Apostle St Thomas – Patron Saint of India

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

St Thomas

St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ was born in Galilee. St. Thomas, the Apostle of India, is known as the Twin; Doubting Thomas; and also, Didymus. In John 11: 16, he is identified and referred to as ‘Thomas, surnamed Didymus, the twin’ (Heb. Thomas, Gk. Didymus– ‘twin). He is called Judas Thomas (Judas the Twin) by the Syrians. Tradition says that he had two fingers of the right hand joined from birth. That is why he was known as twin. Historians also speak of him as a twin brother of Adai. Nothing is said about and little is recorded of St. Thomas the Apostle, by the Synoptics, except for his name in the lists, Matt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6, cf. and Acts 1:13. Many details about him are not seen in the Holy Scriptures. The Fourth Gospel, clearly defined Thomas a vivid character and his personality is made clearer to us than that of some others of the Twelve and he plays a distinctive part and his character is outlined.

In the Gospel according to John, Thomas emerges as a man of very definite characteristics. Thomas first appears, in the Lazarus story (Jn. 11: 1-16). The disciples thought of abandoning Jesus, when He announced His intention of returning to Judea to visit Lazarus, in Bethany. But then there came a voice of the normally silent Thomas “Let us go, that we may die with Him” (Jn. 11: 16). Thomas was determined to faithfully die for Christ, as he could see nothing but disaster ahead. Also, when the other eleven faltered in their loyalty to Christ, Thomas held strong to that loyalty, a man of courage, genuinely committed to Jesus, his Master and Master’s call. St. Thomas speaks the truth, that dying with Christ, in Baptism & sometimes in Martyrdom, will become the seal of Christian Discipleship.

Next, in the Upper Room, during the discourse of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus was seeking to persuade the dull minds of the disciples to see the Cross and to see what lay beyond it. Jesus said “Whither I go you know and the way you know”. Thomas broke in and raised an objection saying “Lord, we know not whither thou go; and how can we know the way?” (Jn. 14: 5). To this Thomas received the great answer from Jesus, “I am the way, the truth and the life“. Thomas was a bewildered man, who could not live with an unasked question. He was a beloved of his master and he enjoyed all freedom with his Master.

But more especially St. Thomas is remembered for his incredulity when the other Apostles announced Christ’s Resurrection to him. Thomas was not there. He utterly refused to believe the good news. He said that he would not believe, unless he actually saw and touched and handled the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and the gash of the spear in His side. “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hands into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20: 25).

Jesus came back, eight days later. He invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints and his hands in His side. “Reach your finger here and look at My hands; and reach your hand here and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving but be believing” (Jn. 20: 27). Confronted with the Risen Lord Thomas breathed out the Greatest confession of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God” (Jn. 20: 28). He made his act of faith, drawing down the rebuke of Jesus “Because thou has seen me, Thomas, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed” (Jn. 20: 29). His sudden realization of the truth made St. Thomas the first person to explicitly acknowledge Christ’s divinity.

When St. Thomas saw Jesus, he needed no more proof, that Jesus is living. The Holy Bible does not mention that St. Thomas had put his hand in our Lord’s side. But there is a strong traditional faith that St. Thomas had put his finger in the wound scar of nail and the side of the Lord. Thus, Saint touched the blood and flesh of our Lord, all the other Apostles rushed to St. Thomas and kissed his hand which touched our Lord’s blood and flesh. This incident is the basis of our “Kai Muthu” soon after the Holy Eucharist.

We get the last glimpse of Thomas, when he was found in the fellowship of believers, when Jesus meets them besides the Sea of Galilee. The N. T. tells no more about Thomas, but legend and traditions have much to say. St. Thomas evangelized and preached the faith in Parthia. Later, St. Thomas extended his apostolate into India and another ancient and more prevalent tradition holds that he preached until Far East unto China. The Orthodox Christians of Malankara believes to have been converted by St. Thomas and they do maintain it as a special privilege and honor from generations to generations. St. Thomas is the Patron Saint of India. He is recognized as the founder of the Church of the Syrian Malabar Christians, also known as the St. Thomas Christians.

He set foot in India in AD 52. The Syriac-rite Christians of Malabar in India, whose Church was established by the 3rd century, claim St. Thomas as their founder. He established seven churches and one chapel. The seven churches are located in the following areas: Niranam, Gokkamangalam, Kodungallur, Paravur, Nilackal (Chayal), Kolam (Quilon), and also Palur (Palayur). St. Thomas’ martyrdom was cited under the king of Mylapore at Madras, where the St. Thomas Mount and San Thome’ Cathedral, his traditional burial place, is located. It is believed that he was martyred near Madras, attacked by a spear on Dec 18 and breathed his last after summoning the last drop of his blood on Indian soil on Dec 21 A.D. 72. This day is celebrated as St. Thomas day.St. Thomas was slain by a spear while praying on a hill in Mylapur, near Madras on the East Coast of India. July 3rd is remembered as the day of the transference of his relics to Edessa. H. H. Moran Mar Baselius Ougen I, Catholicos of the East, while on a visit to Syria in March 1965, obtained a piece of his holy relics from Mar Severius Saccai, Metropolitan of Mosul and on March 9th 1965, the relic was deposited with all solemnity in the Catholicate Chapel at Devalokam, as wells as at Niranam Valiya Palli (St. Mary’s Orthodox Church ) founded by St. Thomas in AD 54. St. Thomas is well known today all around the world, especially in India, because he was the one who brought the religion of Christianity into India. St. Thomas’ Day is commemorated on July 3 and 21st Dec. May God bless us all through the continued patronage and prayers of St. Thomas!


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