The Apostles of the Nations

In teaching the history of the Church, Brother Francis had a simple system. Along with the many historical books from well-known Catholic authors that he required his students to read, he provided an expanding list of memory items that began with the twelve apostles (their countries of mission and date of martyrdoms), dates for the conversion of certain nations and kingdoms and the names of the principal apostles of those nations and kingdoms. I say “principal apostles” because most of the nations on Brother’s list had other saints visit their shores earlier and preach Christ the Savior Crucified and Risen, winning many converts from their labors, but they did not convert the kingdom or nation in toto, as a whole. With this in mind, I have added a few apostles to Brother’s list who were certainly preeminent missionaries in their respected fields, but who did not necessarily convert an entire kingdom. Some of the ones I listed reaped a harvest where other lesser known apostles labored in planting the seeds. However, as “principal apostles,” I thought Brother would be happy to include them, with qualification, in his list. In addition to these memorization items Brother Francis also, in the beginning, had his students learn by rote, without necessarily knowing anything about them, the names of the twenty popes who straddled the turning of centuries and, for the more ambitious, the names of the 266 popes from Saint Peter to Benedict XVI in whose pontificate Brother died on September 5, 2009.

Memorization played heavily into Brother Francis’ method of teaching history. It was not as important as causality, but knowing specific dates of major events made historical facts easier to record in the mind. The idea was to have the facts on the fingertips of our mind for immediate use, rather than on the physical fingertips flipping the pages of a book to get the data. The technique was establishing relationships. Knowing the date of the naval battle of Lepanto, for example (1571), would serve as a link to the reigning pope, Saint Pius V (1566-1572), who summoned Christendom to rally to the cause of Christ against the menacing Mohammedans who were voraciously intent on the the further conquest of the western Mediterranean world and, eventually, all of Europe. The calendar date of that momentous victory was the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7. The victory occasioned this great pontiff to add the title “Help of Christians” to Our Lady’s Litany. He is also the pope who inspired and strengthened his universal flock by excommunicating the heretical persecutor Queen Elizabeth of England in 1570. What else happened in 1570? Pius issued the famous Bull, Quo Primum, which was intended by him, as a liturgical reform, to fix for all time the Missal of the sacred Roman Latin Rite of the Mass. Although he could not bind a future pope when it came to the liturgy, his Bull did set a standard for four hundred years that no pope dared to tamper with until Pope John XXIII added Saint Joseph to the Roman Canon during Vatican II. Then, in 1969, came the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI. Last month, by the way, Pope Francis decreed that the name of Saint Joseph be added to the other three Eucharistic prayers of the Novus Ordo Canon.

Do you see how knowing one major date helps in remembering others by association? The date of the naval battle of Lepanto, for example, acts like a peg, Brother used to say, to hang on other historical events that are related.

As a teacher of psychology, which is classically the study of the human soul, Brother Francis knew how the memory works. It is one of the four inner senses of the intellectual soul according to the psychology of Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas. The other three are the common sense, the estimative sense, and the imagination. I have to refrain from elaborating on this. Sense memory is usually not a function of the intellect or will, for the most part it is involuntary, activated by any of the five physical senses, but stored in the brain as a sense image of sight, sound, taste, touch, or even odor. The spiritual faculty of the will is not necessarily involved in what the sense memory registers (animals also have sense memory), but it always is when it comes to the action of the spiritual intellectual memory. The will can exercise the spiritual memory, thus making it an invaluable and absolutely necessary tool in education. Nothing, Brother used to say, exercises the memory better than repetition. Thus we have the ageless Latin proverb: Repetitio est mater studiorum.

Before I proceed to this study of the apostles of the nations, I will make a brief summation of the mission of the twelve first Apostles to the nations, and of the two honorary Apostles, Saints Paul and Barnabas.

To begin, let us be childlike. Here are the names of the twelve Apostles and the dates of their martyrdoms. All of the Apostles were martyrs, including Saint John who miraculously survived being boiled in oil.

