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"Back to the Apostles"

by Lois Donahue

Since I’ve already passed along to you things I’ve learned about Matthias, the Apostle chosen to replace Judas, I’d like to return to those first chosen by Jesus….

Now that we are back to the original Twelve in ‘our Church’s baker’s dozen’, let’s keep it simple and go with what I found to be a fairly current and familiar listing by name of those Apostles --- Peter, Andrew, James, Son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Son of Alphaeus, Jude Thaddeus, Simon and Judas Iscariot. I am not going to talkabout them in that order, however, because I have discovered the things I want to share with you have multiplied almost beyond control – more than I had even come close to imagining – and consequently I will try my best to divide this great number of words somewhat evenly over the next few times we meet.

In the instance of each I will try not only to capsulate what I have found to be considered acceptable “facts” but, in addition, include some legends and traditions wherein mingle – truths, personal experiences and observations, hearsay, rumors, hopes and devotional expectations – as a way of getting a ‘feel’ for how he was seen and/or regarded throughout the years by people, like ourselves, who in one way or another sought to know him. I will begin with ---


He was born in Bethsaida in Galilee about 3 A.D. I found nothing about his parents or early life but it seems he was a fisherman and quite possibly long time friend of Peter, Andrew, James and John who were also fishermen from Bethsaida. Both the Bible and tradition extend his list of friends to include Nathanael (Bartholomew).

All six of these ‘friends’ were apparently disciples of John the Baptist and it is said that Philip was the fourth called by Jesus to “Follow Me”. As such a follower, we know he was the one Jesus turned to when the large crowd began gathering and asked, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” It seems Philip was immediately able to approximate the number of people to be fed and advise Jesus as to the great quantity of food necessary “for each of them to have” even a little. (Jn 6:5-7)

His answer has led some to come to the belief that, since Philip was both knowledgeable and practical in handling this matter, he may well have had the responsibility of seeing that Jesus and the Apostles always had something to eat, much as Judas had the responsibility of handling finances for the group. Later, it was to Philip that the request was made by visiting ‘Greeks’, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (Jn 12:20) And there is speculation that Philip was singled out because his was a Greek name.

Finally, we encounter Philip in the New Testament at the Last Supper when he triggered a bit of gentle frustration with these words to Jesus –“Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ reply might well have been somewhat embarrassing to the Apostle, “Have I been with you so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” (Jn14:8-9). Embarrassed or not, the encouraging words of Jesus which followed no doubt gave Philip the determination and courage which carried him forward – all the way to crucifixion. 

But before we move into his time and trial of evangelization, let me tell you one of the things I found most interesting about Philip. He had a wife and daughters. Since the same is true of another man named Philip, a deacon chosen by the Apostles, concern has been raised that one might be mistaken for the other.

Fortunately, Bishop Polycrates helped clarify one point when he wrote of the “Apostle Philip.. and .. his daughters”. Two sources also mention Philip’s sister, named Miriam or Mariamme, who may well have assisted him in his missionary work. This missionary work apparently took him beyond Palestine to North Africa and Asia Minor (now Turkey) and it is probable that he preached to non-Jews before any of the other Apostles.

Oh yes, in reading about Philip, I ran across something which also could well be featured with tabloid headlines – the story goes that his sister was to be humiliated by being stripped naked in public. Thanks to his prayers, a fire-cloud miraculously enveloped her, making her invisible and yet in no way harming her.

Philip, like Peter, was crucified upside down --“pierced by iron hooks and suspended by the ankles” as has been so graphically described. He was thus martyred in Hierapolis, Asia Minor, in about the year 90 A.D. at the age of approximately 87. It is reported that Pope John the Third had his body interred in a church in Rome then called “TheChurch of the Holy Apostles Philip and James” which may account for the fact that he shares with St. James the Less the Feast Day of May 3rd. Because of the way he was martyred and the part he played in feeding the 5000, a symbol which has been associated with him is a long slender cross and two loaves of bread.

I could find no written description of his appearance and can only refer back to that same old calendar of mine which shows him as young, clean shaven, having dark eyes and short, brownish hair with a few light streaks which might well have been meant to indicate sun-bleaching which would seem only natural for anyone working long days in an open fishing boat.

Of the many things I enjoyed learning about Philip, I think the one that sets him a bit apart from the others, for me at least, is the fact that, obviously from personal family experience -- having been a husband and a father -- he, no doubt, would have known a great deal about women. Now to -- .


