St. Simon the Apostle—Cananean and Zealot

St. Simon shares a feast day with another apostle—St. Jude Thaddeus—on Oct. 28.

Peter Paul Rubens, “Saint Simon,” c. 1611
Peter Paul Rubens, “Saint Simon,” c. 1611 (photo: Public Domain)

When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. ―Acts 1:13–14a

No specific stories surrounding the apostle Simon appear in the Bible, nor are any quotes of his recorded. He is merely listed as an apostle, although in two different ways. Matthew and Mark call him the “Cananean” while Luke identifies Simon as a “Zealot.” Although the two labels sound quite different, Cananean is plausibly derived from an Aramaic word for zealot. Simon was probably given this title for one of two reasons: either he was full of zeal in his faith, or he belonged to a political group from the time called Zealots.

The only information that can be gleaned from the Bible about Simon is his assumed participation in apostolic events. He was commissioned to go out to various towns to preach and heal, attended the Last Supper (but probably not the Crucifixion), saw the risen Jesus, observed Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and received the Holy Spirit.

Beyond that, only tradition and legend suggest any more information about Simon. It is believed that after Pentecost, he traveled extensively to spread the message of Christ. Some wrote that he preached in Syria, Egypt, Britain, Mesopotamia, and Persia―places that do indeed have evidence of early Christian influence. While in Mesopotamia, Simon reportedly met up with Jude Thaddeus. The two apostles are alleged to have traveled to Persia (Iran) and there taught of the life of Jesus. Their words and actions were so convincing that thousands of Persians converted to Christianity. However, after some time, the two were martyred there: Simon was sawed into pieces, and Jude was clubbed (or hacked, or speared) to death. This double-martyrdom story prompted Church authorities to give the two apostles a feast day to share―Oct. 28.

Church historians record that the relics of both martyred apostles were eventually brought to Rome and are now preserved in St. Peter’s Basilica.


A Novena of Days with St. Simon the Apostle

St. Simon shares a feast day with another apostle—St. Jude Thaddeus—on Oct. 28. Simon the Apostle is the patron saint of saw workers and tanners, and is one of only two apostles with no quotes recorded in the Bible (St. James the Less is the other quote-less apostle). Although there are no recorded words of St. Simon and no special narratives to highlight him, he was nonetheless an apostle. And, by being an apostle, we can discern much about him. Consider spending nine days getting to know St. Simon by reading the following apostle-relevant passages. Slowly pore over each passage, picture Simon (and yourself!) in the various scenes, and ask this quiet apostle to pray for your needs!

  • Day 1) Matthew 10:1–15
  • Day 2) Mark 6:7–13, 30–33
  • Day 3) Luke 6:12–19
  • Day 4) Luke 9:1–6
  • Day 5) Luke 22:14–20
  • Day 6) Luke 24:33, 36–53
  • Day 7) John 20:19–23
  • Day 8) Acts 1:6–14
  • Day 9) Acts 2:1–13