Tag Archives: Judas Iscariot

St. Matthias, Apostle and martyr

May 9, 2019


St. Matthias is mentioned in chapter one of the Acts of the Apostles and nowhere else in Scripture. He was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, and with his selection the number of apostles was restored to twelve. According to Eusebius, St. Clement of Alexandria, and St. Jerome, St. Matthias was one of the seventy-two disciples appointed by Jesus to go out in pairs to every town and place that he intended to visit (see Lk 10:1), but there is nothing to verify this. At one time his feast was celebrated on February 24, but it was moved to May 14 to be near the time of the Ascension and Pentecost.

St. MatthiasAfter the Ascension and before Pentecost, Peter stood up and addressed the community on the importance of choosing someone to succeed Judas Iscariot, and he quoted a Psalm in reference to the betrayer, “May another take his office” (Ps 109:8b; Acts 1:20). Peter then explained the selection criteria. The person must be “one of the men who accompanied us the whole time that the Lord Jesus came and went among us” (Acts 1:21), “beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to the resurrection” (Acts 1:22). Two men were nominated as worthy from among those who had traveled with Jesus throughout his ministry, Joseph Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

Then, instead of taking a vote, it was decided that lots would be cast to make the choice. The usual method was to write each candidate’s name on a separate stone, place the stones in a container, shake the container, and the first stone to fall out would be the one chosen. By praying first and then leaving it to “chance,” the selection was made by God, the one who knows the hearts of all, and not by men, thereby eliminating the possibility of favoritism or error.

St. Matthias was given the rank of apostle and held in high regard by the Church. His name is included on the second list of apostles and martyrs in the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I.

After his selection, St. Matthias was with the apostles on Pentecost, and after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, he was filled with zeal. According to St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Matthias emphasized the importance of “mortifying the flesh to subdue sensual appetites – a lesson he learned from Christ and which he faithfully practiced himself” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

St. Matthias began his preaching ministry in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. Then he made a major missionary journey to Cappadocia which is located in far northeastern Asia Minor, as far as Georgia at the southern edge of Russia along the Caspian Sea. He proclaimed the gospel with fervor and sincerity, and as a result he suffered bitter persecution from nonbelievers. He was martyred sometime near 64 AD in Colchis which is located in the Caucasus Mountains north of Cappadocia. Accounts of his death differ; either he was crucified on a wooden cross or beheaded with a halberd, a military weapon that is the combination of a spear and a battle axe. His remains were eventually taken to Jerusalem to be venerated, and then transferred to Rome by Queen St. Helena.

St. Matthias is the patron saint of carpenters because of the wooden cross, and tailors, and he is invoked against alcoholism and smallpox. His symbols are a halberd or an axe.

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