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We know nothing certain about the home of the apostle Simon. Matthew and Mark called him "The Cananean," most probably to distinguish him, not only from Simon Peter, but also from many others with the same name at that time. This led many, even St Jerome, to assume that Simon came from Cana. Little is know about the family of this apostle, yet there are reasons to believe that he was a "brother of the Lord." Both Matthew and Mark mentioned a Simon as the brother of Jesus. When Christ returned to Nazareth and began teaching in the synagogues, the astonished people queried, "Is not this the carpenter..., the brother of James, Joseph, Jude and Simon?" This assumption is supported by Hegesippus' statement that a Simon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, was a son of Clopas, the brother of the foster father St Joseph. Following this supposition, one may conclude that the apostle James, Jude, and Simon were "brethren" of Christ, either close or distant cousins.

In the lists of the apostles, all three Synoptic gospels mentioned a Simon together with James and Jude. The calling of the apostle Simon has not been recorded. He stood among the crowd of disciples on the mountain when the Lord chose the Twelve. Simon stared with large, astonished eyes when our Lord called from the crowd of men a Simon, the first to follow Jesus, then the noble Andrew, then the ardent James, then the brave John. His biggest surprise was yet to come. The Messiah called his brother James. This was an undreamed of honor for the family. And what was more, he immediately called his brother Jude. With dignity they walked past their younger brother, Simon, who beamed with pride and glowed with joy. Then men surrounded Jesus as ten diamonds adorn a crown. Would the Lord call any others? If so, whom would He choose? And Christ said, "Simon." Simon was confused. He hesitated. Then he was embarrassed. There were many there named Simon. And Jesus repeated, "Simon," and hesitating, added, "the Zealot." Simon the Zealot? An unbelieving surprise and astonishment ran through the crowd as "the Cananean" approached the group around the Lord. Matthew and Mark placed Simon as the eleventh one on their list of the apostles. Only Judas Iscariot came after him.

We know nothing certain, absolutely nothing certain about Simon's apostolic works. None of these were recorded in the Gospels, or in the Acts of the Apostles. But it seems the zealous apostle had only a silent role to play in the circle around Christ.

Simon, after the death of his oldest brother, James, in the year 62, succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem. The first account states that this apostle held his office for twenty-three years; the second, for twenty-six years. He preached, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand!". 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.

An account of Hegesippus revealed that Simon was martyred under Trajan in the year 107 at the age of a hundred and twenty. It is not probable that this account is very accurate. If it were, Simon would have lived three years longer than John, whom tradition has long recognized as the last apostle to die. Most of the conflicting reports of Simon's death named crucifixion as the manner of martyrdom. Other traditions maintained that Simon became a martyr by being sawed to pieces.

The real beauty of this apostle's life lies in this very fact, that he could be so actively zealous and still remain so unknown, so that Christ alone was known and remembered. For this he is known all the more in heaven. Simon's special grace was to persevere in Christ, as Christ increased and he decreased.

The relics of this apostle Simon have been preserved in the Vatican. But who of the hundred of thousands of thousands who visit St Peter's in Rome think of Simon, the unknown apostle


St. Simonís feast day is Oct. 28.

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