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The Twelve Apostles

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The Last Supper

The Twelve Apostles

"Jesus said to them, 'Amen, I say to you that you...will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'" (Mt. 19:28)


The twelve Apostles were hand-picked by Jesus to carry on His mission. The Apostles (meaning "one who is sent") were the first bishops of the Catholic Church. They were given authority and power by Jesus, including the power to heal and to forgive sins. Peter, the chief apostle, was given special authority, including the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (see Mt. 16:19). Christ built His Church on St. Peter (see Mt. 16:18), the first pope, and promised that it would withstand the gates of Hell. The Pope today can be traced directly back to St. Peter and the other Bishops of the Catholic Church descend directly from the other Apostles. In fact, one of the four marks of the Church is its Apostolicity. Scripture tells us that in the heavenly New Jerusalem "The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [that is, Christ]." (Rv. 21:14)

Before receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we see in Scripture that the Apostles displayed various characteristics, including doubt, fear, weakness, and imperceptiveness. One apostle, Judas, betrayed Christ and all but one abandoned Him during His agony. After receiving the Holy Spirit, however (excepting Judas who had died & did not receive the Holy Spirit), they became 'fearless leaders' of the Church, all but one shedding their blood for Christ. 

Not included with the twelve apostles is St. Paul (formerly called Saul), who is often referred to as "the Apostle" due to his great apostolic works. As the Baltimore Catechism explains, "St. Paul was an Apostle, but as he was not called till after the Ascension of Our Lord he is not numbered among the twelve. He is called the Apostle of the Gentles; that is, of all those who were not of the Jewish religion or members of the Church of the Old Law."

Selected information about the original twelve apostles follows.  

Apostle Name

Additional Information

Simon / Peter

* Son of Jona (or Johannes, John, Jonah)

* Brother of Apostle Andrew

* From Bethsaida

* Chief Apostle

* His name was changed by Jesus from Simon to Peter (meaning "rock")

* Jesus founded His Church on Peter (see Mt. 16:18)

* Jesus entrusted Peter with the keys to the kingdom of heaven (see Mt. 16:19)

* Wrote two Epistles

* Was crucified upside down (on same day St. Paul was martyred)

* His relics are located directly beneath the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica (Rome)

* Chief feast (Trad.): 6/29 (with St. Paul)

Note: For more information, try the Vatican View Section

Andrew

* Son of Jona (or Johannes, John, Jonah)

* Brother of Apostle Simon Peter

* From Bethsaida

* Was first Apostle called

* Trad. Feast: 11/30

James (the greater)

* Son of Zebedee

* Elder brother of Apostle John

* "Son of Thunder" (Boanerges)

* Trad. Feast: 7/25

John

* Son of Zebedee

* Younger brother of Apostle James (the greater)

* "Son of Thunder" (Boanerges)

* Called the "beloved disciple"

* Only Apostle who did not forsake Jesus during His passion

* Was made guardian of Jesus' Mother while Jesus hung on the Cross (see Jn. 19:27)

* Wrote Gospel, Apocalypse/Revelation, and three Epistles

* Only Apostle who was not martyred (according to tradition, he survived attempted martyrdom)

* Trad. Feast: 12/27

Philip

* Of Bethsaida of Galilee

* Trad. Feast: 5/1

Bartholomew

* A friend of Philip

* May be Nathanael

* Trad. Feast: 8/24

Thomas (called Didymus, "the twin")

* Was absent when Jesus appeared after the resurrection and did not believe until he saw Jesus personally (and is thus called "Doubting Thomas")

* Trad. Feast: 12/21

Matthew (Levi)

* Was a tax collector

* Wrote Gospel

* Trad. Feast: 9/21

James (the less)

* Son of Alpheus (Alphaeus)

* Brother of Jude (Thaddeus) the Apostle

* Believed to be a cousin of Jesus

* Usually considered author of Epistle bearing his name

* Trad. Feast: 5/1

Jude (Thaddeus)

* Brother of James the Apostle (the less)

* Believed to be a cousin of Jesus

* Usually considered author of Epistle bearing his name

* Trad. Feast: 10/28

Simon the Cananean

* Called a Zealot

* Trad. Feast: 10/28

Judas Iscariot

* Son of Simon the Iscariot

* Betrayed Jesus

* Was replaced by Matthias [Acts 1:26] (Trad. Feast of St. Matthias: 2/24)

"But if we may learn the interpretation of the Apostles' names, know that Peter means, 'loosening or knowing;' Andrew 'glorious power,' or 'answering;' James, 'apostle of grief;' John, 'the grace of the Lord;' Matthew, 'given;' Philip, 'large mouth,' or the 'orifice of a torch;' Bartholomew, 'the son of him who lets down water;' Thomas, 'deep or twin;' James the son of Alphaeus, 'supplanter of the step of life;' Judas, 'confession;' Simon, 'obedience.'" (St. Cyril, Doctor of the Church)


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