By Colleen Pressprich
The apostles were a group of 12 men chosen by Jesus Christ to carry out His mission and lead His Church. Each man was individually and personally picked by Jesus, so it’s worth knowing a little bit about each man, though some are more obscure than others.
Originally named Simon, Peter was the leader of the band of apostles. A fisherman by trade, Jesus re-named him Peter, which means “rock.” Peter was the first to say that Jesus was the Messiah and is listed as the first Pope.
Andrew was Peter’s brother and a fellow fisherman. He was the first apostle called and brought Simon to meet Jesus. According to tradition, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece.
St. James the Greater
St. James the Greater was the brother of St. John. The two together were called “Sons of Thunder” which probably means they were passionate and had fiery personalities. St. James, along with Sts. John and Peter, was present at the Transfiguration. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred.
The brother of St. James, John is credited with writing the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. He is known as the “Beloved Disciple” and was the only one of the apostles to stand with Jesus at the foot of the cross.
We don’t know much about St. Phillip other than where he came from- a town called Bethsaida. After being called by Jesus, the first thing he does is call Bartholomew to come too. In the Gospel of John, Jesus questions Phillip before he feeds the 5,000.
Bartholomew is also known as Nathanael. When called by Phillip to come and see Jesus he replies, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Tradition tells us that he traveled to India after the Ascension. There are several different versions of his martyrdom; the most prominent is that he was flayed alive.
Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector, a very reviled profession, before meeting Jesus. In fact, Jesus called him from his work at the Customs House. The Gospel that bears his name was probably not written by him directly. It is thought he preached the Gospel throughout Judea before traveling to Ethiopia where he was martyred.
Popularly known as “Doubting Thomas,” he is famous for refusing to believe the story of the resurrection, only to them exclaim “My Lord, my God” upon seeing Jesus. Tradition states that he traveled to India and preached extensively there, and the Syro-Malabar Rite within the Catholic Church claims him.
St. James the Lesser
St. James the Lesser was given that name to distinguish him from St. James the Greater. He was also known as St. James the Just. He became the head of the Church in Jerusalem, remaining there when the other apostles left the city to evangelize the world. He was martyred there in the year 62.
Also known as Thaddeus, St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. He was martyred alongside another apostle, St. Simon the Zealot, in Beirut. When their remains were brought to Rome, the two were interred together in St. Peter’s. The two also share a feast day.
St. Simon the Zealot
St. Simon the Zealot was a member of a radical political party before being chosen as an apostle. He and St. Jude traveled together until their deaths in Beirut. He is one of the most obscure of the apostles.
Judas is the apostle who betrayed Jesus to his death. Feeling great guilt about this, he returned the gold to the Jewish leaders and hung himself.
After the betrayal and death of Judas, the apostles cast lots to replace him and chose St. Matthias. This is described in the Book of Acts. According to Acts, Matthias had been a follower of Jesus since his baptism.
Colleen Pressprich is the author of The Women Doctors of the Church and Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children. She is a homeschooling mom of five kids and lives with her family in Michigan. You can find more of her writing and order her books at elevatortoheaven.com.