Saint Brigid Religious Education
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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
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
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.
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.