. He dedicated a great deal of his time to this task.
In 1558 – against his own desires – and out of obedience to his provincial superior (the Venerable Louis of Granada (1505-1588) he accepted the appointment to the Archepiscopal see of Braga for which Queen Catherine had chosen him and in 1559 received his episcopal consecration at the Convent of Saint Dominic on 3 September 1559 from the Bishop of Coimbra João Soares. In actual fact it was Luis of Grenada who was initially nominated to become the Archbishop though Luis urged the queen to select Fernandes instead. Pope Paul IV confirmed this appointment in the papal bull “Gratiae divinae praemium” on 27 January 1559. He devoted himself to the duties of his new office with his installation in his Archdiocese on 4 October 1559.
On the resumption of the Council of Trent in 1561, the Archbishop repaired to the Council and took part in the last sessions. He made a total of 268 suggestions at the council and collaborated with Saint Charles Borromeo. There was also one instance in which he pushed for the defense of a certain topic and opposed view of the Archbishop of Toledo Bartolomé Carranza. He was esteemed and held in high regard among the Council Fathers both on the account of his theological learning and the holiness of his life. Bartholomew exercised great influence in the discussions and more so with regard to the decrees on the reform of ecclesiastical life and development. The conclusion of that council saw him return to Braga in February 1564 and in 1566 he held an important provincial gathering of the diocese, in which decrees were passed for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline and the elevation of the moral life of priests and people (“Concilium provinciale Bracarense quartum” in 1567). As Archbishop, Bartholomew now devoted himself to the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent in addition to the decrees of his own provincial synod.
A great famine and a visitation of the plague, revealed the depths of his charitable and merciful nature, in addition to his willingness to aid his flock in their time of need; he also constructed a series of hospitals and hospices.
He made repeated requests to resign from his episcopal see and received papal permission from Pope Gregory XIII on 20 February 1582 to resign and withdraw to the Dominican Convent at Viana do Castelo where he lived in solitude for the remainder of his life but also serving as a teacher for some time.
Blessed Bartholomew died at Viana do Castelo on 16 July 1590.
The sainthood process commenced under Pope Benedict XIV on 11 September 1754 and he was titled as a Servant of God while Pope Gregory XVI later named him as Venerable on 23 May 1845. St Pope John Paul II Beatified Bartholomew in Saint Peter’s Square on 4 November 2001. Pope Francis – on 20 January 2016 – authorised the C.C.S. to work towards the Equipollent Canonization of the late archbishop and authorised that the second miracle required for his Canonization be waived as a result. It is probable that Blessed Bartholomew will be Canonised soon.
Blessed Bartholomew’s writings have been republished on numerous occasions and have also been translated into several languages. A collective edition is: “Opera omnia cura et studio Malachiae d’Inguinbert, archiepisc. Theodos.” (1 vol. Fol. In 2 parts, Rome, 1734–35).