Feast Day: May 14
This feast is placed in the period between the Ascension of the Lord and the feast of Pentecost because it was during that time, according to the Acts of the Apostles, that Matthias was appointed an Apostle following the betrayal and suicide of Judas Iscariot, one of the original Twelve Apostles. Peter and the other Apostles met to decide what to do about the vacancy left by Judas. The choice was between Matthias and Barsabas, and the Apostles chose Matthias by casting lots (Acts 1:26).
Matthias, whose name in Hebrew means “gift of the Lord,” was also one of the original seventy-two disciples of the Lord from the time of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. St. Clement of Alexandria explains how Matthias preached throughout Judea, Greece, and Cappadocia (present-day Turkey), as well as the great discipline Matthias practiced. Based on his experiences with the Lord, Matthias was able to abstain from legitimate pleasures in order to control the lower passions. Subsequently, he became one of the patron saints for alcoholics.
In addition to the qualifications for an apostle listed by Peter, the number twelve was also important because it symbolized the Twelve Tribes of Israel. All bishops, who are the successors of the apostles, receive the same power and authority that were conferred by the Lord on the apostles. This feast reminds us again that the Church is apostolic.
In a legend found in Trier, Germany, we read among other things that Matthias, of the Tribe of Judah, was born in Bethlehem of illustrious parentage. He was very learned in the law, clean of heart, prudent in judgment, keen in solving problems concerning the sacred Scripture, cautious in counseling, and frank in his speech. He made every effort to carry out in action what he prescribed by command, and to demonstrate his oral teaching by putting it in practice.
During his preaching in Judea, Matthias converted many to the Christian faith by signs and miracles. This made the Jews envious and they haled him before the council. Two false witnesses, who had brought charges against him, were the first to hurl stones at him, and he demanded that these stones be buried with him in testimony against the witnesses. While he was being stoned, he was beheaded with an ax in the Roman manner, raised his hands to heaven, and breathed his last.
The feast of Saint Matthias has yet another theme, that of “election.” In the Opening Prayer for Mass, we ask that we may be “counted among those you have chosen.” This feast therefore prompts us to give thanks to God that out of millions of people we have been chosen to receive the apostolic faith. And since faith is a free gift of God, we should respond with gratitude and the gift of self to God.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.
Trigilio, Rev. John, Ph.D, Th.D, and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, Ph.D. “Saints for Dummies.” Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2010.
Voragine, Jacobus de. “The Golden Legend-Readings on the Saints-Volume I.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.