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The Men of the Roman Canon
In the Gospel passage from the Liturgy today, we hear the listing of the Twelve Apostles in Luke 6.
“Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.” Luke 6:12-19
And THEN on Saturday, a few days from now, we will be celebrating the Memorials of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, two early Roman saints. The twelve apostles (minus Judas) and other Roman martyrs are listed in the First Eucharistic Prayer.
Who are they?
In Communion with Those Whose Memory We Venerate
In the Roman Canon, the First Eucharistic Prayer, in the section called the Communicantes, we are reminded of our communion with the Apostles and Martyrs. After the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph are mentioned, then many Saints are mentioned. Here is the context, in full:
“In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)”
Peter and Paul
In the next few phrases, we will explore the lives and impact of several apostles and martyrs. The first two to be listed are St. Peter and St. Paul.
The first martyr to be listed is St. Peter, whose name was once Simon. He was the son of a fisherman and was called to be an Apostle of Jesus along with his brother Andrew and his friend Philip. St. Peter was with Jesus all throughout His public ministry. St. Peter did not always say and do the right things. However, he was zealous, faithful, firm in his faith, and loved the Lord. He also speaks on behalf of the other Apostles at times when the Lord asks them a question.
Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter (Aramaic: Cephas meaning “Rock) and says that he is the Rock on which Jesus would found His Church. He becomes the first Pope. He is the chief among the Apostles. He is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven by our Lord and given the authority: “… whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt 16:19b).” Before the Passion, in weakness, Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet, after the Resurrection, he was given special commission to feed and defend Jesus’ flock after he three times declared his love for the Master.
Son of a Roman citizen, St. Paul was a Pharisee and persecutor of the early Christian, even putting St. Stephen to death. He had a powerful conversion upon encountering the Risen Christ. Jesus called out to Paul asking him why he was persecuting Him. Paul converted and became the Apostle to the Gentiles, traveling extensively. He even went to Jerusalem to see St. Peter. Over 12 years, St. Paul went on three great expeditions, each leaving from Antioch, to spread the Gospel.
Both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome. From the Early Church, these two saints have been linked by their contributions to the shaping of the Christian Faith, faithful to Jesus Christ. They did not always see eye to eye, but both men literally gave their lives for love of Christ and His People. They also share a feast day: June 29.
Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Jude
In this next section, we will look at the Apostles as a whole. Of course, Judas Iscariot is not listed among these Apostles, because he betrayed the Lord and hung himself in despair.
St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and was a follower of St. John the Baptist. After the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, he went to Asia Minor to preach the Gospel. He was crucified in Greece on a transverse cross that looked like the letter “X.”
St. James the Greater is the brother of St. John. Both men were called to be Apostles by Jesus. St. James the Greater and St. John were both present with St. Peter on Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration of the Lord. St. John was author of the Gospel of St. John, as well as the Letters of John, and the Book of Revelation. He was also the only Apostle to not be martyred. His brother, James, however, was executed by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem by the sword. Catholic tradition claims that St. James is buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The “Way of St. James” is a popular pilgrimage in Spain which terminates at the resting place of St. James.
St. Thomas evangelized in Persia and India, but he is most well-known as “Doubting Thomas.” This unfortunate moniker was gained when Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he could put his fingers in His side and in the nail marks. When he did believe, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”
St. James the Lesser is called this because he is younger than St. James the Greater. He is also the cousin of two other Apostles, St. Jude and St. Simon. These three Apostles are cousins of the Lord Jesus. St. James the Lesser served as the first bishop of Jerusalem. It is traditionally held that St. James the Lesser was martyred by being thrown from the roof of the Temple. Once tossed off the roof, he was beaten to death with a fuller’s club.
St. Jude wrote one of the letters of the New Testament and was eventually executed by a long-handled axe in Persia. St. Simon is also known as Simon the Zealot. He preached with St. Jude in Egypt and Persia. Simon met his death by being sawed into pieces.
St. Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia and suffered martyrdom. He was a Galilean who told his friend Nathanael that he had found the Christ. Scripture scholars maintain that Nathanael, mentioned in St. John’s Gospel is St. Bartholomew. St. Bartholomew was recognized by Jesus for his innocence and simplicity. St. Bartholomew preached in Armenia and there was martyred by being flayed alive by a knife.
St. Matthew wrote on of the four Gospels. He was a tax collector who left his wealth to follow Jesus. He preached in Ethiopia and was martyred in Asia by being beheaded.
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian
After twelve Apostles are mentioned, there are twelve more names mentioned. The first five of these names are successors of St. Peter, the popes. St. Linus, St. Cletus, and St. Clement are the first three successors of St. Peter. Sixtus can also be spelled Xystus. There were two popes in the early Church with this name. St. Sixtus II is likely the Sixtus mentioned in the Canon who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Valerian.
St. Cornelius was the pope just before St. Sixtus II and was also martyred. St. Cyprian was not a pope but he was a bishop. He was beheaded in Carthage in the mid-Third Century. St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome and was martyred the day after St. Sixtus II. He was in charge of the treasury of the Church and famously brought the poor of Rome before the Emperor’s representative as the true treasure of the Church. St. Chrysogonus and Ss. John and Paul were each martyrs as well in the early Church under the Diocletian persecutions and the persecution under Julian the Apostate, respectively. St. Cosmas and St. Damian traditionally are identified as physicians. They were martyred in Syria in the late Third Century under the Diocletian persecutions.
Then, finally, all of the saints of God are invoked. Each Solemnity of All Saints (November 1), we celebrate not only the many named saints, but also the unnamed saints. The Catholic Church has always acclaimed that the saints are very much alive in God. A saint is one who is in Heaven with God. The Church has thousands of canonized saints, which means that they are officially named and recognized as being in Heaven.
Our Lord Jesus Himself says, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living (Mt. 22:31-32).” We also see Moses and Elijah alive and with Jesus during the Transfiguration, even though they died many years earlier (cf. Mt. 17:1-8).
There is one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. It is by His grace that the saints can hear our prayers and intercede on our behalf. When we ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Heaven, we are going “directly to Jesus.” We are simply acknowledging that God has asked us in multiple places, especially through the writings of St. Paul, to intercede for one another. If the saints in Heaven are alive, then this role does not end with bodily death.