St. Rufus—A Son of Simon of Cyrene? Perhaps!

The Church honors St. Rufus Nov. 21.

Rembrandt, “St. Paul at His Writing Desk,” c. 1629
Rembrandt, “St. Paul at His Writing Desk,” c. 1629 (photo: Public Domain)

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. ―Romans 16:13

Rufus is one name of many names listed toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Rome. Paul was in Greece, perhaps Corinth, when he wrote this letter sometime between AD 56 and 58. Because Paul had not yet been to Rome, it is difficult to discern how he came to know Rufus and the others listed. Curious to note is that Paul also gave Rufus’s mother a warm greeting in the verse, calling her his mother as well. One can only wonder how Paul had developed a special connection with this mother of Rufus. It appears that Paul sent this letter to build a relationship with the Roman Christians and to share with them many precepts of the Faith.

It is often believed that it was St. Phoebe (Sept. 3) who delivered the Letter to the Romans on behalf of Paul. In the 16th chapter, Paul asked the Christians of Rome to treat Phoebe respectfully. So, it becomes conceivable that Rufus honored Paul’s wishes and treated Phoebe with kindness during her time in Rome. It is easy to imagine Rufus and his mother (along with the others mentioned in Romans 16) asking Phoebe lots of questions about Paul and then with great interest reading or listening to Paul’s letter.

Within the long greeting, Paul also made reference to Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila (July 8), who let their house in Rome be used as a church. It seems probable that Rufus and his mother knew this couple and perhaps attended services at their home. It is even possible that Rufus was evangelized by Prisca and Aquila, who had spent time with Paul earlier while in Corinth.

Some claim that this Rufus was the same Rufus mentioned in the 15th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. If true, then Rufus would be the son of Simon the Cyrenian, the man who carried Jesus’ cross for a time as he struggled toward Golgotha.

The 28th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles records that Paul did eventually travel to Rome, sometime near AD 63 — as a prisoner. While uncertain, it seems reasonable that Rufus and his mother were among the many who visited Paul during his time of house arrest in Rome.


Bible Journaling with St. Rufus

The Church honors St. Rufus Nov. 21. Some might turn to this barely-known saint for mother-and-son issues due to Paul’s reference to Rufus’s mother — a mother who Paul claimed as his own as well! Perhaps you would like to get to know St. Rufus a little bit better. If so, pull out a notebook, pencil, and your Bible and spend the next five days exploring the verses below. Ponder Rufus’s possible role in each passage and ask this saint to pray for your needs. 

  • Day 1) Romans 16:1–2
  • Day 2) Romans 16:13
  • Day 3) Mark 15:21
  • Day 4) Acts 28:14–16
  • Day 5) Acts 28:30–31