Saint Brigid Religious Education
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know something of Mark the evangelist's life from certain New Testament
texts and the testimony of ancient ecclesiastical writers. To fill the
gaps left by these texts there are later sources that refer to his
apostolate in Egypt
and the Venetias. Mark had two names: John, a
traditional Jewish name, and Mark, a very ancient Roman name deriving
from Mars, the god of war.
was the son of
Aristopolus and Mary and is said to have been born in Cyrene,
one of the five Western cities in North Africa.
A fair amount of wealth allowed him to study Hebrew and Latin, gaining
in-depth knowledge of Holy Scriptures and especially the writings of the
prophets. Their home was
invaded by barbarian tribes who pillaged Mark's family's land and
property. He and his family took refuge in Jerusalem,
where he met the first preachers of Jesus' holy words. His cousin was
Barnabas and Peter was married to
the cousin of Aristopolus.
His house was the first Christian church, where they ate the Passover,
hid after the death of the Lord Christ, and in its upper room the Holy
Spirit came upon them.
the Ascension of Christ, Mark left
Jerusalem and went to Antioch with Barnabas and Paul. Antioch stood
opposite the island of Cyprus. There
were numerous synagogues and Barnabas and Paul
set about announcing the gospel with the aid of Mark. Later Mark left
them to return to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch too.
Paul left for the Christian community of Asia Minor and Barnabas took
ship for Cyprus with Mark for a second evangelization of the island.
reached Rome after the year 50, where as assistant to Peter, he carried out his
work among the Jews, who
numbered about forty-five thousand. He also approached the pagan Romans,
chiefly the military classes. Mark was a sort of interpreter between
Peter, who spoke no Greek or spoke it badly, and his listeners for whom
Greek was the international language.
second part of Mark's life included the apostolate in Aquileia and in
Alexandria. Mark was Peter's disciple in Rome where he wrote his gospel
at the request of the local Christians so that the apostle's preaching
should not be lost. When Peter came to know of it he was cheered and
ordered that the text of the gospel be delivered to the various
churches. The newly converted Christians asked Mark for copies of the gospel and
he complied so that they might observe it with constancy. At this point
Mark, considering his mission completed, planned to return secretly to
Peter in Rome.
returned to Jerusalem for a last farewell to his mother, who was close
to death, and began his new voyage.
Once in Cyrene, Mark began preaching and performing marvels and
miracles. Mark's voyage continued to Alexandria, where there were a
surprising number of believers in Christ resulting from Mark's
teachings. He asked his disciples to build a great church in honor of
the Immaculate Virgin Mary and he set up an actual ecclesiastical
hierarchy. Leaving Alexandria in secret he returned to Cyrene
where he remained several years to consolidate the faith and establish a
proper hierarchy. With this phase over the evangelist decided to go back
was not long before the opportunity arose to get rid of the evangelist.
Mark's enemies, taking advantage of the Easter ceremonies held by the
saint, sent armed men who surprised and arrested him while he was
celebrating Mass. Mark was
being pulled through the streets of Alexandria by a pagan mob and died
the following day on April 25th, 68. The
multitude of persecutors, anxious to get rid of all traces of the saint,
threw his body on a fire. At this point the Lord intervened
providentially, sending a violent storm that destroyed buildings and
killed many inhabitants. The saint's killers took flight, running away
from his body. When the storm had passed some men gathered Mark's
remains and took them to the place where he used to sing his prayers and
psalms. Mark's tomb soon became an internationally famous sanctuary,
drawing the faithful after the end of the great
Alexandria new patriarchs were ordained and received investiture on his
tomb, holding the saint's head, wrapped in precious cloths, in their
sanctuary was spared during the Persian invasion of Egypt in 620 but was
partly burnt during the Arab invasion of 644-646. The saint's relics
were removed from the ruins until the Patriarch of Alexandria was
granted permission to rebuild the ancient building where the
evangelist's remains were laid to rest.
St. Mark the Evangelist feast day is April 25.
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