All the four Gospels enumerate the Twelve and they all begin with Saint Peter, who died in Rome during the persecution of Nero in the year 67. Saint Paul, likewise, died in Rome during the same persecution on the same day as Saint Peter. Saint Peter preached the Faith in many places, including Syria, Egypt, and Italy. Peter and Paul share the same feast day, June 29.

Saint Andrew, elder brother of Saint Peter, preached the gospel in Asia Minor and Scythia (a huge area stretching from the Black Sea all the way to Mongolia) and afterwards was crucified in Greece at Achaia on an X-shaped cross in the year 61. His feast day is November 30.

Saint James the Greater was the first Apostle to be slain for Christ. He preached the Faith in Spain and was consoled on account of the fewness of his immediate converts by the Blessed Virgin who bi-located in an apparition to him there on a pillar. On a visit to Jerusalem in the year 42, he was arrested under orders from King Herod Agrippa and condemned to death by beheading. His feast day is July 25.

Saint John the Beloved was given by Christ on the Cross to care for the Blessed Mother. After Our Lady’s death in the year 58, John preached the Faith throughout Asia Minor, establishing his Episcopal See at Ephesus. In the year 96, at the age of eighty-four he was arrested and dragged to Rome in chains. He was condemned to death and placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, which did him no harm. He was then exiled for a time to the island of Patmos and, after being set free, he returned to Ephesus where he died in the year 100.

Saints Simon and Jude were brothers. They both preached the gospel in Persia (today’s Iran). They were martyred the same year, 67. Simon was crucified and Jude was beaten to death by clubs. They have the same feast day, October 28. They were buried together on Vatican hill near Saint Peter, having been martyred shortly after the Prince of the Apostles.

Saint James the Less was appointed by Christ to shepherd the Church at Jerusalem and convert the Jews. He was the brother of Saints Simon and Jude and was the oldest of the Apostles. All three were cousins of Our Lord. In the year 62, James was taken by the Jews to the pinnacle of the temple and commanded to renounce Christ in front of all the people. Instead, to their astonishment, he proclaimed Christ’s divinity as Savior and Messiah, the King of the Jews. For this he was hurled from the top of the temple and, while still alive, clubbed to death in the street. His feast day is May 11.

Saint Philip shares the same feast day as Saint James the Less because their bodies are kept in the same church in Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Apostles. It is uncertain where he preached the gospel, although the more common tradition is that he gave testimony of Christ in Egypt and was martyred there in the year 61 by crucifixion.

Saint Bartholomew was brought to Christ by the Apostle Philip who was his friend, both being disciples of Saint John the Baptist. Bartholomew (son of Ptolemy) is the disciple Nathanael’s Greek name. This “son of Ptolemy” preached the Faith in many places of Asia Minor and as far away as India, finishing his mission in Armenia where he was flayed alive by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. Having converted the king, although not the kingdom, we can still count Saint Bartholomew as an “Apostle of a Nation.” He shed his skin and his blood for Christ in the year 72. His feast day is August 24.

Saint Matthew, the Publican, preached the gospel in Ethiopia. He is, as Bartholomew for Armenia, an Apostle of a Nation, because, not only did he make many converts (as did all the Twelve) but he converted the king of Ethiopia by the stupendous miracle of raising the king’s daughter from the dead. Her name was Iphigenia and she is listed as a saint in the Martyrology. After her resurrection from the dead, with Saint Matthew’s approval, she took a vow of virginity. This so enraged the next king, Hirtacus, who wanted to marry her, that he had Matthew slain at the altar while offering Mass. The year was 68. Saint Matthew’s feast day is September 21.

Saint Thomas, the Twin, was the same age as Our Lord. After Pentecost he brought the Faith to India and Persia. There is also a credible tradition that Thomas announced the “good news” as far away as southwestern China (today’s Burma) and Malaysia. There are Christian Biblical engravings that have recently been found in China that date back to the late first century. Doubting Thomas was stabbed to death in the year 74 on the eastern coast of India near the city that even today bears his name. His feast day is December 21.