In my usual ‘odd’ thought process, often in the past when I would think about Andrew, one of the first things which would come to mind was – ‘What a tough act to follow as an apostle – having Peter as “apparently” his older brother’. Back then I hadn’t the vaguest idea that, as John tells us, it was Andrew who first met Jesus and brought Peter to Him which might well have been a point in Andrew’s favor if there ever happened to be any moments of sibling rivalry -- of which, I must make clear, there was never the slightest indication in anything I ever heard or read. The only observation made which might give me cause to feel a bit sorry for ‘kid brother’ is that in the Bible, Andrew is almost always referred to as “Simon Peter’s brother”. But I am way beyond that now; my sympathy for Andrew has long since been replaced, even more abundantly, with admiration…based largely on what I learned about him.

He was born in Bethsaida, Galilee, in about the year 5 A.D. We are told that his mother was named Joanna and his father, a fisherman, was named John (Jonah). Whether Andrew was originally given a Hebrew name is unknown, the Bible only uses his Greek name, Andrew, which is said to mean “manly, courageous”. Like his older brother he was probably educated in the local synagogue and in his early teens became a fisherman like his father. We meet Andrew in the Bible as a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1:40). There is even speculation that Andrew was present when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. But, again, that is purely interpretation of John 1:35-40. What is clearly stated at the end of verse 40 is that Andrew became a follower of Jesus and we also know for certain that, at one time, he shared a house with Peter in Capernaum where Jesus cured his brother’s mother-in-law. (Mk1:29).

When we read of Andrew’s involvement in helping to procure the “five barley loaves and two fish” (Jn 6:8) and then again when Philip came to him and Andrew did not hesitate to go with him to speak to Jesus (Jn 12:22), we certainly see him as an approachable, friendly, obliging guy. The kind of man who did not need to ‘run the show’ or ‘be in the limelight’ and seemed eager to tell others about Jesus. This reminds me of an interesting observation which someone made regarding Jesus’ words, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt 4:19) -- notice He used the plural word “fisher s”. Now, back up and read 4:18. It certainly seems that here Jesus was speaking to Peter and Andrew. So, we might conclude, Andrew, as well as Peter, was expected to ‘fish’ for men – each of the two brothers in his own way.

Following Andrew in the Bible we find him present when Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. (Acts 1:13-15) From that point on we again must rely on writers, legends and traditions. That combination tells us Andrew did his “fishing” in Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece, Russia and Scotland. It is said that he might possibly have made Jerusalem his “home base” for at least thirty years and then began the travels which reportedly took him to places like Ephesus in Asia Minor, Philippi in Greece as well as Armenia on the Black Sea and unnamed places in what is now Scotland. I found very little information as to his preaching of the gospel in Russia except for the statement made that as a result of it he was named the Patron Saint of that country by the Russian Orthodox Church.

An interesting story is told in his association with Scotland. Supposedly, in the mid eighth century, the night before the “King of Picts “ went to battle the English, he dreamed he was promised victory by St.Andrew and that the next morning a cross shaped like an “X” was seen shining in the sky. The battle cry of his men as they met the enemy was a plea to St. Andrew, as their patron, to be their guide. Unfortunately that is where the telling of the story ended but I think it would be safe to assume that the Scottish army came out victorious.

Of course, intermingled in all we read about his travels are bits and pieces of legend and tradition. It is said that he saved both Mathias and Mathew from death – that he performed exorcism upon a Roman soldier, that he was thrown to the lions but they would not attack him, that St. John wrote his ‘gospel’ because of a revelation given Andrew -- and on and on -- incidents unbelievable in the minds of some, completely believable in the minds of others. Some day, in the truth of Heaven, we will know.

While ‘did-or-did-not’ may have engulfed a great deal of Andrew’s later ministry, there seems to be a consensus of opinion that he both lived and died in Greece. In spite of those who say he was stoned to death or eaten by cannibals, it seems most widely accepted that he made a bitter enemy of a Roman government official by converting his wife and brother to Christianity. Consequently the official had Andrew imprisoned while he planned for him a slow and painful death. First Andrew was scourged and then, not nailed to an “X” shaped cross – but tied to it thus assuring more prolonged agony. There he hung for two or possibly three days during which it is said he continued to ‘preach’, converting a great, great many people. Finally, on November 30th, (now his Feast Day) he died a martyr, which allows us to admiringly add ‘courageous’to our description of Andrew. Reportedly all of this happened in the year 69 A.D. when Andrew was an ‘aging’ Apostle.

There are the usual differences of opinion regarding the whereabouts of his remains and relics. One source claims that since the history of them can be so “easily traced”, some are in Rome and some are in Greece. Appropriately, he is remembered symbolically with an “X” cross which, to this day, is known as ‘St. Andrew’s Cross’.

Now, when I look at that same old calendar and see the handsome, serious-looking young man with short hair, the thin mustache, the neatly trimmed beard, the firm jaw and the slightly furrowed forehead I do feel some sympathy for what Andrew had to suffer in his lifetime but I also feel an appreciative contentment which comes from learning that he was indeed ‘his own man’ -- and what a great man he was.

So much for now -- see you next month, God willing . . . 

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"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

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