The following paragraph is taken from the "Catholic Almanac"
Simon: Called the Cananean or the Zealot; according to legend, preached in various places in the Middle East and suffered martyrdom by being sawed in two; in art, is depicted with a saw, the instrument of his death, or a book, symbolic of his zeal for the Law; Oct. 28 (Roman Rite). May 10 (Byzantine Rite).
Taken from Otto Hophan, O.F.M Cap.
The apostle Simon was the least known, and one must constrain himself lest he say the least important, of all the apostles. In all Sacred Scripture there is nothing else said of him beyond the mention of his name. And even this name, Simon-from the Hebrew, shim'on, literally, "heard"-he had to share with another Simon in the circle of the apostles. The duplication of names among the apostles is surprising: Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot, James the Great and James the Less, Jude Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot. Simon Peter was the first, the great, the rock foundation of the Church. It would seem that the greatness of this first Simon completely overshadowed Simon, the unknown, the last of the Twelve.
When the Lord spoke to Simon-"'Blessed art thou, Simon,'" and, "'I have prayed for thee, Simon,'" and "'Simon, dost thou love me?'"-He always meant the other Simon, the first, not the last. The unknown apostles was only like the distant echo, the humble shadow, of the first apostle so burdened with dignities and honors. Just as the Patriarch Jacob had anticipated everything for his brother Esau, so Simon Peter did for this apostles. He wanted to bring this overlooked Simon nearer to the Christian spirit with a special love. Both are among the great apostles in the kingdom of heaven.
Simon, like Jude Thadeus, was prefigured in the Old Testament by two bearers of his name. The first was Simeon, the second son of the Patrirch Jacob. Simeon was severely rebuked and punished bcause of the thoughtlessness and foolish ardor by which he took revenge on the Sichemites for an unlawful act one of them had committed against his sister, Dina. When the land was divided and distributed, he inherited no place of his own for his tribe, but was allotted only scattered places in the land of the tribe of Juda as places of residence. On his deathbed, Jacob made known the unimportant and dependent positions he had assigned to the tribe of Simeon and Levi. He said that his reason was the disgrace of their act:
Simeon and Levi brethen: vessels of iniquity, waging war. Let not my soul go into their counsel, nor my glory be in their assembly: because in their fury they slew a man, and in their self-will they undermined a wall. Cursed be their fury, because it was stubborn: and their wrath because it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and will scatter them in Israel.
The tribe of Simeon was almost lost in history of the Chosen People in Canaan. Its leader was never a well-known support of the kingdom. Judith, the heroine of Simeon's tribe, saw the good rather than the bad in the vengeance of her forefather's people:
O Lord God of my father Simeon, who gavest him a sword to execute vengeance against strangers, who had defiled by their uncleaness, and uncovered the virgin unto confusion..., assist, I beseech Thee, O Lord God, me a widow.
The other Simon, who was a forerunner of the apostle Simon, was the Maccabaean Simon, leader of his people between the years 142 and 135BC.; he was surnamed "Thasi," which means "the zealot". He was from the lower classes. Although he was the second son of Mathathias, this Simon served under his younger brothers Judas and Jonathan. When Johathan, however, was captured, imprisoned, and slain, it was Simon who took over the guidance and command of the people.
Both of these men of the Old Testament were prophetic of the apostle Simon. Their characteristic traits were deeply impressed upon this unknown, almost forgotten apostle.
Simon, the Unknown
We know nothing certain about the home of the apostle Simon. Matthew and Mark called him "the Cananean," most probably to distinguish him, not only from Simon Peter, but also from many others with the same name at that time. This led many, even St Jerome, to assume that Simon came from Cana. Greek and Coptic commentators, therefore, identified this apostle with the Nathanael mentioned by St John, who came from Cana. Yet Nathanael was another name for the apostle Bartholomew (as shown in the first pages of chapter six). Still others held that this "Simon the Cananean" was the bridegroom at Cana, for whom the Lord worked His first public miracle by changing water into wine. This opinion is also with a solid foundation.
