Saint of the Day – 22 March – Saint Epaphroditus of Terracina (1st Century) First Bishop of Terracina, Italy, Missionary, Evangelist, Disciple of the Apostles, Friend and Envoy of St Paul Apostle. St Hippolytus’ list of the Seventy Disciples includes “Epaphroditus, Bishop of Andriace. Also known as – Epaphroditus of Philippi, Epaphroditus the Apostle, Epaphroditus of Adriate, Epafrodito…
Epaphroditus is a Greek name (meaning “lovely” or “charming” and corresponds to the Latin Venustus (meaning “handsome”) and was very common in the Roman period. “The name occurs very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus, or in its contracted form Epaphras.” Our Saint is, therefore, linked with Epaphras (Colossians 1.7, 4.12; Philemon 23), with the suggestion that the latter is a “contracted” or “pet form” for the Philippian Envoy.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Terracina, St Epaphroditus, a disciple of the Apostles, who was Consecrated Bishop of that City by the blessed Apostle Peter.”
“With regard to Epaphroditus, my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister in my need, I consider it necessary to send him to you. For he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed ill, close to death but God had mercy on him, not just on him but also on me, so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. I send him therefore with the greater eagerness, so that, on seeing him, you may rejoice again and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him then in the Lord, with all joy and hold such people in esteem, because, for the sake of the work of Christ, he came close to death, risking his life to make up for those services to me, that you could not perform.” – Philippians 2:25-30
Epaphroditus lived in the Macedonian City of Philippi (now ruins in present-day Greece), seemingly the first European City to receive Christianity, as described in the 16th chapter of Acts. At various times after evangelising in Philippi, Paul found himself in prison. It was during one of these times of captivity that Epaphroditus left Philippi, sought out the imprisoned Paul and brought him an offering — perhaps funds or supplies. Paul was very thankful for the gifts and wrote to the Philippians in gratitude.
This unique letter that Paul wrote to the Christians of Philippi has a touching and personal ambiance. Calling him his “brother,” “co-worker” and “fellow soldier” firmly indicates that Epaphroditus was very dear to Paul’s heart ,as well as a person who worked hard to glorify God, even during times of difficulty. It appears from the letter, that Epaphroditus became very ill while visiting Paul — that he almost died! When Epaphroditus recovered, Paul decided to send him back to Philippi to deliver his letter.
Paul could tell that Epaphroditus was anxious over his brethren in Philippi and that everyone in Philippi was worried about Epaphroditus, having received reports of his illness. Paul emphasised in his letter, that Epaphroditus ought to be welcomed with joyfulness and high regard due to the way he risked death while serving Christ by travelling to help Paul.
It is believed that Epaphroditus became the first Bishop of Philippi and later of Terracina in Italy.