December 21: St. Thomas the Apostle

St. Thomas the ApostleSt. Thomas, Apostle

(Taken from Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Volume IV)


St. Thomas was a Jew and probably a Galilean of humble birth, but we are not told that he was a fisherman or the circumstances in which Our Lord made him an apostle. His name is Syriac, and means the “twin”. When Jesus was going up to the neighborhood of Jerusalem in order to raise Lazarus to life the rest of the disciples endeavored to dissuade Him, saying, “Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” But St. Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him,” so ardent was the love of his Master. (John 11:8, 16)

At the Last Supper, when Our Lord said, “Wither I go you know, and the way you know,” it was Thomas who asked, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?” and so drew from Him those words in which are contained the whole Christian faith, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No man cometh to the Father but my me.” (John 14:4-6)

But this apostle is especially remembered for his incredulity after Our Lord had suffered, risen from the dead, and on the same day appeared to His disciples to convince them of the truth of His resurrection. St. Thomas was not then with them and refused to believe their report that He was truly risen: “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, when they were all together and the doors shut, the risen Christ was suddenly in the midst of them, greeting them: “Peace be to you.” Then He turned to Thomas and said, “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing.” And Thomas fell at His feet, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus answered, “Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not see, and have believed.” (John 20:24-28)

This is all that we are told of St. Thomas in the New Testament, but, as with the other apostles, there are traditions, of great unreliability, about his missionary activities after the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. But the most persistent tradition is that which says that he preached the gospel in India.

The Roman Martyrology combines several legends and adopts the view that St. Thomas preached the gospel to the Parthians, Medes, Persians and Hyrcanians, passed into India, and was there martyred at “Calamina.” This name occurs only in later writings and nobody has yet succeeded in identifying the place. The Martyrology mentions the translation of his relics to Edessa on July 3, but in Malabar, and indeed throughout the Syrian churches, this date is the principal feast of St. Thomas, commemorating his martyrdom “in the year 72 AD.”

Relics of St. Thomas the Apostle:

* Santhome Cathedral, Chennai, India.

* The finger of St. Thomas the Apostle is housed in Holy Cross of Jerusalem Basilica in Rome, Italy.

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