Dispersion of the Apostles


The Divisio Apostolorum, the feast that commemorates the mission in which Our Lord before His Ascension had commanded the Holy Apostles to undertake throughout the world for the salvation of souls. According to Saint Matthew (xxviii:19-20) Our Lord said to the Apostles: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." Also affirming the occurrence of this great mission Saint Mark (xvi:19-20) says of the Apostles "they going forth preached every where". And the preeminent Church historian Eusebius described in his Book III of the Church History that the Apostles were dispersed to distinct parts of the world:

“Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of our Saviour were dispersed throughout the world. Parthia, according to tradition, was allotted to Thomas as his field of labor, Scythia to Andrew, and Asia to John, who, after he had lived some time there, died at Ephesus. Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way. What do we need to say concerning Paul, who preached the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and afterwards suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero? These facts are related by Origen in the third volume of his Commentary on Genesis."

This feast is celebrated as a double major on 15 July. The first vestige of this feast is found in the sequence composed for it by a certain Godescalc (d. 1098) while a monk of Limburg on the Haardt; he also introduced this feast at Aachen, when provost of the church of Our Lady. The sequence is authentic beyond doubt. It is next mentioned by William Durandus, Bishop of Mende (Rationale Div. Off. 7.15) in the second half of the thirteenth century. Under the title, "Dimissio", "Dispersio", or Divisio Apostolorum" it was universally celebrated during the Middle Ages in Spain and Italy. The feast is now kept with solemnity by modern missionary societies, in Germany and Poland, also in some English and French dioceses and in the United States by the ecclesiastical provinces of St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Dubuque, and Santa Fé.
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