Today is the feast day of Saint Simon and Saint Jude. Orate pro nobis.
Saint Simon is surnamed the Cananean or Zelotes in the Holy Scriptures, words which both mean “the Zealous.” Some have mistakenly thought that the first of these names was meant to imply that St. Simon was born at Cana in Galilee. The name refers to his zeal for the Jewish law before his call, and does not necessarily mean that he was one of that particular party among the Jews called Zealots. No mention of him appears in the Gospels beyond that he was chosen among the Apostles. With the rest he received the Holy Ghost, but of his life after Pentecost we have no information whatever; but the Western tradition recognized in the Roman liturgy is that, after preaching in Egypt, he joined St. Jude from Mesopotamia and that they went as missionaries for some years to Persia, suffering Martyrdom there. They are accordingly commemorated together.
The Apostle Jude, also called Thaddeus (or Lebbeus), “the brother of James”, is usually regarded as the brother of St. James the Less. It is not known when and by what means he became a disciple of Christ, nothing having been said of him in the Gospels before we find him enumerated among the Apostles. After the Last Supper, when Christ promised to manifest Himself to His hearers, St. Jude asked Him why He did not manifest Himself to the rest of the world; and Christ answered that He and the Father would visit all those who love Him, “we will come to him, and will make our abode with him” [John 14:22-23]. The history of St. Jude after our Lord’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Ghost is as unknown as that of St. Simon. Jude’s name is borne by one of the canonical epistles, which has much in common with the second epistle of St. Peter. It is not addressed to any particular church or person, and in it he urges the faithful to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints. “For certain men are secretly entered in . . . ungodly men, turning the grace of our Lord God into riotousness, and denying the only sovereign ruler and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to Western tradition St. Jude was Martyred with St. Simon in Persia. (1)
Saint Simon and Saint Jude
(by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876)
St. Simon, whose festival the Catholic Church commemorates to-day, was surnamed the Cananaean or Canaanite, because he was born at Cana, a town in Galilee. In this town, Jesus wrought his first miracle, by changing water into wine, as is known from the Gospel. Nicephorus and some others are of opinion, that Simon was the bridegroom whose wedding our Lord and His holy Mother honored with their presence, but that he afterwards left his bride with her consent and followed Christ. St. Jude, the brother of Simon, is called Thaddseus to distinguish him from the other Jude or Judas’ who betrayed and sold the Lord. According to Nicephorus, Mary Cleophas was their mother, and James the Less their brother. Other writers say that Simon and Jude were not brothers. The Gospel tells us that both Simon and Jude were chosen by Christ as Apostles; but when or under what circumstances this took place, is not recorded, nor have any particulars of their words and actions been left us. There is, however, not the slightest doubt that they, as all the others, constantly followed the Saviour, and although they forsook Him when He was taken prisoner, they had, after His resurrection the grace to see Him frequently, to be present at His Ascension, and to receive the Holy Ghost on Pentecost.
When, later, the Apostles separated to preach the Gospel, St. Simon went to Egypt and St. Jude to Mesopotamia. Both however, were also in other lands, to preach the word of Christ, and after thus spending 30 years in apostolic labors, they met again, by divine dispensation, in Persia. On their arrival in this land, they found the Persian army in the field; for the King had declared war against India, and was in the act of marching against it. Baradach, the general in chief, had offered many sacrifices to the gods, desiring to know the issue of the war; but no answer was given, which had always been given before, as the Evil spirits spoke through the idols. Hence Baradach, amazed at such unusual silence, sent to another idol which was kept in a place far from the camp, and desired to know the reason of it. Satan, answering through it, said, that the presence of two Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ was the cause of the silence of the gods, as the power of these two Apostles was so great, that not one of the gods, until now so greatly honored, dared to appear before them.
Baradach, having received this answer, had the two Apostles brought before him. He met them with great manifestations of respect and listened to them while they spoke to him of the nothingness of the gods which he worshipped. As he was desirous to know the issue of the war, they made use of the occasion to show him how false were the words of the idols and hence how groundless was the notion of their divinity. They bade him propose his questions to the idols, through the magicians as usual, and told him that they would give his gods permission to speak. The magicians were ordered to ask the gods, and returned with the answer, that the result would be a long, bloody, and disastrous war. The Apostles having heard this, said to Baradach: “Now, great prince, recognize the falsity and the deceit as well of your magicians as of your gods. A deputation of the Indians will arrive to-morrow, at this hour, in your camp, to request peace of you on whatever conditions you may choose to prescribe.” Baradach, surprised at these words, awaited with great impatience the following day. At the very hour the Apostles had foretold, the Indian embassy came humbly begging for peace, which was forthwith concluded.
