Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 26: St. Simon the Zealot, Apostle

Saint Simon the Zealot, Apostle
By Luke and Jonathan Gomes

Zeal: Fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor.

St. Simon was called the Cananean, Kananaios or Kananites (Matthew 10; Mark 3) and the Zealot or Zealotes (Luke 6; Acts 1) because he had zeal for the Jewish law and also to distinguish him from Saint Peter. He was not from Cana as has been stated by some authors, nor a member of the Zealot party. His name occurs in all lists of the Apostles in the Gospels and Acts. After his conversion and call to the apostleship, Simon directed his zeal and fidelity to the service of Christ. Details concerning Simon's later life are uncertain and often confused. The Greeks, Copts, and Ethiopians identify him with Nathanael of Cana; the Abyssinians relate that he suffered crucifixion as Bishop of Jerusalem, after he had preached the gospel in Samaria, confusing him with Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem. According to the Greeks he preached on the Black Sea, and in Egypt, Northern Africa, and even in Britain; the Latin and Armenian traditions hold that he labored in Persia. The manner and place of his death are likewise obscure: he may have died in peace at Edessa. The Latins claim that he was martyred at Suanir in Colchis; the Armenians believed that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

Simon the Zealot was the last apostle, less deserving of praise than Simon Peter – the first apostle, the leader of all the Twelve – because we know so little about him. Simon himself was certainly not annoyed that he stood in the last place, nor did he work the less for it. He also made sacrifices and journeyed without "'gold, or silver, or money in your girdles, no wallet for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staff; for the laborer deserves his living.'" He would "'cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.'" He was neither crippled by self-pity nor paralyzed by an inferiority complex in his apostolic labors. It was this unknown Simon who carried a title with him into the lists of the apostles in the Gospels, a title that is more surprising in him than it is for any other apostle: the Zealot.

We know nothing certain, absolutely nothing certain about St. Simon's apostolic works. None of these were recorded in the Gospels, or in the Acts of the Apostles. Nor did he leave behind even a few verses of a short Epistle, such as his brother Jude wrote. Not a word was spoken to Simon, nor did he ask a single question which the evangelists recorded. Brief remarks of Thomas and Philip and Jude Thaddeus at the Last Supper were noted and remembered and written down with care for all posterity. But the Zealous Apostle’s words were not recorded in Scripture.

Simon, the unknown apostle, is the patron of the countless Christians who go through life without fame, without a name. He is the patron of the army of unknown workers in the vineyard of the Lord, who toil in the last places for the kingdom of God. He is the patron of the unknown soldiers of Christ, who struggle on the disregarded and thankless fronts. No one notices, no one praises, no one rewards this obscure and often misunderstood apostles no one except the Father, who sees through all obscurity, who understands all misjudgments.

A cross with a saw is usually his attribute, with reference to his manner of martyrdom. No record of his tomb remains. Relics are in Saint Peter's, Rome, and at Toulouse, France. He is regarded as the patron of tanners. In the West he is venerated with Saint Jude (Thaddeus) on 28 October; in the East separately on 10 May.

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