The expression "the Cananean"-derived from an Aramaic word quana, literally, "to be zealous"-does not purport an inhabited place, but rather a political party. St Luke expressed the same meaning with the Greek word Zelotes-an anti-Roman, Jewish zealot. The context of the Gospel and also the history of this party point to Galilee as the home of Simon; but a more definite statement than this cannot be made on the basis of reliable information.
Little is know about the family of this apostle; yet there are reasons to believe that he was a "brother of the Lord." Both Matthew and Mark mentioned a Simon as the brother of Jesus. When Christ returned to Nazareth and began teaching in the synagogues, the astonished people queried, "'Is not this the carpenter..., the brother of James, Joseph, Jude and Simon?'"
In the lists of the apostles, all three Synoptics mentioned a Simon together with James and Jude. When St Mark enumerated the names of James, Jude and Simon as brethen of the Lord, he used the same sequence that he used in his list of the apostles. This is further evidence that Simon, the brother of the Lord, was an apostle like James and Jude, also brethren of the Lord. In other words, there is supported only one Simon in question here.
This assumption is supported by Hegesippus' statement that a Simon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, was a son of Clopas, the brother of the foster father St Joseph. Clopas, or Cleophas, is to be identified with Alpheus, the father of James the Less (as explained in the first pages of chapter nine). Following this supposition, one may conclude that the apostle James, Jude, and Simon were "brethren" of Christ, either close or distant cousins. In Simon's case, this mark of distinction is hidden and obscure; his older and more influential brothers preceded him even in his home life. They made the decisions and answered the questions. For him, the last, the youngest, there remained nothing but to stand quietly by, almost unseen. His name means "heard," but as yet he was unheard, and unheard of.
The calling of the apostle Simon has not been recorded. He stood among the crowd of disciples on the mountain when the Lord chose the Twelve. Perhaps his two older brothers, James and Jude, were displeased when their "little brother" kept following them. One of the three should have been home helping their father, Alpheus, for a farmer is never without work and the need of help throughout the year. Annoyed and vexed, like Eliab, the older brother of the young David, they also may have upbraided the young Simon:
Why camest thou hither? And why didst thou leave those few sheep in the sheep? I know thy pride, and the wickedness of thy heart: that thou art come down to see the battle.
Simon stared with large, astonished eyes when our Lord called from the crowd of men a Simon, the first to follow Jesus, then the noble Andrew, then the ardent James, then the brave John. His biggest surprise was yet to come. The Messias called his brother James. This was an undreamed of honor for the family. And what was more, he immediately called his brother Jude. With dignity they walked past their younger brother, Simon, who beamed with pride and glowed with joy. Then men surrounded Jesus as ten diamonds adorn a crown. Would the Lord call any others? If so, whom would He choose? And Christ said, "Simon." Simon was confused. He hesitated. Then he was embarrassed. There were many there named Simon. And Jesus repeated, "Simon," and hesitating, added, "the Zealot." Simon the Zealot? An unbelieving surprise and astonishment ran through the crowd as "the Cananean" approached the group around the Lord.
Matthew and Mark placed Simon as the eleventh one on their list of the apostles. Only Judas Iscariot came after him. Possibly our Lord had called Judas before Simon, making Simon the very last-for only the betrayer's sacrilegious crime may have prompted the evangelists to place him behind all the other apostles. One has to feel sorry for Simon that he should be named in the same breath along with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Messias. Many times it may have been very difficult to be near his gloom neighbor. He did not know why. When the Master sent the Twelve on their first missionary journey, "two by two," Simon possibly accompanied the apostle who later hanged himself.
In the "Last Supper" of Leonardo da Vinci, Simon was portrayed at the far left. One gets the impression that he reached his position and held his place only with difficulty. He stood quietly and patiently behind all the others.
We know nothing certain, absolutely nothing certain about Simon's apostolic works. None of these were recorded in the Gospels, or in the Acts of the Apostles. Nor did he leave behind him even a few verses of a short Epistle, such as his brother Jude wrote. Not a word was spoken to Simon, nor did he ask a single question which the evangelists deemed important or worthy enough to be recorded. Brief remarks of Thomas and Philip and Jude Thaddeus at the Last Supper were noted and remembered and written down with care for all posterity. But the zealous apostle had only a silent role to play in the circle around Christ. It seems he had nothing else to do except to be there.
