Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Today is the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. He is most commonly known as "Doubting Thomas" for his statement that he wouldn't believe in the resurrected Christ until he felt Jesus' wounds himself (John 20:24-29), though perhaps less well-remembered is his willingness to die with Christ by returning to hostile Judea (John 11:16).
St. Thomas is also traditionally known as the apostle who spread Christianity to the East, with churches in Syria, Yemen, India, and perhaps China all claiming to have been started by St. Thomas. It was from these churches that the legend of Prester John likely originated. The Portuguese, under Vasco Da Gama, encountered these Thomasine Christians in the 15th century. The Roman Catholic Church has a habit of not tolerating local churches which trace their descent to apostles besides Peter, and so the St. Thomas Christians were suppressed or usurped, much as was the Celtic Church.