St. Barnabas' Day is this Sunday, June 11, which means that the feast begins on Saturday at sundown. It's a special day when we remember and celebrate a true pioneer of the early church.
The first mention that we have of St. Barnabas is in the book of Acts. In Acts 4, we are told that he was a Levite born in Cyprus and that he sold a field that he owned and turned the money over to the apostles. We know that he lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. When Paul, the newly converted tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, they were afraid of him. Barnabas went before the disciples on Paul’s behalf and told them the story of Paul’s radical conversion and how Paul had committed himself to spreading the gospel.
St. Barnabas was sent to Antioch, Syria, and brought Paul with him. Together they helped lead the Christian Church in that city. The disciples in Antioch chose Barnabas and Paul to carry famine relief to the Church in Jerusalem. When they returned they were sent out on their first missionary journey. They started in Cyprus and traveled throughout Asia Minor, spreading the gospel.
While preparing for their second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas decided to go separate ways over a disagreement concerning Mark. Mark had gone on their first journey and left without completing the mission. Paul did not want to take Mark on the second journey but Barnabas did. Paul returned to the churches he and Barnabas had founded in Asia Minor. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, where Barnabas is said to be the founder of the church.
We know that Paul and Mark reconciled because Paul asks for him several times in his letters. We also know that Barnabas continued spreading the gospel and is mentioned by Paul in several of his letters. It is believed that he was martyred in Salamis in Cyprus.
Ways to Celebrate
Read Acts 4:36, 9:27,11:22-30.
Originally St. Barnabas' Day occurred during the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. His feast day was like many other feast days that reminded the people of days of importance in the agricultural calendar. It was the day in England when the farmers began to cut and dry their hay.
"Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright, the longest day and the shortest night." ~ Traditional English saying
Since St. Barnabas' Day became associated with haymaking, he is often depicted holding a hay rake. Make haystacks, a no-bake candy made with butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles that resemble stacks of hay.
To celebrate the day, the people first went to church which was decorated with garlands of roses and woodruff which is a delicate white flower that grows in the forests. and then would gather to begin the harvesting of hay. It was extremely hard work but the day would also include music, feasting, and merriment once the hard work was out of the way.
In Glastonbury, England, legend has it that there was a walnut tree in the abbey churchyard that would only bud on St. Barnabas' Day. Celebrate by making Walnut Streusel Coffee Cake.
Walnut Streusel Coffee Cake
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup butter
3⁄4 cup milk
1⁄2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1⁄2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour round layer cake pan or square 8"x 8" or 9"x 9" pan. Blend the first seven ingredients; beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, and melted butter in a small bowl. Pour half cake batter into the pan. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the batter. Pour the remaining cake batter into the pan. Top with remaining brown sugar mixture.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.