When the apostles returned to their Master after their first active work preaching the New Law, they could not wait to tell all they had seen and heard. Eagerly they reported everything to Him, what they had said and taught. But when Simon came into their ranks, all accounts and questions, and Christ's advice, suddenly came to a halt. Never do we read of a distinction alotted to Simon, never of an appearance made by him. Perhaps on Palm Sunday, Simon was one of the two whom Jesus sent ahead of Him into a village to untie and bring the ass and the colt that the Messias might enter Jerusalem as the prophets had foretold. This unknown apostle never stood out from the rest, was neither prominent nor distinguished. He was always in the group, together with the others, almost without a personality, only an apostle, only one of the Twelve. Just this remaining quiet, obscure, unknown has become a mark of his character.
The relics of this apostle Simon have been preserved in the Vatican. But who of the hundred of thousands of thousands who visit St Peter's in Rome think of Simon, the unknown apostle? For the first Simon, Simon Peter, the basilica was built. His statue has been kissed in reverence so often that over the years the foot of it has been completely flattened. The eleventh apostle, on the contrary, has long since been enjoying undisturbed quiet.
Simon, the unknown apostle, is the patron of the countless Christians who go through life without fame, without a name. He is the patron of the army of unknown workers in the vineyard of the Lord, who toil in the last places for the kingdom of God. He is the patron of the unknown soldiers of Christ, who struggle on the disregarded and thankless fronts. No one notices, no one praises, no one rewards this obscure and often misunderstood apostles-no one except the Father, who sees through all obscurity, who understands all misjudgments.
Was Simon the Zealot, the last apostle, less deserving of praise than Simon Peter, the first apostle, the leader of all the Twelve, because we know so little about him? He also was one of the Twelve, as good as the powerful Peter, as good as the noble John. For him also were the words of our Lord intended:
"You are my friends if you do the things I command you. No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
Christ may have honored this unknown and seemingly unimportant apostle with many special words. But He may have spoken so softly that none of the others heard what these words were and therefore could not repeat them, or record them, when Simon remained humbly in the background. It was this unknown apostle who had a special likeness to the unknown Son of God. And for this very reason Simon may well have had a better understanding of the Messias and His heavenly kingdom.
Simon himself was certainly not annoyed that he stood in the last place, nor did he work the less for it. He also made sacrifices and journeyed without "'gold, or silver, or money in your girdles, no wallet for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staff; for the laborer deserves his living.'" And he preached, "'The kingdom of heaven is at hand!'". He would "'cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.'" He was neither crippled by self-pity nor paralyzed by an inferiority complex in his apostolic labors. It was this unknown Simon who carried a title with him into the lists of the apostles in the Gospels, a title that is more surprising in him than it is for any other apostle: the Zealot.
Simon, the Zealot
The name Zelotes, a Zealot, has a political meaning, and in no way does it denote the virtue of zeal. Zealots were a Jewish sect that openly resisted the Roman hold of the Jews in Palestine. They strove for freedom and independence. A certain Judas from Galilee is regarded as the founder of this group. When a personal tax was imposed on the Jews in the year 7 A.D. by Quirinius, a Roman governor in Syria, this Judas incited a revolt. The ensuing insurrection was not successful and the outcome, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was unhappy.
Gamaliel, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law, advised against a vigorous suppression of the newly founded Christianity, reasoning that the Messianic movement would destoy itself if it had not stemmed from God. Speaking to the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel recalled,
"For some time ago there rose up Theodas, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain, and all his followers were dispersed and he was brought to nothing. After him rose up Judas the Galilean in the days of the census and drew some people after him; he too perished, and his followers were scattered abroad."
The Zealots were defeated, but their aim and purpose did not die out. The smoldering ashes of their fight for liberty sporadically flickered into flame as the fervor of the dispersed groups of Zealots made itself felt. They lost their war, but volunteer insurgents were never lacking. Desparately they would stoop to blow the blackening coals, to reflame one small fire here, the one there, hoping for one violent wind that would make for a towering flame against their hated enemies.
