Saint of the Day – 25 April – St Mark the Evangelist (1st century -martyred 25 April 68 at Alexandria, Egypt) Evangelist, Martyr, Missionary, Preacher, Teacher, friend and assistant to St Peter, St Paul, cousin of St Barnabas – also known as John Mark – Patronages: against impenitence, against insect bites, against scrofulous diseases, against struma, struma patients, attorneys, lawyers, barristers, captives, prisoners, glaziers, lions, notaries, prisoners, stained glass workers, Egypt, Ionian Islands, Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Italy, diocese of, Arica, Chile, diocese of, Cortona, Italy, diocese of, Infanta, Philippines, prelature of, Venice, Florida, diocese of, 45 cities – Attributes: lion, winged lion, bishop on a throne decorated with lions, man helping Venetian sailors, man holding a book with pax tibi Marce written on it, man holding a palm and book, man with a book or scroll accompanied by a winged lion, man with a halter around his neck, man writing or holding his gospel, rescuing Christian slaves from Saracens, winged lion. Major shrine – Venice, Italy.
St. Mark was an evangelist, or Gospel writer. In fact, he was the pioneer in Gospel writing. His is the shortest and the oldest of the Gospels. Little is known of Mark except from the New Testament. He was not one of the twelve apostles but was a member of the first Christian community. Mark had firsthand experience of the early Church and apostolic life. He was a traveling companion and assistant of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. Something happened to Mark on that journey, perhaps homesickness, so he returned to Jerusalem. The incident caused a quarrel between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas, Mark’s cousin, was sympathetic toward Mark but Paul would not hear of Mark accompanying them again. Later Paul and Mark must have been reconciled, because when Paul wrote to Timothy during his final imprisonment, he asked for Mark’s help.
Like another Gospel writer Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some scholars feel that the evangelist is speaking of himself (so he then did know Jesus) when describing the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mark 14:51-52). Mark’s Gospel was a great contribution to the Church. It included oral and written tradition concerning the words and deeds of Jesus. Mark probably secured some of his material from St. Peter. He shows Jesus as the suffering Son of God. Mark knew that to accept the Risen Jesus meant to come to terms with the cross. Jesus was glorified because he willingly allowed himself to suffer death for our salvation. Mark writes that anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must accept the cross.
Mark wrote to proclaim the Good News to a community of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. His Gospel is direct and simple to read. He speaks to Christians about Jesus, who understands their difficulties and sufferings and will one day bring them to share with him eternal joy and glory.
Traditionally Mark is thought to have been founder and bishop of the church of Alexandria, Egypt, where he was martyred.
Over the years artists have given a symbol to each of the evangelists. Mark’s symbol is a winged lion because his Gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist who, like a roaring lion, called people to repent. The lion derives from Mark’s description of John the Baptist as a “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3), which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from the application of Ezekiel’s vision of four winged creatures to the evangelists.