My guess is that you have never heard of Ray Chapman. He has long since passed away and is the only player to have died as a result of an on-field injury suffered during a Major League Baseball game. In the summer of 1920 Chapman was only 29 years old, he was a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, and he was hit in the temple by a “spitball” thrown by the New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays. He died 12 hours later from that injury. This ended up making the two of them famous, or infamous, as the tragedy had two direct effects to the way that the game of baseball was played. First, the incident was the final straw in the out lawing of the spitball, spitter, mud ball, shine ball from the game of baseball. Pitchers could no longer apply any foreign matter to the outside of the ball as it made the pitch too hard to control. And second, Chapman’s death sparked the first serious consideration of the use of batting helmets eventually to be worn by all baseball batters down through little league.
Other than the fact that the World Series is going on now you might wonder what this tragedy has to do with today’s readings or today’s feast saints. Actually, I have no idea either, I just like obscure baseball facts.
That’s not true, today is the feast of Saints Simon and Jude Apostles and martyrs. In the gospel reading the two are found among the list of all of the apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
Did you notice them? Yeah, me neither. That was because they were the “second Simon” and the “second Judas”. It is always speculated that Simon was called “the Zealot” so as not to be confused with the Simon Peter. And Judas was called Jude, or Jude Thaddaeus, because of the famous Beatles song …. No, so as not to be confused with the other Judas. In images these two saints are typically shown holding the means of their martyrdom. St. Simon is typically shown holding a saw, as tradition has it that he was sawn in half. And St. Jude is shown holding a club as it was to have been used to beat him over the head. In both depictions the significance was not their passing but their living. They spread the message of Jesus far from Palestine and were not afraid to die delivering that message.
You are still wondering about the connection with Ray Chapman. It has to do with their obscurity and their notoriety. Both Simon and Jude walked with Jesus, they saw his works and they heard him speak. As a matter of fact, Jude has a famous line at the last supper. In John 14:22-23 he asks, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”.
Chapman and Mays are nothing more than a card in an old game of Baseball trivial pursuit, but they changed “America’s pastime”. Simon and Jude are the apostles that you will never remember when asked to name all 12 but they sat with, talked with, walked with and eventually were sent forth by Jesus to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In the first reading John tells the Ephesians that we “are no longer strangers and sojourners, but we are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets.” It says that we are fellow citizens with Simon the Zealot and Jude Thaddaeus.
If you google the two of them, you will find them listed as something like “two of the lesser-known disciples”. My guess is that they would be good with that because they are great patron saints for all of the rest of us “lesser-known disciples”.
On the website for the National Shrine in Washington DC it says that though they are not mentioned often in the Gospel, they still are important biblical figures for their closeness to Jesus and His ministry, and for their involvement in the Church. What more could a person ask for as a fitting epitaph.
So, happy Saint Simon and Saint Jude Day. There is a tiny club, saw and baseball waiting for you under the spruce tree out front of church with your name on them …. Not really.
Lk 6: 12-16
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew,
Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
October 28, 2021