There were two distinct groups of Zealots, the political and the religious.
The religious band considered the strict observance and fulfillment of the Mosaic Law the indispensable preliminary condition for the restoration and renewed prominence of the Jewish nation. Before this, their liberator, the Messias, who was promised by God, would not appear. In this respect perhaps St Paul himself belonged to the party of Zealots, for he acknowledged "And I advanced in Judaism above many of my contemporaries in my nation, showing much more zeal for the traditions of my fathers.
The second distinct group of Zealots, the more violent and aggressive faction, freely assumed a political attitude toward all questions. They were not willing to resign themsleves and to wait in quiet submission until, in the providence of God, the day of freedom would dawn and the hope of Israel would be illuminated and fulfilled. The only decisive arbitration between them and their godless enemies was to be the sword.
These firebrands were held in check for ten years. The clenched fists of the Romans beat down any insurgent who dared to move suspiciously. And the official parties of the state, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, formally avoided them by closing their eyes, turning their backs, and walking away. Nevertheless, the revolutionary element was ultimately successful in unchaining its forces and spreading the sweeping fire of the Jewish War. The longer they were suppressed, the bolder they became, the more vigorous, and even the more powerful. They paraded under the cloak of religious zeal in order to commit their political crimes. The rich and refined Sadducees, influential because of their nobility and wealth, and the proud but prudent Pharisees, whose primitive ardor degenerated into hypocrisy and fanaticism, opposed a war with the Romans. They knew it was hopeless.
This apprehension of the leading circles was expressed in the Gospels. They feared Christ, not only because of what He preached, but also because of what the Romans would do when He gained a following:
"If we let him alone as he is, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation... It is expedient for us that one man (Christ)die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing."
The Zealots feared the Romans; nevertheless,they wanted to rebel against them at any price, even the price of blood spilled on the ground where it turned cold and black and hard, as empty of life as dirt that blows away in the wind. They seized a fortess, and in Jerusalem they refused to make the customary offering to the Roman authorities. This was the spark that inflamed the Jewish War. For this the Zealots had to suffer a horrible punishment.
When Galilee was subjected to Vespasian in the year 67, the Jews fled from the Romans on rafts on Lake Genesareth. But the Latin warriors caught them; after the battle, the blue water turned purple with blood. (This was the peaceful lake which Christ had crossed many times.) Six thousand five hundred Zealots lost their lives in this attack, and Vespasian had one thousand two hundred others massacred in the arena. Six thousand were sent to the Isthmus of Corinth, and thirty thousand were sold. Altogether, 80,700 fell, shed their blood, and died; and 36,400 sold.
Even more horrible was the butchery in Jerusalem. Here the Zealots had conducted a reign of terror, masterminded by John of Gischala. With the help of the Idumeans, they had murdered twelve thousand men. The revenge for this was cruel and brutal. According to the perhaps somewhat exaggerated account of the Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, 1,100,000 Jewish people perished in the conquest and acquisition of Jerusalem. And 97,000 were taken prisoners and were either sold or slaughtered for the sport of the gladiators and the amusement of the pagans.
Only by understanding this political background can one realize what the calling of Simon the Zealot as one of the Twelve meant. Certainly all the apostles, not only Simon alone, were interested in the political movements of their age. As ardent, freedom-loving Galileans, they all longed for the day of their liberation. The long-awaited Messias, the great Son of David, was to be for them the One who conquered the foreign power on their soil in a valiant battle, the One who was to establish the great Jewish kingdom. Even such a spiritual man as the priest Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, waited for the Messias to bring 'Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.'"
At the last supper, when the apostles still misunderstood the Messianic mission of Christ, they were enraged to hear that their Leader would be "reckoned among the wicked"; and with flashing eyes they were immediately ready to fight: "'Lord, behold here are two swords.'" Some of the apostles had never forgotten the instructions of John the Baptist, who had impressively and forcibly enough preached that men should turn from corrupt politics to religion:"'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Thanks to this education, and to the firm instructions of the Lord, they gradually learned that the Messianic kingdom was a spiritual one, the kingdom of heaven on earth. But they could not give up all claims to and hopes for a restoration of the Jews' political and national power.