Saint Matthias was one of the seventy-two disciples mentioned as being sent by Christ two by two to the towns of Palestine on a mission to prepare the way for the visitation of the Savior by preaching His advent, and working miracles of healing in His name. (Luke 10:1) He was chosen by lot to replace Judas (Acts 1: 15-26). There are two traditions concerning his mission. One has him preaching Christ in Ethiopia and being martyred there by crucifixion. The other has him being stoned to death in Jerusalem. Father Feeney and Saint Benedict Center opted for the latter as the more evidentiary tradition. The year of his martyrdom was 65. His feast day is February 24.

Saint Paul’s mission is, of course, given in detail in the Acts of the Apostles. He preached Christ crucified, first to the Jews of the diaspora in Macedonia and Greece, then, when and if they rejected it, he concentrated almost exclusively on the gentiles. He traveled far and wide, establishing churches from Asia Minor to Achaia. He preached in Jerusalem and Antioch and on the islands of Crete and Cyprus. He spent some time in Spain and was brought to Rome in chains from Jerusalem under his own appeal as a prisoner or, more accurately, he was put under house arrest, still wearing chains. Here, under the eye of a lenient guard, he was able to continue preaching to his Roman visitors and writing epistles.

Saint Barnabas, also, like Saint Matthias, one of the seventy-two disciples, is considered an honorary Apostle and is given the Mass of an Apostle in the liturgy. He was the companion of Saint Paul. and was consecrated bishop with Paul while together with him in Antioch prior to their first missionary journey. After preaching the gospel with Saint Paul in Italy, Barnabas eventually settled in Cyprus, where he was born and there he established his episcopal See. He was martyred in Cyprus by the Jews who stoned him to death in the year 60. Earlier in his mission, while in Italy, he also singularly preached the gospel in Milan. Saint Charles Borromeo even calls him “the Apostle of Milan.” His feast day is June 11.

The Apostles laid the foundation of the Faith in the East and in the West. How is this? In Saint Paul’s own lifetime, under divine inspiration (quoting Psalm 18, verse 5) he could write these words to the Romans: “Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say: Have they not heard? [V]erily, their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world.” Was he uttering a falsehood? God forbid. We must accept this scriptural text as God’s word, receiving it as children. This is not some wishful exaggeration. It is not for us to know the details how it was achieved, but to trust in the almighty providence of God “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

In Part II of this article, which I will post next month, I will commence with the story of the first “Apostle of a Nation” on my list. He unquestionably has a universal pre-eminence in popularity and he also comes first chronologically before the other apostles of nations. Who might that be? Saint Patrick.

Brother Francis felt very strongly that the United States of America can be converted to the Catholic Faith. In fact, the conversion of America is a primary goal of our doctrinal crusade. What will it take to convert America? Lots of miracle? Perhaps. But, most importantly, it will take the evangelization of the nation through holy and well-educated crusaders, clerical religious and lay. We may be called to fish with a hook and, by the grace of God, win a convert or two, or many, here and there, one by one. Or, by igniting the zeal of a prominent leader, or leaders, through the grace of a dramatic public conversion, we may be instrumental through our public witness and words, oral and/or written, in hauling in thousands to the Church within the net that is strongly woven by our Faith, Hope, and Charity. This is the ideal that Our Lady wishes us to strive for. On the last page of every issue of our Mancipia newsletter we include the indulgenced Prayer for the Conversion of America as it appeared in the old Raccolta. Complementary with this goal, Brother Francis insisted that we be a school of thought, rather than lone crusaders. We are an institute within the Body of Christ, not merely a single cell, but rather an organ composed of many small and insignificant cells working as one and empowered by grace and knowledge. We must be a leaven in the body in order for the real Jesus Christ — not the fabricated caricature of the Christ of the American Protestants — to reign with His Mother Mary in the United States. It was with this in mind that Brother Francis wanted us to study and appreciate the wisdom, as well as the zeal, of the great apostles of nations. May God send such apostles and, hopefully, may their light shine forth soon throughout the land.

