When early Church documents are unearthed it is usually a cause for celebration and excitement, but this partially restored document, which contains only the words of one known as "the Consultant: Early Church Public Relations: Feast Division" has remained remarkably unknown. The ancient language in which it is written, "Consultese," is related to Greek, Coptic and Hebrew. Even when translated, though, it is not clear whether it is understood. It is, nevertheless, my pleasure to bring my translation to your attention on October 28, 2011, the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude.
Folks, people. Quiet down please. Let’s get started. This is our brainstorming session for a new feast. I’ve gathered you here today to help me out. You’re all Christians, in love with the Church. Good, good, good. As a focus group, though, I have a few questions for you, and I want you to think through this with me, think out loud, and throw out some ideas for me when I throw you the questions. Ready?
When I say "the feast of Saints Simon and Jude," what is the first thing that pops into your mind? I know, right? Who are they? It strikes me that we need better PR for these guys, or this feast falls through the cracks. Are they musical troubadours? What’s their big hit again, “Sounds of Silence”? Who are they? Let's get to know them.
So a good place to start: top five things they are noted for…let’s get a list going. People, put your heads together. My assistant will write it all down on this wax tablet with my newest stylus, known as a "Sharpie."
So, throw it out people. Think outside the Basilica. Apostles? Okay, good, that’s a start. No, even if we don’t know a lot about them, they were chosen for a reason. Maybe ability to keep their heads down, let the Gospel do the talking, not about them, stayed on message, on point. Remember the Gospel, not their names…What’s that? No, come on. Given that that the Gospels tell us about the flaws and weaknesses of other apostles, why would there be a cover-up? No, no, too cynical. The Gospels laid it all out for everyone to see and read. The fact that Jesus chose them is a strong plus; if they had gone wild, we would have known. Devoted apostles. Point One. I'll write that down.
Keep it coming folks. Saints. Must be holy, only the holy need apply. Okay, a little dated, but sure, “how holy were they?” They were so holy, they were apostles. Right, that doesn’t really work. We’re back where we started. Not every apostle was a saint. No, excuse me, Judas Iscariot? Saints let their actions do the talking. Yeah, I know, I can see the Billboard: “Saints let their actions do the talking.” If they weren’t saints, if people knew better, they wouldn’t be saints. No, that’s not circular…no tautologous means the same thing and it’s not that either. If the early Church had the dirt, again, they would have come out with it. No, there did not have to be tabloids to get the word out. Word of mouth makes a saint, sinks a saint. Saints. Two points. Write it down:
1) Apostles; 2) Saints
Anything else. Work with me people. Are they brothers? No, I don’t think so. Well, I think they go together because, uh, because we know so little about both of them or because we don’t want to give up two feasts to them. Excuse me? Nah, I wouldn’t say that’s rude, but it might be a fact. That would give us two points on our list, no three. Add to the list:
1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Not brothers
What do you think? No, no, you’re right, when I see it on the list, it doesn’t work: “not brothers.” No oomph. Spiritual brothers? True, true. Spiritual brothers. Okay. Good, good. Christians are spiritual brothers and sisters. What? No, I know they’re men, I’m just saying, in general, all Christians are brothers and sisters, but these two are spiritual brothers. Let’s go with that: three things:
1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Spiritual brothers
At least two more things. People, put your heads together. Let’s go. I want to eat. Which Simon? No, not Simon Peter, we definitely have more than five things to list for him alone. If it was that Simon, we would have mentioned it, right? Work with me. Which Simon? Simon the Zealot. Yes, yes, two times he’s called the Zealot. Oh, I don’t know. You think he was a warrior? He might have been. Fought for freedom from the Romans, fought against collaborators amongst the Jews? Possibly, it could be either one, which means there had to be some sort of transformation or renunciation to walk alongside Jesus. Zealous for the law? Sure, sure, might have been, just like the Maccabees, the Pharisees, and Paul himself: zealous! Good, so what do you think? Used to be zealous and renounced it or transformed his zealousness to the way of Jesus? Stick with zealous? Let it stand? Sounds good. They still called him that, Simon the Zealot, so he must have been that. Zealous is strong, strong word. Boom, powerful. Write that down.
1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Spiritual brothers; 4) Simon was zealous
Well, one more thing on the list, one more apostle to discuss. Jude. Jude? No, no, the name is actually Judas. Right, not that Judas, or we definitely would have more than five things to list for him alone. Look, if it was that Judas, we wouldn’t have a feast for him. True that. A couple of times he’s called Thaddaeus, by Matthew and Mark. Old-fashioned, funny name? Thaddaeus? No. Probably embarrassed by Judas, don’t you think? A nickname maybe? Hard to keep Judas as the name. But still, I don’t think so. I don’t think “not the Judas you’re thinking of” is positive enough. I suppose we could say, “not the Simon or Judas you’re thinking of,” but that’s too much along the same line as “not brothers.” We need positives people.
Excuse me? No, that’s not bad. He was the Judas who kept the faith. The one who kept the faith. Interesting, right? We know so much about the other Judas, but this one drifts into the shadows. Still, the one who kept the faith sounds good. Let’s put it together. Wait, wait. Just a second, you wanted to add something? Yeah, yeah, that’s true. They are both saints and apostles so they both kept the faith. Okay:
1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Spiritual brothers; 4) Simon was zealous; 5) Both kept the faith.
Still, does it seem right to imply that Judas was not zealous? Both kept the faith. If you keep the faith are you by definition zealous? No, good question. What is the definition of zealous? What are we working with here? Let’s hit the synonyms, people, what do you get? Enthusiastic, keen, passionate, ardent, fervent…fanatical? Obsessive? Eager? I don’t like fanatical or obsessive…eager…I bet Judas was eager, he was an apostle who kept the faith! Let’s go with it. Write it down. Read it aloud.
1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Spiritual brothers; 4) As far as we know both were zealous; 5) Both kept the faith.
No, no, number four needs to be stronger. Punch it up. Simplify. Stay on message. Let's go with this. Let's read it again. Stay awake folks.
The Feast of Saints Simon and Judas: 1) Apostles; 2) Saints; 3) Spiritual brothers; 4) Both were zealous; 5) Both kept the faith.
What do you think? Alright, I think we have ourselves a feast. Testify people. This is going to be big!
At this point the manuscript becomes unintelligible except for the words "big" and "fees."
John W. Martens
Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens