Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

God's Personal Secretary

Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (25 Apr)

St. Mark's personal history is the matter of some confusion. He seems to have been named John Mark, and called as much, but also John, and yet again Mark in Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul's writings, and in one of St. Peter's letters. It is not just his given name that is unclear, though. So are his travels.

Mark seems perhaps to have met St. Peter when, after his release from prison, the Apostle stayed at the home of Mark's mother. He travelled with St. Paul for a while, separating from him and his party over whether to travel deep into Asia Minor (modern Turkey). There is good evidence to suggest that during his period he travelled to Egypt and planted or nurtured the Church in Alexandria. The Coptic (Egyptian) Christians to this day count him as their first bishop. It is clear that in any event he eventually joined up with St. Peter in Rome. There, he wrote and organized the writings of St. Peter, which probably form the basis of his Gospel. He also translated and managed the affairs of the elder Apostle, doing the day to day work that kept St. Peter free for his ministry.

Perhaps either his own, or the ever-exuberant personality of St. Peter seems to be reflected in the Gospel of St. Mark in a few ways. Firstly, in that gospel account, our Blessed Lord never simply does anything. Rather, he seems always to immediately do everything. Our Lord is depicted as always on the go, a Man with a Plan, and no time to waste. Another feature of St. Mark's account is the early, frequent, and strong confrontations between our Lord and his adversaries, especially the Pharisees. Of the four Evangelists, he is the one depicted as or with a lion for these features of his Gospel.

It is unclear how St. Mark died. The earliest mentions of his death are rather late, in the 4th century, but they agree that he was martyred in Alexandria. Perhaps after Ss. Peter and Paul had been killed in Rome, St. Mark felt it important to return to his earlier ministry.

In a way it is fitting that his life is veiled to history. He, though a bishop in his own right, left that honor to serve as secretary to St. Peter, the first pope, in what was doubtless a difficult time of life for the both of them. By being content to have a small role in a growing Church, St. Mark bequeathed to us a priceless gem, his Gospel, that probably wouldn't have been written if he had clung to his earlier, more lauded role. He is an encouragement to the average Christian who doesn't seek glory or praise, but the humbler roles in a parish - cleaning floors, running errands for the pastor, and so on.

St. Mark, patron of secretaries, pray for us.

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