Saint of the Month
St. Luke the Apostle
Feast Day: October 18
Patron of: Physicians, Surgeons, and Artists
Luke, wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. We do not know much about his early life, either from Scripture or from early Church historians. There are several references to Luke as a “physician”; but it is thought that he might really have been born a slave. In Luke’s time family’s sometimes educated a slave in medicine so that their family would have a resident physician.
People think that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, in Scripture, he is not included in a list of Jesus’ friends who were Jews. More importantly, Luke’s gospel shows special purpose in evangelizing Gentiles (like himself). Luke’s gospel is the only place that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, or that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles, or that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan. According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch, in Syria.
Luke is said to have been a very careful and accurate historian; so reading the Acts of the Apostles gives a good idea of the travels of St. Paul during this time, since Luke was a close associate of St. Paul. We don’t know how or when, exactly, St. Luke converted to Christianity, but we do know that he joined St. Paul in about 51 AD near Troas. They traveled together for some time, until Paul was first thrown into prison in Philippi. Luke was not imprisoned, but stayed in Philippi, even after Paul was released. He stayed behind to encourage the growth of the Church in this area.
Luke and Paul were reunited about seven years later, when Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. The two travelled together for some time during these years. In fact, Luke was one of a few who stayed with Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome about the year 61. In the end, only Luke was with Paul.
We don’t know much about Luke’s life after Pauls’ death. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.
A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary. He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.
This video gives a quick summary of St. Luke’s ministry.
Luke’s Special Perspectives
Luke’s Gospel offers many stories of Jesus which are not found in the other Gospels. His Gospel contains six miracles and eighteen parables that are not found in the other gospels. The focus of Luke's gospel is the poor and social justice. For example, Luke is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the Beatitudes. And only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty".
Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. The Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary come from the Gospel of Luke: "Hail Mary, full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.
Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.