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Catholic Heroes… St. Luke

October 18, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — these are the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels. There is a children’s prayer that many have learned to say before bed with a variety of versions, but who are these men? Actually, little is known about them except what is in the Bible. There are some other traditions handed down about them. Some traditions have it that St. Luke even left us beautiful icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Luke wrote both the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is considered to be the most literary of the New Testament writers. St. Luke’s Gospel chronicles the beginning of the life of Christ until our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven while the Acts of the Apostles begins with the Ascension and ends with Paul’s captivity in Rome.
Only Luke’s Gospel describes the mysterious setting of the Annunciation of John the Baptist to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-23) when the priest is struck deaf and dumb because of his doubts. Then he writes about the Annunciation of the Savior (Luke 1:26-38) from which we get those holy words of Mary, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”
He follows with the unique passage of Mary’s visitation to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who is expecting John the Baptist, and records the Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord!” (see Luke 1:46-55). Next he describes the birth of John the Baptist when Zechariah confirms that his name is John and then recites his canticle “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:67-79).
The exact date of Luke’s birth is not known, but his birthplace was in Antioch, Syria, which was a part of the Roman Empire. At the time of Luke, Antioch was a highly cultured city, a busy trading post near the Mediterranean — home to nearly half a million people. Its educational institutions were among the best in all of the Roman Empire.
Luke’s parents were neither Jewish nor Christian, and were most likely Greek, and therefore no doubt placed a high priority on education. Thus Luke received much training in both art and the sciences, including philosophy. His skill and his style of writing have been attributed to his Greek upbringing. Also the way he described, in detail, the journeys he had with St. Paul indicates that he was familiar with the area.
St. Luke did not become a follower of Christ until after our Lord’s Ascension, but once converted, he studiously undertook to learn both the Jewish writings and the teachings of Christ. In addition he became familiar with the Septuagint, which he learned from close association with the apostles.
When St. Paul began his second missionary journey, St. Luke joined him and recorded the events of their encounters. On the second trip, Paul and his companions left from Antioch and went overland to Troas, from where they sailed across the north Aegean Sea to Neapolis, visiting the Galatian churches on the way.
In Troas, Paul had a dream that led him to turn toward Europe to spread the Gospel. Luke, along with some others, was with Paul when he also visited Philippi — and where Paul spent the night in prison.
Then they went to Thessalonica — a place of many conversions — and then Beroea where many women were also baptized. From there they group went to Athens where Luke recorded the disputes with the philosophers at the Areopagus, the work with Aquila and Priscilla, and the arrival of Timothy.
Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica when the young church was being persecuted and then Timothy met them in Corinth to help Paul found the Church there. They stayed in Corinth for two years. However, when Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, converted, Paul and his companions were persecuted. They decided to leave and sailed back to Antioch, making a short stop at Ephesus. Perhaps this is when Luke learned of Christ’s early life as recorded in the first chapter of his Gospel.
Luke continued to travel with Paul when he embarked on his third missionary journey, as they left from Antioch traveling overland through Tarsus, Lystra, and Iconium on their way back to Ephesus. There Paul preached and debated for almost two years. While in Ephesus, he wrote several letters to the Corinthians. This was also the time that the silversmiths rioted, driving Paul and Luke to Macedonia and Achaia.
They also stayed in Corinth with Gaius and Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans. From there they sailed back to Jerusalem.
Shortly after his arrival, Paul was arrested and held in Jerusalem for two years before being sent to Rome — because of his Roman citizenship. Luke was probably the only companion of Paul who went to Rome with Paul, recording the perilous voyage which included being shipwrecked and landing on Malta.
Eventually they made it to Rome, where the followers of Christ warmly welcomed Paul. He spent another two years in prison in Rome and Luke may have assisted in Paul’s letter-writing to the various churches.
Rome was the end of Paul’s journeys and also may have been the end of Luke’s. But traveling and writing were not Luke’s only skills. Since Paul called Luke his dear physician, he must have practiced medicine (Col. 4:14).
Luke is also known as the father of iconography and four of his icons, according to popular tradition, have survived. They are all of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so we not only have the beauty of his writings portraying the image of Mary pondering things in her heart (Luke 1:29; 2:19; and 2:51), but we also have four icons.
In the first one, Our Lady of Vladimir, Mary is holding the Baby Jesus who is gently caressing her cheek. This icon spent some time in Constantinople before it was transferred to Vladimir in 1115.
Our Lady of Czestochowa is another famous icon, as it had a special place in the heart of Pope St. John Paul II. According to one account, the icon was painted upon a tabletop that Jesus made for Mary. St. Helena discovered it and gave it to Constantine. When it came into the hands of Charlemagne, he gave it to Prince Leo of Ruthenia. It came to Poland in the fourteenth century when Prince Ladislaus requested it and now is in Jasna Gora.
St. Helena also found the third icon, Salus Populi Romani, and took this one to Constantinople as well, according to tradition, but in the sixth century it was transferred to Rome. Today it is displayed in the Church of St. Mary Major. Before and after each pontifical journey, Pope Francis prays before this icon.
Perhaps the most famous is the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It was originally enshrined in Crete, but now it is in Rome at the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori. This seems appropriate since St. Alphonsus wrote a beautiful prayer service that many parishes hold on Tuesdays to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
We have truth and beauty from the gifts of this holy man, which we commemorate on his feast, October18.
Dear St. Luke, in this month of the rosary, help us to ponder what Mary pondered, her great humility, and her supernatural charity. Mother Mary, pray for us. St. Luke, pray for us.

+ + +

(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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