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Who Was St. Barnabas?

St. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus who, with St. Paul, was an apostle to the gentiles. We know that when Paul, who had been a persecutor of Christians, was converted and wanted to join Jesus’ followers, the disciples were understandably skeptical about Paul. It was Barnabas who advocated for him and encouraged others to forgive him.

A major debate in the early Church was whether or not gentiles had to be circumcised and observe Jewish law before they could become Christians. Barnabas was instrumental in reaching an agreement that gentiles did not have to be circumcised, but were to keep dietary laws, thus preserving the community.

Because he was a reconciler who found ways to keep the community together, Barnabas was known as the “son of encouragement” and sometimes as the patron saint of second chances.

His feast day is celebrated on June 11.