21 October 2022

Saints of the Week – St Simon and St Jude

Image: Sts Simon and Jude with the Virgin and Child by Federico Barocci

Name: Simon, the Zealot

Born: 1st Century AD;, Galilee

Died: c. 65AD; Armenia

Feast Day: 28th October

Symbol: Saw, lance, boat

Patron Saint of: Tanners

Name: Judas (Jude) Thaddeus

Born: 1st Century AD; Galilee

Died: c 65AD; Armenia

Feast Day: 28th October

Symbol: Club, axe, boat

Patron Saint of: Lost or desperate causes

Jesus sent out the apostles in pairs (cf. Mark 6:7), and just as the apostles Peter and Paul share a feast day, so too do the apostles Saints Simon and Jude. One tradition holds that they were joint missionaries throughout Persia (Armenia) where they were martyred, and hence share the same feast day. Of all the apostles, the Gospels tell us virtually nothing about Simon and Jude other than listing their names among the twelve apostles. To make matters worse, both of them are subject to confusion since the twelve apostles include two Simons and two Judases.

The better-known Simon is ‘Simon, Son of Jonah’ to whom Jesus gives the name Peter (the Gospels frequently called him Simon-Peter precisely to avoid confusion). The Gospels refer to Simon as ‘the Zealot’. There is debate as to whether this means Simon was formerly a member of the Jewish party of Zealots, who were the ‘Maccabees’ of the first century in their zeal for the preservation of the Jewish State against Roman occupation. The Zealots were known to be willing to resort to violence in their concern to defend the Jewish faith and practises from the encroaching Roman paganism. It’s possible (but not certain) that Simon was a member of this party prior to his call to become a disciple. In any case it’s clear Simon had a deep zeal for the Christian faith of which he became an apostle, and for which he laid down his life. One tradition holds that he was sawn in two, hence the attribute of the saw in artistic representations of St Simon.

Among the twelve Apostles the better known of the two Judases is Judas Iscariot who would betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. On account of the dishonour Judas Iscariot gave to his name, the other Judas became known as ‘Jude’ to differentiate the faithful apostle from the unfaithful one. In spite of his obscurity Jude wrote one of the letters of the New Testament. The Epistle of Jude is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible: a letter consisting of one chapter and 25 verses. Jude’s epistle also demonstrates a holy zeal for the Christian faith which he defends with great vehemence against the enemies of Christ.

“Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. …But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

(Jude 1:3,17-21)

Religious zeal is a virtue that is rarely spoken of today. Sometimes it’s even presumed that being too zealous is a fault: that we shouldn’t be too insistent in defending religious or moral truths. In our topsy-turvy world those who are ‘tolerant’ of people’s sins and false religious ideas are considered virtuous! However, it’s very clear from reading Jude’s epistle and moreover studying the lives and writings of all the apostles that they were anything but indifferent to sin and error. Their hearts burned with a holy zeal that we see exemplified in the life of Christ himself (“zeal for my Father’s house will consume me” John 2:17). If anything, Christians today struggle with the opposite extreme: lukewarmness and religious indifferentism. Through the intercession of the holy Apostles, Simon and Jude, we pray to be inflamed by the love of God, with a holy zeal for the salvation of souls, including our own!

Saints Simon and Jude; pray for us!