St. Thomas, known informally as Doubting Thomas for his initial doubts on our Lord's Resurrection, was one of the 12 Apostles. After Our Lord's Resurrection, he traveled to India where many were converted. Like all of the Apostles other than St. John, he suffered martyrdom for his missionary work. In this lesson we will study the life of St. Thomas as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. Thomas.
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Assumption of the Virgin Mary with St. Thomas
St. Thomas has always captured the imagination and he appears in several apocryphal writings. The Acts of Thomas described his time in India and included his preaching, several miracles and martyrdom. The aim of the Acts was to entertain and instruct but unfortunately many of the episodes have been written emphasizing Gnostic rather than Catholic theology. The Acts of Thomas were therefore declared heretical at the Council of Trent although the historical information is still helpful to scholars. Another apocryphal writing is the Passing of Mary which tells of the events surrounding the Assumption of Mary. This story has many beautiful legends. During the first part of the story, Gabriel returns to Mary to tell her that she will soon be with her Son in heaven. The Apostles are transported to Jerusalem in a white cloud from all over the earth to pray with Mary before her death. The only one not present is Thomas who arrives in time to see Mary’s body taken up to heaven. Ironically, the other Apostles do not believe him when he reports that Mary’s body is no longer in the tomb but in heaven. The Apostles only believe Thomas when they find that the tomb is indeed empty.
“Then the blessed Thomas told them how he was singing mass in India—he still had on his sacerdotal robes. He, not knowing the word of God, had been brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most holy body of the blessed Mary going up into heaven, and prayed her to give him a blessing. She heard his prayer, and threw him her girdle [a belt] which she had about her. And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven. And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Roberts and Donaldson. Eds. 1886. pg. 594)
St. Thomas was an important character in many of these apocryphal writings and a pivotal character in the Gospel of St. John. Many sermons have examined Thomas’ skepticism when the Apostles told him of the risen Christ. Why is Thomas so important to us?
Image to the right: The reliquary in the top left contains the finger of St. Thomas the Apostle, preserved in the Church of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy. Photo copyright Matt...
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