Posted by: fvbcdm | April 25, 2013

Feast of Saint Mark (25 April 2013)

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark, the author of the second Gospel and a disciple of Saint Peter.  Scripture scholars tell us that when we read the gospel according to Saint Mark, we are really reading the preaching of Saint Peter, which Mark heard time and again and eventually wrote down to preserve for posterity.

Saint Mark is thought to be buried under the main altar of the basilica of Saint Mark in Venice.  He probably died in the city of Alexandria in the Nile delta of Egypt.  When Islam was founded and spread across all of North Africa, many of the most sacred objects and relics in that part of the world were brought to the Catholic cities north of the Mediterranean to preserve them from desecration at the hands of the Muslims.  Thus Saint Mark’s body was brought to Venice and became the most precious treasure of that city. Even before that, the four animals which are mentioned in the Book of Revelation were held to be symbolic of the writers of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  The four animals were the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle. These were seen as the four living things which were the wisest, the noblest, the strongest, and the swiftest. Thus the lion has been associated with Saint Mark and Saint Mark’s city, Venice, for centuries.  

I hope that you have visited the charming city of Venice or will do so some day.  Built on a series of islands in a lagoon at the northeastern end of the Adriatic Sea, it has canals where other cities have streets.  The islands are joined by bridges which gracefully arch over the canals high enough to permit gondolas and other kinds of boats to pass underneath them.  Everywhere you see the sign of the lion, and the very heart of the city is the large Piazza San Marco—Saint Mark Square—providing a beautiful setting for the basilica of Saint Mark and its very tall bell tower from the top of which can be seen wonderful views of the city, its waterways, piazzas, and bridges.  In very recent church history, three of the archbishops of Venice (they are traditionally called “patriarchs”) have been elected to the papacy.  They have been Saint Pius X, Blessed John XXIII, and Pope John Paul I.  

A few years ago, when I was pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Houston, a family of my parishioners brought to me a white marble plaque depicting the Lion of Saint Mark.  I am very fond of it and hung it over the door of the church leading to the priory.  Whenever I see that plaque which probably came from Venice, I am grateful to those who brought it to our parish.  Today, on the feast of Saint Mark, I will go there to look at it again and pray to Saint Mark for those who brought me that very nice souvenir.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

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