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(martyred circa 72 A.D.)
When we hear the story of how Thomas needed to touch the wounds of the risen Christ to believe in his resurrection, we are reminded of our own struggles with our faith.
Once convinced, he became a fervid believer, throwing himself at Jesus’ feet and saying, “My Lord and my God.”
During Christ’s human life, Thomas was one of his strongest supporters. When Jesus said he would visit the recently deceased Lazarus in Judea — it was necessary to travel a few miles from Jerusalem through an area dangerous to himself — Thomas said to the others: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).
Thomas traveled to India about 20 years after Christ’s earthly death. In an old, third century story, Thomas was hesitant to take on this mission because he did not think he could be understood. The story goes on to tell of how somehow Thomas was sold as a slave to an Indian merchant who was looking for a skilled carpenter (Thomas is the patron of architects and the blind.).
When they arrived in the southwest of India, the apostle was ordered to build a palace for the king. Rather than creating the physical abode, Thomas spent all the money on the poor. When he was asked by his master where the building was, Thomas replied,” Thou canst not see it now, but when thou departest this life then shalt thou see it.”
There is no concrete proof of the above tale and virtually nothing was known in the west of the converts of Thomas until 1500, when Portuguese traders “rediscovered” them. The people spoke in an ancient language of Syria similar to the Aramaic of Jesus and his followers. In every other respect but their language and faith, the people were steeped in Indian culture.
It is believed that Thomas established seven churches in Kerala, India, and descendants of those he baptized there proudly trace their lineage to those first converts. He is known as the “Apostle of India.”
Thomas was martyred during his mission by spear near Madras. Some scholars believe he may have even traveled to Indonesia. His remains were brought to Edessa in Mesopotamia but have been divided and moved several times. In 1258 a portion made its way to the city of Ortona in Italy.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from Berta, C. (n.d.). Biography: St. Thomas the Apostle. In St. Thomas the Apostle Church. Retrieved from www.stapostle.org/st-thomas-church-parish-history/saint-thomas-biography/ and Day, M. (2002). “A Treasury of Saints:100 Saints Their Lives and Times” (p. 68). Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.