Even before the risen Savior's Ascension into heaven, they troubled Him with the question, " 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'" They were so inspired by Jesus that they courageously renounced the world, house and home, wife and children. But in return they eagerly expected first places in the Messianic kingdom for themselves and their families.
Three times in the Gospels the freedom-conscious Jews tried to make Christ the leader of a national movement for a Jewish empire. And each time the apostles were with the crowds.
After Christ had miraculously fed five thousand, the large masses immediately sought "to take him for force and make him king," but "he fled again to the mountain, himself alone."
Before the Feast of Tabernacles they wanted Him to go to Jerusalem, elevate Himself, and " 'manifest thyself to the world.'" But Jesus postponed that journey to the capital burdened with political tensions, and "he stayed on in Galilee. But as soon as his brethren had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly, but as it were privately."
The third time it seemed as though the Zealots had succeeded in persuading Jesus to accept the plan they had for Him: for His was a truly triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There were shouts of hosanna: "Save us." Save us! People ran to strew palms ahead of Him. But here too Jesus had anticipated the political interpretation of his triumphal entry by a small, almost jovial detail: He rode on a donkey. He did not ride high and mighty on a strutting steed. Anyone contemplating a revolution does not come on a slow beast. And this donkey may even have annoyed and vexed Simon the Zealot. What wise and kind irony it would have been if he, the most industrious of all the apostles in provoking a political seizure of power, had been the one to bring the ass and colt to Christ!
The evangelists did not indicate whether Simon had belonged to the political or to the religious party of Zealots. Perhaps he acquired this title by his passionate faithfulness to the Law of the Old Testament and earned the same praise that the "zealous upholders of the Law" were given by St James. This religious zeal, however, edged very close to politics.
Actually, it was "the brethren of Jesus" who, before the Feast of Tabernacles, wanted to instigate a public and political demonstration. Possible the complete silence of this eleventh apostle in Holy Scripture can be explained by his insistence on maintaining a strongly political position. The Lord Himself often refused to let His kingdom fall into the empty hands of worldly politics. "'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would have fought that I might not be delivered to the Jews.'". He did not want Himself and His work endangered by a Zealot.
Simon must have been restrained in the group of apostles so that he would not follow the example of his namesakes in the Old Testament and overzealously succeed in causing more trouble than good. In a completely silent and austere novitiate, which offered him neither special problems nor attention, he was to refine his fervor and ardor. But what was more important, he was to prove and preserve his zeal.
Here the great personal value of the apostle Simon the Zealot shines forth. That the Lord called him as one of the Twelve, despite his political inclinations, indicates that this apostle was prized highly for his untiring ambition and his high ideals. Christ was taking as much of a risk when He chose Simon as He took when He called Matthew. By calling a tax-collector who worked for the dominating Romans, Jesus laid Himself open to the criticism of the crowds striving for independence and freedom. By calling a Zealot who worked against the dominating Romans, He laid Himself open to the suspicions of the leaders striving for power in official circles.
How could these two, Matthew and Simon, the tax-collector, and the Zealot, face each other in the same small group of apostles? Each came from a different world. Were they rivals, foes? The tax-collector was a slave to the Romans whom the Zealot attacked. And yet Christ brought the tax-collector and the tax-dodger together in the same group and united them as His disciples. So great is the power of His love and the foresight of His wisdom that He receives both tax-collectors and zealots into His service. The Master had a mission for each, and His mission was one.
The moral greatness of the apostle Simon showed itself in his perseverance, in a steadfast persistence which the Lord recognized as faithfulness. No apostle, with the exception of Judas, was so bitterly disappointed in his Master as was the expectant Simon. A disappointment shattered Judas; another disappointment perfected Simon. This zealous apostle's desire for an earthly kingdom founded by the Messias burned more fervently in him than in the others. The people, so intent on freedom, may often have approached and spoken to Simon, asking him to convince the Messias to win success for them in their struggle for independence. But Christ had never held out the possibility, or even hinted that it was possible that He would fulfill such a wish. Intentionally and purposely Simon was placed in the eleventh place, where he had nothing else to do but to be silent.
