Saint Of The Month

St. Mark, Evangelist (c. A.D. 74) (A.D. 1660)

It is generally believed that he must be identical with the 'John surnamed Mark' of Acts xii 12 and 25, and that the Mary whose house in Jerusalem was a kind of rendezvous for the apostles was consequently his mother. From Col. Iv 10 we learn that Mark was a kinsman of St. Barnabas who, as stated in Acts iv 36, was a Levite and a Cypriot, and from this it is not unlikely that St. Mark was of a levitical family himself. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, after leaving in Jerusalem the alms they had brought, they took John surnamed Mark with them, and in their apostolic mission at Salamis in Cyprus, Mark helped them in their ministry (Acts xiii 5), but when they were at Perge in Pamphylia he left and returned to Jerusalem (Acts xiii 13). St. Paul seems consequently tho have suspected Mark of a certain instability, and later, when preparing for a visitation of the churches in Cilicia and the rest of Asia Minor, he refused to include John Mark, though Barnabas desired his company. The difference of opinion ended in Barnabas separating from St. Paul and going with Mark again to Cyprus. None the less when Paul was undergoing his first captivity in Rome, Mark was with him and a help to him (Col. Iv 10). Also in his second Roman captivity, shortly before his martyrdom, St. Paul writes to Timothy, then at Ephesus, enjoining him to 'take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry'.

On the other hand tradition testifies strongly in the sense that the author of the second gospel was intimately associated with St. Peter. Clement of Alexandria (as reported by Eusebius), Irenaeus and Papias speak of St. Mark as the interpreter or mouthpiece of St. Peter, though Papias declares that Mark had not heard the Lord and had not been His disciple. In spite of this last utterance, many commentators incline to the view that the young man (Mark xiv 51) who followed our Lord after His arrest was Mark himself. What is certain is that St. Peter, writing from Rome (1 Peter v 13), speaks of 'my son Mark' who apparently was there with him. We can hardly doubt that this was the evangelist, and there is at any rate nothing which conclusively shows that this young man is a different person from the 'John surnamed Mark' of the Acts.

That St. Mark lived for some years in Alexandria and become bishop of that see is an ancient tradition, though his connection with their native city is not mentioned either by Clement of Alexandria or by Origen.

The city of Venice claims to possess the body of St. Mark which is supposed to have been brought there from Alexandria early in the ninth century. The authenticity of the remains preserved for so many hundred years has not passed unquestioned. It is certain, however, that St. Mark has been honoured from time immemorial as a principal patron of the city.

From Butler's Lives of the Saints

copyright © 2000-2006, Spirituality for Today