Today the church honors two unsung, and largely unknown, first Apostles: St. Simon and St. Jude, Companions of Jesus.
St. Simon the Zealot (sometimes called “Simon the Less” to distinguish him from Simon-Peter) and St. Jude (sometimes called “Jude the Obscure” because he is largely known for not being Judas Iscariot) were numbered in those first twelve apostles, saw Jesus post-resurrection, ate with him, and were sent out to preach the Gospel.
But that’s all we really know about them.
Luke is the writer who calls Simon a “Zealot,” which could mean that he was a member of the Zealot party in ancient Palestine, a radically “anti-Roman rule” faction. It’s worth highlighting that, if Simon was a Zealot, then it meant he walked with Matthew the Tax Collector in shared mission…an anti-Roman activist and pro-Roman bureaucrat working together in Jesus’ inner-circle.
Let that sink in…Jesus’ inner circle had people with diametrically opposing viewpoints…
St. Jude (who some think wrote the epistle of Jude) is sometimes called Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus in Matthew, perhaps to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.
There is a little-known apocryphal book called “The Passion of Simon and Jude” that says that St. Jude preached for a decade in Mesopotamia and that he and Simon labored in Persia together where they were martyred in tandem (hence why they are commemorated together today).
St. Simon is rumored to have been sawn in half…which is why he’s often depicted with a saw. St. Jude is often depicted with an ax because…well…you get the picture.
There is also a little fun legend about St. Jude healing the King of Edessa, and other stories about them fighting against Zoroastrianism in the ancient world.
Today, St. Jude is probably best known as being the namesake of hospitals and organizations that provide care to the most critical causes. In fact, in Roman Catholicism St. Jude is the patron saint of “hopeless causes.”
Why, you might ask?
Well, because St. Jude is so obscure and had no cultic following, Roman Catholic theologians thought that perhaps he might welcome and be attentive to the most desperate prayers.
St. Simon the Zealot is a reminder for me that the church has always had radicals within its walls, and was political from its very inception.
St. Jude is a reminder for me that sometimes the people who seem forgettable and least important become the ones we lean on the most in our most desperate hours.
-Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations helped with the historical pieces of the saints
-icons by Nowitzki Tramonto