On Thursday, June 11 the Church will celebrate the feast day of St. Barnabas, one of the original 72 disciples who worked to convert the Gentiles.
St. Barnabas was a Levite Jew from the island of Cyprus. Although his original name was Joseph, the Apostles gave him the name Barnabas, meaning "son of exhortation," after his conversion.
Barnabas is traditionally believed to have been one of Christ’s 72 disciples, and lived among the Apostles as a successful preacher in the early Church. Luke describes him in the Acts of the Apostles as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:24).
Barnabas acted as mediator between St. Paul and the Apostles after Paul’s conversion, helping the early Church to see the authenticity of his conversion and accept him despite his past as a persecutor of Christians.
Later, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to investigate the conversions of the Gentiles there. He and Paul spent a year instructing the Church in Antioch. After this, he travelled with Paul to preach the Gospel in many cities including Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Although faced with opposition and even persecution, they succeeded in converting many more on this journey, and organized churches in these areas.
At the Council of Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul testified on their work of converting Gentiles and the experience of the new converts, as the early Church debated whether it was necessary for Gentile converts to first become Jewish and be circumcised before being accepted as Christians. The Council ultimately agreed that such measures were not imperative.
When Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit their missions, they strongly disagreed on whether John Mark, another disciple and previous deserter, should be allowed to accompany them. As a result of their disagreement, Paul and Barnabas separated. Barnabas travelled with John Mark to preach in Cyprus.
Little is known about the later life of Barnabas. He is believed to have been stoned to death in Salamis in the year 61.