St Simeon

Bishop and martyr (entered heaven around 107)

Dear Simon,

My volatile nephew, I believe you were bested.  You lost your temper while your Protestant roommate kept his cool, and so he has once again emerged from your “discussion” convinced that Catholics are simply misinformed and need to be re-educated according to the true faith.  I hope it helps you grow in humility. For the future, you may want to practice diverting your temper tantrums by appealing to history. Most Catholic doctrines are explicitly contained in Scripture, but some are only implicitly contained.  All, however, are present in the history of the Church. In other words, the faith that the first (and subsequent) Christians lived out was the Catholic faith; Protestantism is a new thing, a kind of “free-lance” Christianity that emerged late in the game (sixteenth century and thereabouts).  When you make this clear to people like your roommate, it helps broaden their perspective, breaking down anti-Catholic prejudices. Today’s saint happens to be a good example.

Simeon is the relative of Jesus mentioned in St Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 13).  Some non-Catholics refer to him in order to prove that Mary had other children besides Jesus, since Matthew refers to him as one of the “brethren” of the Lord.  Of course, that phrase amply includes more distant relations. In this particular case, historical evidence and other indications in the Gospels (e.g. Mark 15) point to him as the son of Cleophas (St Joseph’s brother) and “the other Mary” (who may have been the Virgin Mary’s sister), blood brother to the Apostle James the Younger.  

When that James was beheaded by Herod, the other Apostles and disciples met together to appoint a successor to lead the Church in Jerusalem, and they chose St Simeon.  When civil war broke out in Israel in the year 66, as some Jews began a violent struggle to free themselves from the Romans, the Christians in Jerusalem anticipated the coming disaster (some records indicate that they received a divine warning) and withdrew to the nearby city of Pella, across the Jordan River.  Because of this, Simeon escaped the imperial edict of Vespasian that required the execution of Palestinian Jews. After Titus put down the Jewish rebellion and burned the City of David, the Christians returned and lived among the ruins. Soon after, however, Simeon was turned in as not only Jewish, but also Christian, and he also suffered the fate of his brother and lost his head, after enduring excruciating tortures, even though he was over a hundred years old at the time.

None of this appears in the Scriptures (which are not primarily books of secular history), but it sheds an awful lot of light on life in the early church – especially the fact that a successor to the Apostle James the Younger was appointed to carry on his Apostolic ministry.  History is full of such references that make the profile of the early Church unmistakably Catholic. The more of this you know, the more you will be able to help your roommate (and others like him) see the true faith more clearly.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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