11th June. Saint Barnabas

There is something special about the quiet saints. In the Acts of the Apostles first Peter and then Paul take centre stage in the early Church. But it is people like Barnabas, and many others we never hear of, who fill in all the vital ‘behind the scenes’ roles. Barnabas’ main role, in the story, is getting St. Paul underway. Paul knows he is different. A persecutor of Christians once, feared still by some, probably not trusted by some in Jerusalem who remembered his previous life, a trained Pharisee, he disappears off the scene for a while. But Barnabas believes in him and goes off to drag him out of seclusion, and brings him to Antioch, a big Christian community by the standards of the time, where Paul really gets going. Those years with Barnabas were vital to Paul as he settled into a Christian community for the first time. With Barnabas and his relative Mark they head off on their first journey. Paul was undoubtedly not an easy man, and soon there is a row because Paul has no time for Barnabas’ relative, as he makes clear, diplomacy not always being his strong suit, and they part ways. Barnabas is hardly heard of again, except in legend and goes back to his home of Cyprus. For me saints like Barnabas stand for all those who work away quietly doing great work, bearing the brunt of the go-getters often, but without them little would happen. He reminds me of what a Salesian sister, once said to me, laughing as she did I must add, about her brother Salesians. The men go in to start things off, then we go in to tidy up after them.

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