There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36,37.
The text above is the first reference made in the Bible about Saint Barnabas. He was a Jew from the tribe of the Levites (a priestly clan). After Saint Paul’s conversion, Barnabas was responsible for introducing him to the other Apostles and they were both sent later as missionaries by the church in Jerusalem. Their ministry was focussed on the non Jews and both became the first defenders of a more inclusive church, fighting against the narrow and strict approach of some Jewish Christians. Later, Saint Barnabas’ generosity of heart caused him to part ways with Paul, as the latter didn’t want to accept the company of John Mark who had abandoned them in a previous missionary journey. Saint Barnabas was martyred in the year 61 AD at Salamis, where a monastery was built in his name. St Barnabas is venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprus, and his feast day martyrdom is celebrated on 11 June.
Collect for the Feast of St Barnabas
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts, who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas and gave him grace to encourage others: help us, by his example, to be generous in our judgements and unselfish in our service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.