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Sorting Our the Apostles
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.


Were Mark and Jude Apostles?
Married Priests
Why No Contemporary Portraits of Jesus?

Q: A recent book states, “St. Mark, the Evangelist, was a disciple of the Apostles but did not know Jesus personally. Mark wrote the Gospel based on eyewitnesses.” During a televised Mass, a priest said that Mark was an apostle with Peter and Paul. Which is it?

Also, I get prayer cards and requests for donations for St. Jude, who is said to be the patron of hopeless causes. Isn’t this the apostle who betrayed Jesus? Is Jude really a saint? When was he canonized?

A: According to the lists in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19 and Luke 6:13-16, no apostle was named Mark. Many Christians have linked the author of the Gospel of Mark with the man who accompanied Barnabas back from Jerusalem (Acts 15:37-39) and who went with Paul and Barnabas through part of their first missionary journey in Asia Minor—but who left prematurely (see Acts 15:36-40).

According to Christian tradition, this is the same Mark who is mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 and who worked with Peter in Rome.

Although Mark was not one of the Twelve Apostles, he still could have known Jesus personally. Some commentators have speculated that Mark was the man who was clothed only with a sheet and was seized by soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane—but ran away naked (Mark 14:51-52).

Perhaps the author of the Gospel of Mark is the John “who is called Mark,” son of a Mary in whose house Christians met in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).

Would the Gospel of Mark be any less authoritative if its author had never met Jesus personally? No. That Gospel is in the New Testament because the Church saw its faith reflected in it. We are virtually certain that St. Luke never met Jesus, but that does not make his Gospel any less trustworthy. He heard about Jesus from reliable sources and assembled fragmentary stories into a coherent account.

In fact, the first written evidence linking Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to the four Gospels in the New Testament comes from Papias of Hierapolis in approximately 125 A.D.

We tend to restrict the term “apostle” to the 12 men in the Gospel lists cited above. The New Testament, however, refers to Paul as an apostle because the term means “one sent.”

Now, about St. Jude: The lists from Matthew and Mark speak of Thaddeus as an apostle. The list from Luke includes a “Judas the son of James,” who is distinct from Judas Iscariot, who appears by that title in all three lists. Christians have long assumed that Thaddeus and Jude are the same person—but not Judas Iscariot.

It is Jude who shares a feast with the Apostle Simon (October 28) and who is called the patron saint of hopeless causes. The formal canonization process as we know it did not begin until the 10th century. By that time, the names “Simon and Jude” had been part of the Roman Canon of the Mass for centuries.

We do not know as much about some of the apostles as we might like. What we do know, however, is the most important fact concerning them: They followed Jesus generously, obeying his command to preach the Good News to all nations. Genuine devotion to the apostles inspires us to do the same.

Married Priests

Q: Some Latin-rite Catholics feel that ordaining married men will solve the priest shortage. I know that there are married priests in Eastern Catholic Churches.

Has ordination of married men prevented a priest shortage and encouraged membership growth in those Churches? Do the Scriptures support a married priesthood?

A: First, let me offer a word about terminology. The expression “Eastern Catholic Churches” refers to Churches such as the Melkite, Maronite and 19 others who are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome but who follow liturgical and pastoral traditions ultimately dating back to the time of the apostles.

These Churches are usually linked to the patriarchates in Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem or Constantinople. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon recognized these four, plus Rome, as the Church’s patriarchal sees.

Phyllis Zagano’s January 2006 Catholic Update “What All Catholics Should Know About Eastern Catholic Churches” provides a good starting place for learning about these Churches, which are as apostolic as the Roman Catholic (Latin-rite) Church.

Eastern Catholic Churches have both married and celibate priests; in most cases, the celibate priests are also monks. These Churches ordain married men as priests but do not allow those already ordained to marry—nor allow married priests to remarry should they become widowers.

The Roman Catholic Church understands this possibility as pertaining to the original territories of the Eastern Catholic Churches but not to the entire world. Since most of those Churches have many members geographically far from the territory where each of those Churches began, this has caused tensions.

At the Synod of Bishops last October, several leaders of Eastern Catholic Churches cautioned their Latin-rite brother bishops not to regard a married priesthood as a solution for a shortage of vocations to the ordained priesthood. Other Eastern Catholic leaders pointed out that this is a discipline, not a matter of dogma.

Does Scripture require a celibate priesthood? The Roman Catholic Church has seen texts such as Matthew 19:12 (Jesus’ teaching on virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God) and 1 Corinthians 9:5 (Paul is not married at the time he writes this letter) as justifying its decision to ordain only men pledged to celibacy—unless they were married Protestant ministers who later became Catholics.

There are other New Testament texts that acknowledge a married priesthood, especially 1 Corinthians 9:5 (where Paul acknowledges that other apostles are married) and 1 Timothy 3:2 (where we read that bishops should be chosen from among men married only once). Jesus cured the Apostle Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30 and Luke 4:38).

Like the Orthodox Churches, Eastern Catholic Churches have selected their bishops only from priests who have already made a promise of celibacy.

Some people say that the Roman Catholic practice of requiring a promise of celibacy before ordination does not honor marriage sufficiently. Others ask if the Eastern Catholic practice indeed honors marriage—if only celibates can become bishops.

Over the centuries, clerical marriage in the Western Church was part of controversies over ownership of property and whether decisions were made for the good of the Church or the good of a priest’s biological family.

Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on priestly celibacy in his 1967 encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus.

Many Catholics hold differing opinions on this issue. I have tried to explain the different practices within the one Church pledged to follow Jesus Christ and preach his Good News.

Q: Aren’t all the artworks representing Jesus simply those artists’ conception of what Jesus looked like? Weren’t there some artists in Jesus’ day who could have drawn accurate depictions of how Jesus really looked?

A: What did Julius Caesar look like? Within his lifetime, or shortly thereafter, people carved statues of him or made mosaics of him. They did little artwork to preserve the memory of people who were executed on a charge of treason.

Most of the people who knew Jesus best were born Jewish and retained many Jewish customs, even after becoming Christians. As Jews, they did not represent human beings in art; their synagogues did not have paintings or statues of Abraham, Sarah, Moses or any other Old Testament person. As Jewish Christians, they were unlikely to represent the face or body of Jesus in art.

Because there is no “official” portrait of Jesus, people of each time and culture have felt free to represent Jesus as “one of theirs.” And that is not such a bad thing. He died and rose for all of us.

The Face: Jesus in Art, produced by Voyager Production and Thirteen/ WNET, with major funding from the Catholic Communication Campaign, is an excellent two-hour documentary on images of Jesus over the centuries. More details are available at

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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