St Marks Catholic Church Biography Saint Mark the Evangelist Life

St Marks Catholic Church Biography, Saint Mark the Evangelist Life, Prayer, Martyrdom.

St. Mark

(Greek Markos, Latin Marcus).

It is assumed in this article that the individual referred to in Acts as John Mark (12:12, 25; 15:37), John (xiii, 5, 13), Mark (15:39), is identical with the Mark mentioned by St. Paul (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24) and by St. Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Their identity is not questioned by any ancient writer of note, while it is strongly suggested, on the one hand by the fact thatMark of the Pauline Epistles was the cousin ( ho anepsios) of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), to whom Mark of Acts seems to have been bound by some special tie (Acts 15:37, 39); on the other by the probability that the Mark, whom St. Peter calls his son (1 Peter 5:13), is no other than the son of Mary, the Apostle's old friend in Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). To the Jewish name John was added the Roman pronomen Marcus, and by the latter he was commonly known to the readers of Acts (15:37, ton kaloumenon Markon) and of the Epistles. Mark's mother was a prominent member of the infant Church at Jerusalem; it was to her house that Peter turned on his release from prison; the house was approached by a porch (pulon), there was a slave girl (paidiske), probably the portress, to open the door, and the house was a meeting-place for the brethren, "many" of whom were praying there the night St. Peter arrived from prison (Acts 12:12-13).

When, on the occasion of the famine of A.D. 45-46, Barnabas and Saul had completed their ministration in Jerusalem, they took Mark with them on their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). Not long after, when they started on St. Paul's first Apostolic journey, they had Mark with them as some sort of assistant (hupereten, Acts 13:5); but the vagueness and variety of meaning of the Greek term makes it uncertain in what precise capacity he acted. Neither selected by the Holy Spirit, nor delegated by the Church of Antioch, as were Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2-4), he was probably taken by the Apostles as one who could be of general help. The context of Acts 13:5, suggests that he helped even in preaching the Word. When Paul and Barnabas resolved to push on from Perga into central Asia Minor, Mark, departed from them, if indeed he had not already done so at Paphos, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). What his reasons were for turning back, we cannot say with certainty; Acts 15:38, seems to suggest that he feared the toil. At any rate, the incident was not forgotten by St. Paul, who refused on account of it to take Mark with him on the second Apostolic journey. This refusal led to the separation of Paul and Barnabas, and the latter, taking Mark with him, sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-40). At this point (A.D. 49-50) we lose sight of Mark in Acts, and we meet him no more in the New Testament, till he appears some ten years afterwards as the fellow-worker of St. Paul, and in the company of St. Peter, at Rome.

St. Paul, writing to the Colossians during his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 59-61), says: "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him" (Colossians 4:10). At the time this was written, Mark was evidently in Rome, but had some intention of visiting Asia Minor. About the same time St. Paul sends greetings to Philemon from Mark, whom he names among his fellow-workers (sunergoi, Philem., 24). The Evangelist's intention of visiting Asia Minor was probably carried out, for St. Paul, writing shortly before his death to Timothy at Ephesus, bids him pick up Mark and bring him with him to Rome, adding "for he is profitable to me for the ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). If Mark came to Rome at this time, he was probably there when St. Paul was martyred. Turning to 1 Peter 5:13, we read: "The Church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and (so doth) Mark my son" (Markos, o huios aou). This letter was addressed to various Churches of Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1), and we may conclude that Mark was known to them. Hence, though he had refused to penetrate into Asia Minor with Paul and Barnabas, St. Paul makes it probable, and St. Peter certain, that he went afterwards, and the fact that St. Peter sends Mark's greeting to a number of Churches implies that he must have been widely known there. In calling Mark his "son", Peter may possibly imply that he had baptized him, though in that case teknon might be expected rather than huios (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1; Titus 1:4; Philemon 10). The term need not be taken to imply more than affectionate regard for a younger man, who had long ago sat at Peter's feet in Jerusalem, and whose mother had been the Apostle's friend (Acts 12:12). As to the Babylon from which Peter writers, and in which Mark is present with him, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is Rome. The view of St. Jerome: "St. Peter also mentions this Mark in his First Epistle, while referring figuratively to Rome under the title of Babylon" (Illustrious Men 8), is supported by all the early Father who refer to the subject. It may be said to have been questioned for the first time by Erasmus, whom a number of Protestant writers then followed, that they might the more readily deny the Roman connection of St. Peter. Thus, we find Mark in Rome with St. Peter at a time when he was widely known to the Churches of Asia Minor. If we suppose him, as we may, to have gone to Asia Minor after the date of the Epistle to the Colossians, remained there for some time, and returned to Rome before I Peter was written, the Petrine and Pauline references to the Evangelist are quite intelligible and consistent.

