The Missionary Labors of the Other Apostles, by Father Richard Brennan, LL.D.

Article

“Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” – Psalms 18:5

While Peter and Paul were laboring to advance the cause of Christ, the other Apostles were no less active and devoted in the great work of spreading the name and religion of Jesus Christ, and in founding and building up Christian congregations in all directions. Saint James the elder proclaimed the tidings of salvation throughout Judea. So earnest was his zeal, and so great his success, that he drew upon himself the wrath of the willfully blinded Pharisees, to please whom Herod Agrippa had the Apostle seized at Jerusalem and put to death by the sword, about nine or ten years after the ascent of Christ from the earth. According to tradition, the body of this holy martyr was brought into the Spanish province of Gallicia, where it is to this day visited by countless pilgrims at the shrine of Compostella.

Saint John the Evangelist, brother of James, labored first in Judea. Soon after we meet him in Ephesus, the centre-point of Christianity in Asia Minor, where he gathered about him an assemblage of distinguished disciples, watched over the growing congregations of the neighborhood, and shielded the legacy of the faith, keeping it intact from the innovations of the Gnostics. Tradition teaches that Saint John came also to Rome, where, being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, near the Latin gate, he was, by the power of God, miraculously preserved unhurt, and afterwards banished by his enemies to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the books of the Apocalypse, or Revelation. Returning to Ephesus, he compiled his Gospel, and, although very old and infirm preached with untiring zeal the great law of charity, “My little children, love one another.” He slept in the Lord about the year 100.

Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter, preached in Scythia; that is, in Southern Russia, and along the shores of the Black Sea, and in Byzantium, the Constantinople of those times. At Patras, in Greece, lie was brought before the judgment-seat of the proconsul Aegeas. “Sacrifice to the gods,” was the order of the heathen proconsul. Andrew replied in these significant words: “Daily do I offer to the Almighty God, not indeed the flesh of oxen nor the blood of goats, but the immaculate Lamb of the altar; that Lamb with whose flesh thousands are fed, and who yet remains living and entire.” At these words, he was condemned to be crucified. When the illustrious confessor came in sight of the instrument of his martyrdom, he greeted it lovingly and with cheerfulness, saying: “O dearest cross, honored as thou hast been by the body of my Master, long desired by me, my most cherished friend whom I have sought for constantly, take me hence from men and give me to my Lord!” After an agony of two days’ duration, he calmly departed in the peace of the Lord.

Saint Philip traveled through Scythia and Phrygia, preaching faithfully and successfully, and finally closing his saintly career by a martyr’s death on the cross, at Ilierapolis, in the eighty-seventh year of his age.

Saint Bartholomew, that same Nathaniel of whom our Lord once said, “Behold a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile,” went on his missionary duties as far as “India,” which means, probably, Southern Arabia. He suffered martyrdom in the capital city of Armenia, having been first flayed by his executioners.

Saint Matthew, who before his calling was named Levi, was the son of Alphius, and preached the word of God in Ethiopia, Arabia, and Persia. He was the first among the four Evangelists to write the history of the public life of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he did in Palestine before beginning his missionary labors.

Saint Thomas, after having carried the light of the Gospel to the Parthians, Medes, and Persians, penetrated into – India, where, by the command of the king, ho was pierced by a lance at Calamina.

Saint James the younger, the cousin of our Lord and son of Alpheus, after the dispersion of the Apostles became bishop of Jerusalem, where, by his self-denial, strict integrity, and love of prayer, he not only edified and strengthened the infant Church in the spirit of the Gospel, but won over to the faith so many of the Jews that the chief priests became exasperated and decreed the saint’s death by stoning, in the year 63. He was finally slain with a fuller’s club. He is the author of one of the apostolic epistles, in which he exhorts all the new Christians scattered through the country to the practice of the faith.

Saint Jude Thaddeus, the brother of James, we meet as missionary in Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, in which countries he labored faithfully, till, overtaken by the cruelty of the enemies of Christianity, he secured a martyr’s crown. He too has left us one epistle.

Saint Simon the Canaanite preached the kingdom of Christ to the inhabitants of Egypt and of other parts of Northern Africa, of Persia and of Babylon. He was crucified or, as some affirm, hacked to pieces at Suanir.

Saint Matthias, one of the seventy-two disciples, was chosen Apostle soon after the Ascension of Christ, to take the place of Judas. Judea and afterward Ethiopia were the scenes of his apostolic activity and zeal; Sebastopolis, the place of his martyrdom.

Saint Mark, or more properly Saint John, accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch and Cyprus; and thence to Africa, where he afterwards founded the Church of Alexandria. We also find him in Italy, establishing the churches of Venice and Aquileia; and in Rome working side by side with Saint Peter, who styled him his son, and under whose direction he wrote his Gospel.

Saint Luke was a physician, and also a painter, from Antioch in Syria, and was chosen by Saint Paul, in the year 53, to accompany him on the mission. Under the direction of Saint Paul he compiled his Gospel, and afterwards the Acts of the Apostles. When far advanced in years, it was his privilege to seal with his blood that holy faith which he had taught so faithfully by word and writing.

Thus it was that our beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was pleased to manifest himself by his first messengers to the nations of the earth. How imperishable the glory and triumph of these chosen servants of God, these first pillars of the Christian Church! Little indeed has been written about their apostolic labors, but in the book of life their names are inscribed in letters of gold. On the great day of judgment we shall all discover how much these disinterested men preached, wrought, and suffered in their unceasing efforts to spread the Church of Christ throughout the earth. We may form some feeble notion of their arduous duties by reading and studying the address of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, where he describes some of his own experiences, as well as some of the other Apostles’:

“They are the ministers of Christ. (I speak as one less wise.) I am more: in many more labors, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labor and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever, know that I lie not.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Richard Brennan, LL.D. “The Missionary Labors of the Other Apostles”. Christ in His Church: A Catholic Church History, 1881. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 May 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>