Saint of the Day – 18 October – The Feast of St Luke the Evangelist, Physician, Disciple of St Paul, Evangelist, Author of the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles and traditionally believed to be an Artist.
St Luke, Evangelist
By Father Francis Xavier Weninger (1860-1946)
Among the holy men whom the Almighty chose to write the Gospel, or the history of the life and death, the teachings and miracles of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was St Luke, the third of those who are called Evangelists. He is represented with an ox near him, according to the mysterious revelation made to the Prophet Ezekiel because he begins his Gospel with the revelation of what happened to Zachary in the Temple, where oxen, sheep and other animals, were offered, according to the Old Covenant, in sacrifice to the Almighty.
St Luke is said to have been born at Antioch, in Syria and his occupation, in his youth, was the study of the liberal arts, especially rhetoric, physics, sculpture and painting. It is believed that St Paul himself instructed him in the Christian faith, hence, St.Jerome calls him a spiritual son of that holy Apostle. It is quite certain that he accompanied St Paul in the many and laborious travels which the holy Apostle undertook, to convert the infidels. Hence he had a part in all the labours, dangers, hardships and persecutions which the Apostle endured. This, however, caused him, to be most warmly beloved and highly esteemed, by St Paul, who mentions him in several of his epistles and among other praises, calls him an Apostle.
At the desire of St Paul, Luke wrote the Gospel in Greek, as the Apostle was at that time preaching to the Greeks and also, because this language was very much disseminated. St Luke relates, in his Gospel, much that is but slightly mentioned by the other Evangelists, for instance, the Mystery of the Annunciation and the Incarnation of Christ, from whichM the holy Fathers conclude that he must have been on very friendly terms, not only with the Apostles but also with the Divine Mother, as she could give him the best information concerning these Mysteries. Another reason is, that St Luke lived in chastity and earnestly endeavoured, to guard and preserve this virtue.
The commentators of Holy Writ have also observed that St Luke, more than the other Evangelists, gives sinners the hope of Divine Mercy and encourages them, to repentance, as is seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son, so lovingly received by his father, as also, in that of the Good Shepherd, Who, with great solicitude, sought the lost sheep, and brought it back to the fold. Again, in the history of the sinner, who so mercifully receives pardon in the Samaritan, Who cares so kindly for the wounded traveller but above all, in the wonderful conversion of the thief crucified with Christ, to whom, when he had humbly and penitentially begged to be remembered, our kind Saviour promised Paradise. St Anselm gives the reason for this, in the following words: “Luke was at first a Physician of the body, hence, it is that he speaks more than the other Evangelists, of the Merc of our Saviour, who heals and frees men from diseases of the soul.“”
Besides the Gospel, St Luke also wrote a book on the labours of the Apostles,, which is called the Acts of the Apostles. In it, he first relates the Ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Ghost and after this, what and where the Apostles preached, the miracles they wrought and the sufferings they endured for Christ’s sake.
He further describes the life of the first Christians and the Martyrdom of St Stephen and St James. He then relates the conversion of St Paul, the labours and sufferings of this holy Apostle, which no-one could know better than St Luke, who was his constant companion. During the two years of St Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, Luke aided him in every manner. Hhe also accompanied him to Rome, when St Paul had appealed to the Emperor. At Rome, where the holy Apostle was again imprisoned for two years, St Luke did not leave him and allowed, no persecution to separate him from his beloved master. When St Paul was set at liberty, St Luke accompanied him as before, wherever the unwearied Apostle preached the Gospel. St Epiphanius relates, that, after the death of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, St Luke preached the Gospel of Christ in Italy, France, Dalmatia and Macedonia, with apostolic zeal. The Greeks assure us that he did the same in Egypt, Thebais and Libya and, that he had great success, in converting the infidels.
It is easy to conceive, what hardships, dangers and persecutions, the holy Evangelist must have suffered, in these many wearisome travels and in consequence of his zealous preaching. Yet he was never discontented, never desponding but always cheerful because he always thought of Him, for Whom he laboured and suffered and of the recompense that was awaiting him. St Jerome writes that the Saint continued his apostolic labours until he had reached his 84th year. St Gregory of Nazianzen, St Paulinus and St Gaudentius maintain that he ended his life by Martyrdom. Nicephorus writes that the heathens hung him to an olive-tree and that thus he died a Martyr.
It is certain that his life, full of cares and hardships, was a continued Martyrdom, the severity of which he increased by severe fasting and other penances. Hence, the Church says of him, in the prayer which she offers up today at Holy Mass, that he bore the mortification of the cross ceaselessly in his body, for the love and honour of Christ. He ended his glorious labours and sufferings at Patras in Achaia. His holy relics, with those of St Andrew, were brought to Constantinople at the time of Constantine the Great. Long afterwards, they were removed to Pavia;but the head had, some time before, been taken by Gregory the Great to Rome and placed in St Peter’s Basilica.
There is a tradition that St Luke painted several likenesses of Christ and the Blessed Virgin and left them to the Christians to comfort them. To this day, several pictures of the Blessed Virgin are shown, which are believed to be his works. One of these is at Rome, in the Church of St Mary Major and another is at Loretto, both of these are venerated by the whole Christian world.