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The Missions and Deaths of the Apostles

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The Missions and Deaths of the Apostles
 

“Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he ‘has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.’ . . . [Therefore,] in situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation . . . . All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation. Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death . . .” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2471–2473). Accordingly, if a Christian were to die in a plane crash, that is not martyrdom. If a Christian were to die at the hands of a burglar, that is not martyrdom. If a Christian were to die in war, that is not martyrdom. But if a Christian were told—explicitly or implicitly—“Deny the Church,” and if the Christian were to reply—explicitly or implicitly—“No, I will not deny my Church!” and if he or she were to die because of that response, that is martyrdom. The stained-glass windows in Saint Francis of Assisi Church give a pictorial account of The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen—the first recorded Christian martyr—and The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Another window depicts the story of Saint John the Evangelist and the Miracle of the Boiling Oil. But what about the other apostles? What happened to them after the Resurrection? Here is a synopsis of each apostle’s mission and death. All were martyrs, except for Judas Iscariot, of course, and for Saint John the Evangelist, who had been entrusted to care for the Blessed Virgin. ANDREW
 
November 30, Feast
 
He was the first apostle, and the brother of Simon Peter. He is said to have been a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly in areas in modern Russia and Poland.
 
According to traditional accounts, he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, Greece on a decussate (i.e., X-shaped) cross; hence, St. Andrew’s Cross. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, in the year 60.   BARNABUS
 
June 11, Memorial
 
Although not one of the original 12 apostles, Barnabus is numbered among the first of the faithful at Jerusalem. He is noted for preaching at Antioch and for being a companion of Saint Paul and accompanying him on his first journey.
 
Barnabus was born in Cyprus, and he eventually returned there, preaching the Gospel. He was martyred c.61 at Salamis.   BARTHOLOMEW
 
August 24, Feast
 
Always mentioned in the Gospels in connection with Philip, he and Philip may have been close friends; Philip brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He is said to have preached in India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea.
 
According to traditional accounts, he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward, at Albanopolis, Armenia as punishment for having converted the King of Armenia to the Christian faith; the date is uncertain.   JAMES the greater
 
July 25, Feast
 
Son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of Saint John the Apostle. (He is called “the Greater” because he became an apostle before Saint James the Lesser.) He is said to have preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain.
 
He was the first apostle to be martyred when he was put to death in Jerusalem by the sword at the command of Herod, c.44; (Acts 12:2).   JAMES the Lesser (son of Alphaeus)
 
May 3, Feast (with Philip)
 
He was the brother of Jude Thaddeus and the first Bishop of Jerusalem.
 
He was martyred c.62 at Jerusalem by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple, then stoned and beaten with clubs and fuller’s mallets, while praying for his attackers.   JOHN the Evangelist
 
December 27, Feast
 
He was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of James the Greater. In the hour of our Lord’s Passion he stood at the foot of the cross, and Jesus made him the guardian of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is said to have founded churches in Asia Minor and baptized converts in Samaria. Traditionally, the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation have been attributed to his authorship.
 
He survived all his fellow apostles, and died c.101 in exile at Ephesus.   JUDAS Iscariot
 
He betrayed Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew (27:3–10) says he hanged himself; Luke (Acts 1:18–19) describes his death as accidental. But the theological point is that, regardless of the exact details, he died by his own actions.
 
Some persons might wonder why Judas Iscariot is included here as an apostle. Well, Christ chose him personally. And he chose him for a reason. Christ spoke clearly about being rejected outright. In John 12:48, Christ says that anyone who rejects his teachings “has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.” But Judas did not reject Christ outright; he was one of Christ’s own companions. And so he continues to be an example to those who have been baptized into life in Christ, who claim to serve Christ, and who nevertheless betray Christ through disobedience, protest, and perversion. These persons, like Judas, will receive their thirty pieces of silver as their worldly reward, all the while risking a death of everlasting separation from God as a result of their own actions.
 
And, of course, there’s one final point. Did Judas repent at the last moment? We don’t know. He could have. Reconciliation is open to anyone.   JUDAS (Jude Thaddeus)
 
October 28, Feast (with Simon)
 
His parents were Cleophas, who died a martyr, and Mary, who stood at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was the brother of James the Lesser. He is said to have preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with Saint Simon, and was renowned for exorcising demons from pagan idols.
 
It has been speculated—as hinted at by Eusebius of Caesaria (Church History, Book I, Chapter XIII)—that Jude carried the burial cloth of Jesus (now called the Shroud of Turin) to King Abgar of Edessa (now called Urfa, in Turkey). This would explain why Saint Jude is often depicted carrying a circular image of Christ—that is, the shroud when folded up into a case with a window that shows just the face. When Jude opened up the image to cure King Abgar of his illness, so it is said, both Jude and the image became radiant with light; hence the traditional flame on Saint Jude’s forehead.
 
According to traditional accounts, Jude was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded, in Persia, sometime before the end of the first century.
 

MATTHIAS
 
May 14, Feast
 
He was chosen an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21–26). He is said to have preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
 
According to traditional accounts, he was stoned to death at Colchis c.80.

 


     

PAUL, also known as Saul
 
January 25, Conversion of Paul, Apostle (Feast)
 
As a “zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Galatians 1:14), Saul “persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). It was at his feet that those who stoned Stephen laid their cloaks (Acts 7:58). But on one of his journeys of persecution, the Lord Jesus called him to repentance, and Saul experienced a profound conversion (Acts 9:1 ff.). Thereafter, he preached and founded churches throughout Asia Minor in his mission as apostle to the Gentiles.
 
As a Roman citizen, he was exempt from crucifixion, so he was beheaded with a sword, in Rome c.64.

 

PETER (Simon), also known as Cephas
 
June 29, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
 
He was the brother of Andrew, who led him to Christ. Jesus renamed him “Peter” (rock) to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. Traditionally, he has always been considered the first bishop of Rome (Pope).
 
He was crucified upside down (because he claimed he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ) in Rome c.64.

 

PHILIP
 
May 3, Feast (with James son of Alphaeus)
 
Originally a disciple of John the Baptist, he brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He is said to have preached in Asia Minor.
 
According to traditional accounts, he was martyred c.80 at Hierapolis, Phrygia.

 

SIMON the Zealot
 
October 28, Feast (with Jude)
 
Not much is known about Simon; he is said to have preached on the Black Sea, in Egypt, Northern Africa, Britain, and Persia.
 
He was martyred, but the location is uncertain; some claim that he was crucified in Samaria; others claim that he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; still others claim that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

 

THOMAS, also known as Didymus; “Doubting Thomas”
 
July 3, Feast (commemorates the celebration of the transference of his body to Edessa in Mesopotamia)
 
He is best remembered for doubting the resurrection until he was allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He is said to have preached in Parthia, Persia, and India.
 
According to traditional accounts, he was pierced through with spears by four soldiers, c.72 in India.

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