This event was reported to the king, who resided at Babylon. He called the Apostles into his presence, listened with great attention to their words, and after having been sufficiently instructed in Christianity, was baptized by his holy teachers. The example of the king was followed by the whole court and a great part of the city. After this, the holy men went through the other towns and villages of the kingdom, everywhere preaching the mysteries and truths of the Christian faith. Many thousands became converts, only the magicians and fortune-tellers remained in their blindness, and seeing, with deep resentment, that they were everywhere despised and derided, they sought means to kill the holy Apostles. To this end, they excited the inhabitants of a town, which was far distant from the residence of the king, against the Saints, who had no sooner arrived there than thay were seized and dragged, the one before an idol of the sun, the other before that of the moon, and were commanded to offer incense. The holy men refused to comply with so wicked a demand, saying that they sacrificed only to the true God; after which they began to preach the Gospel. But the furious Pagans refused to listen to them, and in their rage, cut St. Simon asunder with a saw, and beheaded St. Jude. In this manner these two holy Apostles ended their lives and earned the glorious crown of martyrdom.
I cannot pass over in silence an event which took place while St. Simon and St. Jude preached the Gospel. The daughter of a noble Persian became the mother of a child, and said that a deacon of the Apostles was its father. The truth of this was not doubted, and the deacon was brought before the king. The holy Apostles, knowing that he was innocent, went to the king, and desired that the parents of the slanderer and the child should be summoned. When they appeared, one of the Saints asked the infant, in the presence of the king and the parents, whether the deacon was its father. The child answered loudly and distinctly: “No! the deacon is innocent.” The king and all present thanked and praised the Almighty who had so miraculously saved His servant. The parents, begging pardon of the latter, as well as of the Apostles, requested that the child should be asked who was its father, but the Apostles said. ” We come not to accuse the guilty, but to protect the innocent:” This great miracle was not only instrumental in increasing the esteem in which the holy Apostles were held, but was also the means of converting many heathens, and strengthening the faith of those who had already embraced Christianity.
It has further to be remarked that we have, in Holy Writ from the pen of St. Jude, a short but powerful Epistle, in which he admonishes the faithful to guard themselves against those who, having forsaken the true Church, preach heresy; to remain constant in their faith, and to practise diligently all virtues, especially charity, chastity and purity. Luther rejected this Epistle from Holy Writ, though St. Augustine had counted it among the inspired books more than a thousand years before, and also several Councils had declared it canonical. Without doubt Luther was actuated by the fact that he, and such as he, are painted with living colors in the same Epistle.
In the life of St. Bernard we find that this Saint had a particular devotion to St. Jude. He received, with extraordinary joy and veneration, the relics of this holy Apostle which were sent to him, and, on his death-bed, he requested that they should be laid on his breast and be buried with him. (2)
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee (Gradual of the Feast from Ps. 44: 17). Thus does the Church, disowned by Israel, extol in Her chants the apostolic fruitfulness which resides in Her till the end of time. Now, as St. Paul more than once repeats, especially in the Epistle of the Feast, this supernatural generation of the saints is nothing else but the mystical reproduction of the Son of God, Who grows up in each of the elect from infancy to the measure of the perfect man (Gal. 4: 19 and the Epistle of the Feast—Eph. 4).
However meager in details be the history of these glorious Apostles, we learn from their brief lesson how amply they contributed to this great work of generating sons of God. Without any repose, and even to the shedding of their blood, they edified the Body of Christ; and the grateful Church thus prays to Our Lord today: “O God, Who by means of Thy Blessed Apostles Simon and Jude hast granted us to come to the knowledge of Thy Name; grant that we may celebrate their eternal glory by making progress in virtues, and improve by this celebration” (Collect of the Feast).
