Saint of the Day – 27 October – Blessed Bartholomew OP (c 1200–1271) Bishop, Confessor, Dominican Friar, renowned Preacher, Defender of the Faith, Writer, Theologian, diplomatic peacemaker – also known as Bartholomew of Braganza – born in c 1200 in Vicenza, Italy and died there in 1271.
Bartholomew was born in the city of Vicenza to the noble family of di Braganca. He studied at Padua, receiving there the habit of the recently founded Order from the hands of St Dominic himself, at about the age of twenty. Immediately after his ordination, he was sent to Lombardy to preach against the heretics who were leading others away from the true faith. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.
He was so effective in this, that the Holy Father, Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome and appointed him Master of the Sacred Palace (the Papal Theologian), which is an office traditionally held by Dominicans. Because of the differing needs of the Church, the following Pope, Innocent IV, appointed him to become a bishop on the Island of Cyprus. For most men, such an appointment is an honour and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus.
Already having become a friend of St Louis the King of France, Bl Bartholomew renewed this friendship as St Louis went through Cyprus on his way to Egypt during the Seventh Crusade (1248). In 1254, he was sent as legate to the courts of England and France and as Henry III of England was, at that time, in his realm in the Aquitaine, Bartholomew travelled there towards the close of that year, then accompanied the English king and queen to Paris. He was, on this occasion, presented by the King of France with a relic of the true Cross and a thorn from Jesus’ Crown of Thorns, worn at His Crucifixion. These he afterwards placed in the beautiful Dominican Church built by him at Vicenza which is known as the Church of the Crown.
Two years later, in order to ensure the presence of so distinguished a prelate at his own court, Pope Alexander IV made him Bishop of Vicenza, his native city. During his tenure of that see, Bartholomew was subject to the hostility of the local ruler Ezzelino III, a Ghibelline who was noted for the brutality of his rule and who was a strong opponent of Papal power. But in Vicenza, he not only continued to preach the truths of the faith and free the local Church from the errors of the Manicheans but he also established such a sense of peace that the people asked him to become their temporal ruler as well. He rightfully declined but this shows the great virtue that he not only had but also, that he instilled in his people.
He was venerated by the people and, according to the Bollandists, has always been honoured with the title of “Blessed”. In recognition of this, he was formally Beatified in 1793. He wrote commentaries on Scripture, was the reputed author of a commentary on the “Hierarchy” of St Dionysius the Areopagite, of two volumes of sermons and some smaller works.
O God, who made Blessed Bartholomew, Your Confessor and Bishop, wonderful in leading the enemies of the faith from the darkness of error to the light of truth and in bringing back multitudes to peace and concord, grant, through his intercession, that Your peace, which passes all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with You forever and ever.
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