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Saints Simon and Jude: A grisly end for Simon?

Saints Simon and Jude: A grisly end for Simon?

St. Simon Zelotes holding a book and St. Jude Thaddaeus / National Library of the Netherlands

By Jonah McKeown

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 28, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

October 28 marks the feast day of Saints Simon and Jude, early followers of Christ who according to tradition both died as martyrs while spreading the faith together in Persia.

The apostle Jude, who is also identified in the Gospels by the name Thaddeus, preached the Gospel in many areas of the ancient world after being sent out by Jesus — in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia.

Jude is identified as the brother of another apostle, James the Lesser, and thus is also a close relative of Jesus, likely a cousin. The name “Thaddeus” may have been given to him to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, the traitor of Jesus.

Because of his endurance through adversity, St. Jude is, among other things, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

The apostle Simon honored today is not the Simon who later became St. Peter. Simon was a common name in ancient Israel, and this Simon had an epithet — “the Zealot’’— to distinguish him from Simon Peter, and to denote his zeal for the Christian faith. All four Gospels mention him, but not too much more is known about him for certain.

According to a hagiography, Simon, a Jew, earned the name “Zealot” after his conversion to Christianity because he was “zealous for the honor of his Master, and exact in all the duties of the Christian religion; and showed a pious indignation toward those who professed this holy faith with their mouths, but dishonored it by the irregularity of their lives.”

Father Alban Butler’s hagiography says that “those who mention the manner of his death say he was crucified.” In contrast, the 4th-century Eastern figure St. Basil the Great says he died in upper Mesopotamia, peacefully.

But another tradition suggests a different, but just as grisly end — Simon the Zealot was said to have been martyred by being cut in half with a saw, a tool he is often depicted with. Other depictions in Catholic art show the saint actively being sawed in half lengthwise.

Today, relics of Sts. Simon and Jude rest under the St. Joseph altar in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.




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