St. Simon is represented in art with a saw, the instrument of his martyrdom. The carpenter’s square of St. Jude points him out as an architect of the house of God (and as a blood relative of the carpenter, St. Joseph. He is also pictured holding an image of Jesus—known as the “Holy Mandylion” of Edessa. The ancient historian Eusebius tells us that Agbar, the King of Edessa, had sent a messenger to Our Lord Jesus Christ begging Him to come and heal him of a serious ailment. Our Lord gave the reply that He would send someone later to assist the king. After the Ascension St. Jude brought a cloth bearing an image of Jesus to Agbar, by which he was healed and converted. Some modern historians believe the Mandylion to be identical with the Shroud of Turin). St. Paul called himself by this name (“builder” or “architect”—1 Cor. 3: 10); and St. Jude, by his Catholic Epistle, has also a special right to be reckoned among Our Lord’s principal workmen. But the Apostle had another nobility, far surpassing all earthly titles: being nephew, by his father Cleophas or Alpheus, to St. Joseph, and legal cousin to the Man-God, St. Jude was one of those called by their compatriots the brethren of the Carpenter’s Son (according to the most common opinion, these “brethren” were St. Jude, St. James the Less—Apostle and first Bishop of Jerusalem, a certain Joseph less known, and St. Simeon, second Bishop of Jerusalem, all sons of Cleophas and Our Lady’s step-sister, who is called in the Gospel of St. John “Mary of Cleophas”).
We may gather from St. John’s Gospel another precious detail concerning St. Jude. In the admirable discourse at the close of the Last Supper, Our Lord said: “He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Then St. Jude asked Him: “Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world?” And he received from Jesus this reply: “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words. And the word which you have heard is not mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14: 21-24).
Ecclesiastical history informs us that, towards the end of his reign and when the persecution he had raised was at its height, Domitian caused to be brought to him from the East two grandsons of the Apostle St. Jude. He had some misgivings with regard to these descendants of David’s royal line; for they represented the family of Christ Himself, Whom His disciples declared to be King of the whole world. Domitian was able to assure himself that these two humble Jews could in no way endanger the Empire; and that if they attributed to Christ sovereign power, it was a power not to be visibly exercised till the end of the world. The simple and courageous language of these two men made such an impression on the Emperor, that, according to the historian Hegesippus from whom Eusebius borrowed the narrative, he gave orders for the persecution to be suspended.
We have only to add to the brief lesson for the Feast of the Apostles, that the Churches of St. Peter in Rome and Saint-Sernin in Toulouse dispute the honor of possessing the greater part of their holy relics:
St. Simon, surnamed the Chanaanite and the zealot; and St. Thaddeus, the writer of one of the Catholic Epistles, who is also called in the Gospel Jude the brother of James, preached the Gospel, the former in Egypt, the latter in Mesopotamia. They rejoined each other in Persia, where they begot numerous children to Jesus Christ, and spread the Faith among the barbarous inhabitants of that vast region. By their teaching and miracles, and finally by a glorious martyrdom, they both rendered great honor to the Most Holy Name of Jesus Christ.
I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and your fruit should remain (John 15: 16). These words were addressed by the Man-God to you, Ss. Simon and Jude, as well as to all the Twelve, as the Church reminds us in the office of Matins. And yet, what remains now of the fruit of your labors in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in Persia? Can Our Lord and His Church be mistaken in their words, or in their appreciations? Certainly not; and proof sufficient is that above the region of the senses, and beyond the domain of history, the power infused into the Twelve Apostles subsists through all ages, and is active in every supernatural birth that develops the Mystical Body of Our Lord and increases the Church. We, more truly than Tobias, are the children of Saints (Tob. 2: 18); we are no longer strangers, but the family of God, His house built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, united by Jesus, the chief Corner-stone (Eph. 2: 19-20). All thanks be to you two Holy Apostles, who in labor and sufferings procured us this blessing; maintain in us the titles and the rights of this precious adoption.
Great evils surround us: is there any hope left to the world? The confidence of thy devout clients proclaims thee, O St. Jude, the patron of desperate cases; and for thee, O St. Simon, this is surely the time to prove thyself a zealot—full of zeal. Deign, both of you, to hear the Church’s prayers; and aid Her with all your apostolic might, to re-animate the Faith, to rekindle charity, and to save the world. (3)
Image: Detail von: Antependium, Straßburg um 1410; Wolle, Leinen, Seide; Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Inv. Nr. 6810 (7)
Research by REGINA Staff