When we turn to tradition, Papias (Eusebius, Church History III.39) asserts not later than A.D. 130, on the authority of an "elder", that Mark had been the interpreter (hermeneutes) of Peter, and wrote down accurately, though not in order, the teaching of Peter (see below, GOSPEL OF SAINT MARK). A widespread, if somewhat late, tradition represents St. Mark as the founder of the Church of Alexandria. Though strangely enough Clement and Origen make no reference to the saint's connection with their city, it is attested by Eusebius (op. cit., II, xvi, xxiv), by St. Jerome ("De Vir. Illust.", viii), by the Apostolic Constitutions (VII, xlvi), by Epiphanius ("Hær;.", li, 6) and by many later authorities. The "Martyrologium Romanum" (25 April) records: "At Alexandria the anniversary of Blessed Mark the Evangelist . . . at Alexandria of St. Anianus, Bishop, the disciple of Blessed Mark and his successor in the episcopate, who fell asleep in the Lord." The date at which Mark came to Alexandria is uncertain. The Chronicle of Eusebius assigns it to the first years of Claudius (A.D. 41-4), and later on states that St. Mark's first successor, Anianus, succeeded to the See of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (61-2). This would make Mark Bishop of Alexandria for a period of about twenty years. This is not impossible, if we might suppose in accordance with some early evidence that St. Peter came to Rome in A.D. 42, Mark perhaps accompanying him. But Acts raise considerable difficulties. On the assumption that the founder of the Church of Alexandria was identical with the companion of Paul and Barnabas, we find him at Jerusalem and Antioch about A.D. 46 (Acts 12:25), in Salamis about 47 (Acts 13:5), at Antioch again about 49 or 50 (Acts 15:37-9), and when he quitted Antioch, on the separation of Paul and Barnabas, it was not to Alexandria but to Cyprus that he turned (Acts 15:39). There is nothing indeed to prove absolutely that all this is inconsistent with his being Bishop of Alexandria at the time, but seeing that the chronology of the Apostolic age is admittedly uncertain, and that we have no earlier authority than Eusebius for the date of the foundation of the Alexandrian Church, we may perhaps conclude with more probability that it was founded somewhat later. There is abundance of time between A.D. 50 and 60, a period during which the New Testament is silent in regard to St. Mark, for his activity in Egypt.

In the preface to his Gospel in manuscripts of the Vulgate, Mark is represented as having been a Jewish priest: "Mark the Evangelist, who exercised the priestly office in Israel, a Levite by race". Early authorities, however, are silent upon the point, and it is perhaps only an inference from his relation to Barnabas the Levite (Acts 4:36). Papias (in Eusebius, Church History III.39) says, on the authority of "the elder", that Mark neither heard the Lord nor followed Him (oute gar ekouse tou kurion oute parekoluthesen auto), and the same statement is made in the Dialogue of Adamantius (fourth century, Leipzig, 1901, p. 8), by Eusebius ("Demonst. Evang.", III, v), by St. Jerome ("In Matth."), by St. Augustine ("De Consens. Evang."), and is suggested by the Muratorian Fragment. Later tradition, however, makes Mark one of the seventy-two disciples, and St. Epiphanius ("Hær", li, 6) says he was one of those who withdrew from Christ (John 6:67). The later tradition can have no weight against the earlier evidence, but the statement that Mark neither heard the Lord nor followed Him need not be pressed too strictly, nor force us to believe that he never saw Christ. Many indeed are of opinion that the young man who fled naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51) was Mark himself. Early in the third century Hippolytus ("Philosophumena", VII, xxx) refers to Mark as ho kolobodaktulos, i.e. "stump-fingered" or "mutilated in the finger(s)", and later authorities allude to the same defect. Various explanations of the epithet have been suggested: that Mark, after he embraced Christianity, cut off his thumb to unfit himself for the Jewish priesthood; that his fingers were naturally stumpy; that some defect in his toes is alluded to; that the epithet is to be regarded as metaphorical, and means "deserted" (cf. Acts 13:13).

