This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24 -- Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle

Seahawks' 12th Man
Saint Matthias was the Twelfth Man.  Actually, it turns out that term is a registered trademark so I probably shouldn't use it. The 12th MAN ® refers very specifically to the Seattle Seahawks fans.  The claim is that the fans make so much noise that visiting teams are at a disadvantage.  Thus, the jersey with the number twelve was retired by the team's president to honor the fan contribution.  [I'm resisting the urge to be snarky about the team's record being clear evidence of the 12th MAN ®'s contribution.]

E. King Gill, helmet at the ready
It is nice for the Seahawks that they registered the term as a trademark, but in fact Texas A&M  had been using the term since 1922.  In that year, the Aggies football team was struggling against Centre College.  A former team member named E. King Gill had limited his game to basketball, but was in the pressbox helping to identify players.  Seeing the team falter, he suited up and stood on the sidelines in case he was needed.  The story of Gill's willingness to serve is told here; the short version is that the Aggies were inspired, rallied, and beat Centre 22-14.  Go Aggies.

Matthias also stepped up when the chips were down.  Shortly after the Ascension of Jesus, the remaining eleven apostles contemplated the vacancy.  On the one hand, Jesus had chosen twelve, and twelve was a powerful number (consider the Tribes of Israel, for one example).  On the other hand, Jesus had called the Apostles; they did not choose each other.  It was a critical moment for the evolution of the Church.  The whole concept of apostolic succession would be a lot weaker without the events of Acts 1:23-26.
 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen  to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Matthias with the axe that done him
I should have warned you that Matthias gets called a lot of names.  Barsabbas, Justus, Tolmai, Clement, Barnabas, and even Nathaniel get pinned on him.  Whatever he's called, he was called forth to take Judas' spot and he stepped up.  The Apostles split up the map in order to carry the Word in all directions (there were only about one hundred twenty Christians at the time).  He got a place they called Aethiopia, though it was not the African country of that name.  It seems to have been in Georgia (the Black Sea one, not the one in Dixie).  Accounts of his death differ in place (either Jerusalem or Sebastopolis) but agree on the cause: he was stoned to death.  Well, that's true except for Hippolytus of Rome, who says Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.  And some accounts say he was beheaded after being stoned, which is why they show him with an axe. 

The big point is that we are to honor the Twelfth Man (Person!), the one who steps up in the time of need, the one who is still willing to give after not having been tapped as a starter.  Sure, he is the patron of carpenters and tailors, and of Gary, Indiana and Great Falls-Billings, Montana.  He's also invoked against alcoholism and smallpox.  But like any good Twelfth Man, he can be relied upon to take on one more burden, and thus I consider him to be the patron of substitutes of all kinds.  

NB.  Lots of denominations including the Roman Catholics celebrate his feast of May 14, putting it outside Lent and after the Ascension as a nod to the day he was chosen.   Some of the denominations have kept him on February 24, which works for me.  The Eastern Orthodox (who probably know best, since he was plainly in their sphere) celebrate him on August 9.  If you feel like celebrating him on all three days, I don't think there's a soul to object.  

Addendum:  In basketball, they call the Twelfth Man the Sixth Man, for obvious reasons.  I saw this photo and had to add it.  Go Buckeyes! (3/16/13)

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