Despite Christ's firm refusal to grant to Simon his lifelong desire, Simon persevered in following his Master. Again and again he opened up his heart to the Messias, and one by one he made known his wishes. Judas, on the contrary, would not reveal his wants and needs, and he ended up a criminal, betraying his Master. He who is such a zealot that in his zeal he can choose only God is certainly a true and capable apostle of Jesus Christ. Such zeal becomes an unyielding power that rises above secondary ends, and silently spends its whole strength in striving for Christian perfection
Simon, the Unknown Zealot
Legends concerning the apostle Simon are as contradictory as those concerning his brother Jude Thaddeus. The most plausible of all, however, is the account that Simon, after the death of his oldest brother, James, in the year 62, succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem.
The Church historian Eusebius recored Hegesippus' statement, made around the middle of the second century, that a Simeon, son of Clopas, was the second bishop of Jerusalem. Nicephorus Callistus also listed this Simeon as the second bishop of Jerusalem. The first account states that this apostle held his office for twenty-three years; the second, for twenty-six years. The validity of this information is strengthened by an old Abyssinian tradition. Accordingly to this, the apostle Simon the Zealot, after zealously laboring in Samaria, become bishop of Jerusalem, and there he suffered martyrdom on the cross. The Roman Breviary, however, observes the feast of the apostle Simon separately on October 28th, and that of a Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, on February 18.
Simon's apostolic labors as bishop of Jerusalem coincided with the siege, conquest and destruction of the Holy City. Simon might often have envied James, his martyred brother and predecessor, who was spared the grueling experience of watching the devastation of the holy places. Christ had warned,
"And when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by an army, then know that her desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let those who are in her midst go out...
Remembering this, Simon promptly fled with his flock of the faithful
to the pagan city of Pella in Perea, where the threat of war was not
This was the first evacuation of Christian refugees commanded by the Good Shepherd Himself, out of deep concern for His faithful flock. What was Simon the Zealot thinking during his flight? Once he, too, had been an active member of the Zealots, who now brought such horrors and atrocities upon the land and the people. It had been difficult for him to make known to God the desires of his heart. Now, as divine justice burned in a rage over Jerusalem, he saw how good it was that he had opened up his heart to the Lord. His soul glowed with fervor and thanksgiving that Christ had called him away from this dangerous Zealotism, and had turned him toward zeal for the house and flock of the Lord.
It is also possible that Simon, both before and after he occupied the bishopric of Jerusalem, spread the Gospel to other lands. The Epistles of St Paul present a clear picture, showing how far and wide apostolic labors and actually spread the Faith. The other apostles, too, not only St. Paul, strove to fulfill the words of their Master: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations...'" and, " '... you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the very ends of the earth.'"
Legends have portrayed this reserved Simon crossing many different and distant lands. It is not possible to pick out the historical kernels of truth from the large bin of fable, nor to sift out the weedly seed of imagination that grew to overshadow almost smother the stalks of truth. The apocryphal "Acts of Andrew" place him as Andrew's companion in the countries on the Black Sea. Two places on the shore of this sea-the city of Bosporus, on the Tauric Chersonese, and Nichopsis, on the Caucasus Mountains-claim the apostles Simon's grace. In the regions of Caucasis there are Georgian and Armenian traditions which support this. After collaborating with Andrew and Matthew, it is said, Andrew permitted Simon to return to Sevastopol, a city on the Black Sea in the Crimea.
There is always the possiblity that these legends accidentally borrowed tidbits here and there from legends about Simon Peter. Both were often called merely Simon, and according to other very old legends Simon Peter did work in these same districts together with his brother Andrew. From here Andrew went to the East and Simon Peter to the West. So it is not difficult to understand how various legends concerning Simon Peter might have been confused with those of Simon the Zealot.