The date of Mark's death is uncertain. St. Jerome ("De Vir. Illustr.", viii) assigns it to the eighth year of Nero (62-63) (Mortuus est octavo Neronis anno et sepultus Alexandriæ), but this is probably only an inference from the statement of Eusebius (Church History II.24), that in that year Anianus succeeded St. Mark in the See of Alexandria. Certainly, if St. Mark was alive when II Timothy was written (2 Timothy 4:11), he cannot have died in 61-62. Nor does Eusebius say he did; the historian may merely mean that St. Mark then resigned his see, and left Alexandria to join Peter and Paul at Rome. As to the manner of his death, the "Acts" of Mark give the saint the glory of martyrdom, and say that he died while being dragged through the streets of Alexandria; so too the Paschal Chronicle. But we have no evidence earlier than the fourth century that the saint was martyred. This earlier silence, however, is not at all decisive against the truth of the later traditions. For the saint's alleged connection with Aquileia, see "Acta SS.", XI, pp. 346-7, and for the removal of his body from Alexandria to Venice and his cultus there, ibid., pp. 352-8. In Christian literature and art St. Mark is symbolically represented by a lion. The Latin and Greek Churches celebrate his feast on 25 April, but the Greek Church keeps also the feast of John Mark on 27 September.





Here followeth of S. Mark the Evangelist, and first the interpretation of his name.

Mark is as much to say as high to commandment, certain, declined, and bitter. He was high of commandment by reason of perfection in his life, for he kept not only the commandments common, but also the high as be counsels. He was certain in the doctrine of the gospel, like as he had received of S. Peter his master, he was declined by reason of perfect and great humility, for because of great meekness he cut off his thumb, to the end that he should not be chosen to be a priest. He was bitter by reason of right sharp and bitter pain, for he was drawn through the city, and among those torments he gave up his spirit. Or Mark is said of a great mallet or beetle, which with one stroke maketh plain iron and engendereth melody, and confirmeth it. For S. Mark by his only doctrine quencheth the unsteadfastness of the heretics, he engendered the great melody of the praising of God, and confirmed the church.

Of S. Mark the Evangelist.

Mark the Evangelist was of the kindred of the Levites, and was a priest. And when he was christened he was godson of S. Peter the apostle, and therefore he went with him to Rome. When S. Peter preached there the gospel, the good people of Rome prayed S. Mark that he would put the gospel in writing, like as S. Peter had preached. Then he at their request wrote and showed it to his master S. Peter to examine; and when S. Peter had examined it, and saw that it contained the very truth, he approved it and commanded that it should be read at Rome. And then S. Peter seeing S. Mark constant in the faith, he sent him into Aquilegia for to preach the faith of Jesu Christ, where he preached the word of God, and did many miracles, and converted innumerable multitudes of people to the faith of Christ. And wrote also to them the gospel, like as he did to them of Rome, which is in to this day kept in the church of Aquilegia, and with great devotion kept.

After this it happed that S. Mark led with him to Rome a burgess of that same city whom he had converted to the faith, named Ermagoras, brought him to S. Peter, and prayed him that he would sacre him bishop of Aquilegia, and so he did. Then this Ermagoras, when he was bishop, he governed much holily the church, and at the last the paynims martyred him. Then S. Peter sent S. Mark into Alexandria, whereas he preached first the word of God, and as soon as he was entered a great multitude of people assembled for to come against him. There was he of so great perfection that by his predication and by his good example, the people mounted in so holy conversation and in so great devotion that, at his instance they led their life like monks.

He was of so great humility that he did cut off his thumb because he would be no priest, for he judged himself not worthy thereto; but the ordinance of God and of S. Peter came against his will, for S. Peter made and sacred him bishop of Alexandria. And anon, as he came into Alexandria, his shoes were broken and torn; when he saw that he said: Verily I see that my journey is sped, ne the devil may not let me sith that God hath assoiled me of my sins. Then went S. Mark to a shoemaker for to amend his shoes, and as he would work he pricked and sore hurted his left hand with his awl, and when he felt him hurt he cried on high: One God! when S. Mark heard that he said to him: Now know I well that God hath made my journey prosperous. Then he took a little clay and spittle and meddled them together and laid it on the wound, and anon he was whole. When the shoemaker saw this miracle he brought him into his house and demanded him what he was, and from whence he came. Then said S. Mark that he was the servant of Jesu Christ, and he said: I would fain see him. Then said S. Mark. I shall show him to thee. Then he began to preach to him the faith of Jesu Christ, and after baptized him and all his meiny. When the men of the town heard say that there was a man come from Galilee, that despised and defended the sacrifices of idols, they began await how they might deliver him to death. When S. Mark espied that, he made his shoemaker, which was named Anian, bishop of Alexandria, and he himself went to Pentapolin whereas he was two years, and after, came again to Alexandria and found then there the town full of christian men, and the bishops of the idols awaited for to take him.

Now it happened on Easter day, when S. Mark sang mass, they assembled all and put a cord about his neck, and after, drew him throughout the city, and said: Let us draw the bubale to the place of bucale. And the blood ran upon the stones, and his flesh was torn piecemeal that it lay upon the pavement all bebled. After this they put him in prison, where an angel came and comforted him, and after came our Lord for to visit and comfort him, saying: Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus. Peace be to thee Mark, mine Evangelist! be not in doubt, for I am with thee and shall deliver thee. And on the morn they put the cord about his neck and drew him like as they had done tofore and cried: Draw the bubale, and when they had drawn he thanked God and said: Into thy hands Lord, I commend my spirit, and he thus saying died. Then the paynims would have burnt his body, but the air began suddenly to change and to hail, lighten and thunder, in such wise that every man enforced him to flee, and left there the holy body alone. Then came the christian men and bare it away, and buried it in the church, with great joy, honour, and reverence. This was in the year of our Lord fifty-seven, in the time that Nero was emperor.

And it happed in the year of grace four hundred and sixty-six in the time of Leo the emperor, that the Venetians translated the body of S. Mark from Alexandria to Venice in this manner. There were two merchants of Venice did so much, what by prayer and by their gifts, to two priests that kept the body of S. Mark, that they suffered it to be borne secretly and privily unto their ship. And as they took it out of the tomb, there was so sweet an odour throughout all the city of Alexandria that all the people marvelled, ne knew not from whence it came. Then the merchants brought it to the ship, and after, hasted the mariners and let the other ships have knowledge thereof. Then there was one man in another ship that japed, and said: Ween ye to carry away the body of S. Mark? Nay, ye lead with you an Egyptian. Then anon, after this word, the ship wherein the holy body was, turned lightly after him, and so rudely boarded the ship of him that had said that word, that he brake one of the sides of the ship, and would never leave it in peace till they had confessed that the body of S. Mark was in the ship, that done, she held her still.

Thus as they sailed fast they took none heed, and the air began to wax dark and thick, that they wist not where they were. Then appeared S. Mark unto a monk, to whom the body of S. Mark was delivered to keep, and bade him anon to strike their sails for they were nigh land, and he did so, and anon they found land in an isle. And by all the rivages whereas they passed, it was said to them that they were well happy that they led so noble a treasure as the body of S. Mark, and prayed them that they would let them worship it. Yet there was a mariner that might not believe that it was the body of S. Mark, but the devil entered into him, and tormented him so long that he could not be delivered till he was brought to the holy body; and as soon as he confessed that it was the body of S. Mark, he was delivered of the wicked spirit, and ever after he had great devotion to S. Mark.

It happed after, that the body of S. Mark was closed in a pillar of marble, and right few people knew thereof because it should be secretly kept. Then it happed that they that knew thereof died, and there was none that knew where this great treasure might be, wherefore the clerks and the lay people were greatly discomforted and wept for sorrow, and doubted much that it had been stolen away. Then made they solemn processions and litanies, and the people began to fast and be in prayers, and all suddenly the stones opened and showed to all the people the place and stead where the holy body rested. Then rendered they thankings to God of this, that he had relieved them of their sorrow and anguish, and ordained that on that day they shall hold feast alway for this devout revelation.

A young man on a time had a cancer in his breast, and worms ate it which were come of rotting, and as he was thus tormented he prayed with good heart to S. Mark, and required him of help and aid, and after, he slept. And that same time appeared to him S. Mark in form of a pilgrim, tucked and made ready for to go hastily over sea; and when he demanded him what he was, he answered that he was S. Mark, which went hastily for to succour a ship which is in peril; then he stretched and laid his hand on him, and anon as he awoke he found himself all whole. Anon after, this ship came unto the port of Venice, and the mariners told the peril where they had been in, and how S. Mark had holpen them, then for that one miracle and for that other the people rendered thankings to our Lord.

The merchants of Venice went on a time by the sea in a ship of Saracens towards Alexandria; and when they saw them in peril, they hewed the cords of the ship, and anon the ship began to break by the force of the sea. And all the Saracens that were therein fell in the sea, and died that one after the other. Then one of the Saracens made his avow to S. Mark and promised him that if he delivered him from this peril he would be baptized. Anon a man all shining appeared to him, which took him out of the water and remitted him again into the ship, and anon the tempest ceased. When he was come into Alexandria he remembered no thing S. Mark, which had delivered him from peril, he went not to visit him, ne he did him not do be baptized. Then appeared to him S. Mark, and said to him that he remembered evil the bounty that he did to him when he delivered him from the peril of the sea, and anon the Saracen came again to his conscience, and he went to Venice, and was there baptized and named Mark, and believed perfectly in God, and ended his life in good works.

There was a man gone up in the steeple of S. Mark at Venice; and as he intended for to do a work, he was troubled in such wise that he fell, and was like to have been all to-broken in his members, nevertheless in his falling he cried: S. Mark! and anon he rested upon a branch that sprang out, whereof he took none heed, and after, one raught and let him down a cord, by which he avaled down and was saved.

There was a gentleman of Provence which had a servant that would fain go on pilgrimage to S. Mark, but he could get no licence of his lord. At last he doubted not to anger his lord, but went thither much devoutly. And when his lord knew it he bare it much grievously, and as soon as he was come again his lord commanded that his eyes should be put out; and the other servants that were ready to do the lord's will made ready sharp brochets of iron, and enforced them with all their power and might not do it. Then commanded the lord to hew off his thighs with axes, but anon the iron was as soft as molten lead. Then commanded he to break his teeth with iron hammers, but the iron thereof was so soft that they could do him no harm. Then when the lord saw the virtue of God so openly by the miracles of S. Mark, he demanded pardon and went to Venice, to S. Mark, with his servant.

There was a knight on a time so hurt in battle that his hand hung on the arm in such wise that his friends and surgeons counselled him to cut it off, but he, that was accustomed to be whole, was ashamed to be maimed, and made it to be bound in his place, and after he called much devoutly to S. Mark, and anon his hand was as whole as it had been tofore, and in the witness of this miracle a sign of the cutting abode still.

Another time there was a knight armed which ran upon a bridge, and his horse and he fell in a deep water, and when he saw he might not escape he cried on S. Mark, and anon he raught him a spear by which he was saved, and for this cause he came anon in pilgrimage to Venice and told this miracle.

There was a man taken, by envy of them that hated him, and was put in prison, and when he had been there forty days, and was much grieved, he cried on S. Mark. And when S. Mark had appeared thrice he supposed that it had been a fantasy. At the last he felt his irons broken, as it had been a rotten thread, and passed by the keepers of the prison openly by day, he seeing them all, but none of them saw him, and after, came to the church of S. Mark and thanked God devoutly.

It happed in Apulia was great famine, and the land was barren that nothing might grow thereon. Then was it showed by revelation to a holy man that it was because that they hallowed not the feast of S. Mark; and when they knew this, anon they hallowed the feast of S. Mark, and anon began to grow great plenty of goods throughout all the country.

It happed at Papia, in the convent of the friars preachers, in the year of our Lord one thousand two hundred and forty-one, that a friar, a much religious man, was sick unto the death, named Julianus, which sent for his prior for to demand him in what state he was in, and he told him that he was in peril of death, and that it approached fast, and anon his face was all bright and joyful, and with gladness be began to say: fair brethren, my soul shall depart anon, make room and place, for my soul joyeth in my body for the good tidings that I have heard. And lift up his eyes unto heaven and said: Lord God, take away my soul out of this prison; and after he said: Alas! who shall deliver me from this corrupt and mortal body?

Among these words he fell in a light sleep, and saw S. Mark come to him and standing by his bedside, and he heard a voice saying to him: O Mark, what makest thou here? He answered that he was come to visit this friar because he should die. Then he demanded him wherefore he came more than another saint; he answered because he had a special devotion to me, and because he hath oft devoutly visited my church, and therefore am I come to visit him in the hour of his death. Then entered into that place great plenty of people all white, to whom S. Mark demanded wherefore they were come. And they said and answered that they were come for to present the soul of this brother tofore God. And when the friar was waked he sent for the prior and told to him advisedly all this vision, and after, anon, in the presence of the prior, he died with great joy. And all this the prior recounted to him that wrote this book named Legenda aurea.
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