Below is my current list of the major “Apostles of Nations.” I may add more later, but, for now, most of the following were acknowledged as apostles of nations by Brother Francis. A few others on the list certainly would have been so honored, including one, whom I know he would have inducted and placed at the head of the list in a unique and super-eminent category. And, of course, I am referring to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here they are:

  • Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland. Although the Faith had taken root in southern Ireland long before Patrick’s arrival in 432, by the time of his death in 492, he had converted the entire island.
  • Saint Remigius, Apostle of the Franks (Gaul).  He died in 533. He baptized Clovis, the king of the Franks in 496. The wife of Clovis was Saint Clotilde, whose influence surely drew him to embrace the true religion. Other principal patrons of the Church in France, who brought the light of Faith to Gaul before Remigius, were Saints Irenaeus of Lyons and Martin of Tours.
  • Saint Columbkille, Apostle of Scotland. This Irish saint was born in 521 and, in 563 he and twelve companions left Ireland and established a monastic community on the island of Iona. From here he preached the gospel in Scotland. He is one of a number of saints whose biographies were written by saints, in his case Saint Adamnan. He died in 597.
  • Saint Leander, bishop of Seville. In 589, he converted Recarred, the Arian Visigoth King of Spain, He was the brother of Saint Isidore, Doctor of the Church.
  • In the year 604, Saint Augustine, the Apostle of England, died after putting the Church in England on a solid foundation. Laboring only seven years as Archbishop of Canterbury, he is considered the “Apostle of England.”
  • Saint Rupert, who died in 720, labored as a primary apostle in the Austrian territory and Bavaria.
  • 739 was the year of the death of Saint Willibrord who evangelized the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark.
  • Germany received the Faith from the Benedictine missionary Saint Boniface, who died in 755.
  • Scandinavia was evangelized by Saint Ansgar, who died in 865.
  • Saints Cyril (869) and Methodius (885) were apostles to the Slavic people of Russia and Poland, and they also evangelized the Bohemians. Pope John Paul II declared them “Partons of Europe” along with Saint Benedict, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Bridget of Sweden, and Saint Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
  • Saint King Wenceslaus of Bohemia died in 935. Not exactly an “apostle” of that country (Saints Cyril and Methodius and Adalbert were) but he is the patron saint of Bohemia.
  • Saint Adalbert, who died in 997, was an Apostle of Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary, and is a principal patron saint of Poland and Hungary
  • Saint Stephen, first King of Hungary, was converted by Saint Adalbert and baptized together with his father in the year 985. Pope Silvester II gave him the title of “His Apostolic Majesty,” or “Apostolic King,” a veritable “apostle of Christ” the pope said of him. His coronation by Pope Silvester on Christmas day in the year 1000 marks the birth of Hungary as a Catholic nation. In 995, Stephen married the sister of Saint Henry II, the Holy Roman German Emperor.
  • Saint Hyacinth was a primary “Apostle of Poland.” He was born in Prague in 1185. He was a Dominican missioner, one of the first to join Saint Dominic and his band of apostolic laborers. It is hard to find a country in Eastern Europe where Hyacinth did not preach the Faith. He labored in Prussia and Lithuania; then, crossing the Baltic Sea, he preached in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, and even as far east as China. He established his episcopal See in Cracow where he died in 1257.
  • Mexico and ten million Aztec Indians were converted to the Catholic Faith by the apparition of the Mother of God to Saint Juan Diego and the great miracle of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which she painted with flowers on the tilma of the Aztec saint in 1531 — a miracle that abides still for all to see.
  • Saint Francis Xavier labored ten years (1542-1552) in Madagascar, India, the East Indies, Malaysia, Sumatra, the Philippines, Borneo, and Japan. By his holiness, zeal, and stupendous miracles, including raising many from the dead and speaking in languages that he had never studied, he baptized three million people with his own hands. At his canonization in 1622 he was declared the greatest missionary after Saint Paul.