The "Acts of Simon and Jude" identified the scene of Simon's apostolic labors as Babylonia and Persia (as already explained in the previous chapter on Jude Thaddeus). Centering their activity in Babylon, Simon and Jude journeyed through the twelve provinces of the Persian Empire. Yet even in these legends the shadow of the first Simon, Peter, can be traced. It was in "Babyon"-to be understood as a cryptic designation for Rome-that Peter wrote his first Epistle at the time when this Babylonian city was besieged by vice, false teaching, and immorality. Perhaps, therefore, legend has attributed the real Babylon to Simon the Zealot as the field of his missionary activity because Simon Peter had worked in the symbolic Babylon.
According to these legends, Simon suffered a martyr's death in the "city of Suanir". Yet a Persian city with this name is not known. There is the possibility that some connection existed between Suanir and the "Suanen" in Colchis, an ancient country on the eastern shore of the Black Sea in Transcaucasia.
A third, general opinion, which later Greek commentators in particular followed, placed the region of Simon's apostolic labors in Egypt, Libya, Mauretania (an ancient kingdom in northwestern Africa, and later a Roman province), and even in Britain. The Roman Breviary also mentions Simon's missionary labors in Egypt, and after this portrays Simon working with Jude Thaddeus in Persia.
An account of Hegesippus revealed that Simon was martyed under Trajan in the year 107 at the age of a hundred and twenty. It is not probable that this account is very accurate. If it were, Simon would have lived three years longer than John, whom tradition has long recognized as the last apostle to die.
Most of the conflicting reports of Simon's death named crucifixion as the manner of martyrdom. A small, impressive picture from the monologues of Basil II portrayed him on the cross in the clothing of a high priest, looking away from the city of Jerusalem to the wide spans of the world. Simon the Zealot had protested against the prophesied cross of Christ no less vehemently than the other Simon: "'Far be it from thee, O Lord; this will never happen to thee.'" His thoughts were not of a cross but of a crown. but the joyfully and willingly opened up his heart and soul to the instructions of the Lord, until he was united with Christ, even on the cross. There was no limit to his love for the Master. Without reserve or hesitation he confided in the Messias.
Other traditions maintained that Simon became a martyr by being sawed to pieces. Lukas Cranach did not hesitate to paint a vividly picture of this horrible death. Therefore, the symbol of this apostle is a saw, and out of reverence he has been made the patron of those who work with wood-somewhat less emphatically than the apostle Thomas, whose symbol is a carpenter's square and who became the patron of architects. In this respect, too, the apostle Simon is, and remains, the eleventh.
Certainly the various accounts of traditions and legends concerning Simon are confused and unreliable. Yet taken together they all have one common basis: they point to an apostle who was a Zealot, not only before he was called by the Lord, but also afterward, in his missionary works and apostolic labors. Whether he spread the word of God in the land of the "Suanen" or in Babylonia, whether he was crucified or was sawed to pieces, this unknown apostle was full of zeal. He was and remains the unknow Zealot.
The real beauty of this apostle's life lies in this very fact, that he could be so actively zealous and still remain so unknown, so that Christ alone was known and remembered. For this he is known all the more in heaven.
Simon's special grace was to persevere in Christ, as Christ increased and he decreased.
Many who must work in obscurity lose their ardor and zeal. We would do well to follow the example of Simon by going out into the world to become unknown, while Christ becomes known.
Profound, therefore, is the lesson to be learned from this simplest of all the apostles: when we are not thanked, not remembered, not known, we should rejoice for the sake of Christ, and not only to persevere in, but increase, our zeal.
"Take heed not to practice your good before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise you shall have no reward with your Father in heaven.
"Therefore when thou givest alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and streets, in order that they may be honored by men. Amen I say to you, they have had their reward"
Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, shall appear, then you too will appear with him in glory.
The following paragraph is taken from Leonard Foley, O.F.M. from his book Saint of the Day. Simon is mentioned on all four lists of the Apostles. On two of them he is called "the Zealot". The Zealots were a Jewish sect which represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans-the very domination of the Romans-was a blasphemy against God. No doubt some of the Zealots were the spiritual heirs of the Maccabees, carrying on their ideals of religion and independence. But many were the counterparts of modern terrorist. They raided and killed, attacking both foreigners and collaborating Jews. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D 70.
The following links provides insight on both Sts Simon and Jude: