Shortly after learning that I was to become the new Director of the St Barnabas Society I decided that I would make a short pilgrimage to northern Cyprus to visit the tomb of the saint and to pray there. I had been there once before but this time my visit had a special significance. I felt very strongly that I wanted the hand of St Barnabas upon my shoulder as I began the important work which lay ahead for me and so it seemed right and fitting to visit the place where he had lived, proclaimed the Gospel, suffered martyrdom and was buried.
The little chapel built over the tomb of St Barnabas is beautiful in its simplicity. Within it you descend 14 steps to the cave where his body was hidden by his friends after his death. It is thought to have been part of the original necropolis of Salamis, the place where his martyrdom occurred. Barnabas was born in Salamis and later became its Archbishop. He was eventually arrested there and imprisoned in a synagogue until a mob broke in, dragged him into the streets and stoned him to death. Tradition has it that his body was wrapped in a sheet, hidden in some marshland and eventually disposed of in the sea. His cousin John Mark (the Evangelist) and some converted slaves managed to retrieve it and give it the burial that it deserved. It is said that John Mark placed a copy of St Matthew’s Gospel upon the chest of Barnabas before he was laid in the earth.
Our Society has a wonderful patron in St Barnabas and his faith and selfless service to Christ and his Church is a constant inspiration for us. Most important of all, he was the friend and companion of St Paul and therefore of huge significance to those who are converts. This year’s London Festival will take place on his feast day – June 11th – and I hope that this is a tradition which will now continue. Monsignor James Curry is kindly allowing us to use the beautiful church of Our Lady of Victories, Kensington High Street, for a Solemn Pontifical Mass at 6:30pm at which The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, will be the principal celebrant and homilist. Please put that date into your diary now and help us to make it a wonderful celebration of the life and witness of St Barnabas and of the Society which is now privileged to bear his name.
St Barnabas – pray for us.