PATRON SAINT - ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST
Our patron Saint John is described as one of the earliest disciples of the Lord Jesus in all four Gospels. He and his older brother, James, lived by the Sea of Galilee where they fished with their father and the hired men [Mark 1:20]. It was here that Jesus called them to follow Him. It is thought that James and John had followed John the Baptist when he was preaching a baptism of repentance and cried out prophetically “Behold the Lamb of God”, as he saw Jesus coming to him for baptism. This was the beginning of a relationship with the Lord that grew stronger and stronger. John, along with Peter and James, had the grace and privilege to be those Jesus chose to witness some very intimate events including the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. He is described as resting his head on Jesus’ breast at the last supper. John, alone among the apostles, is described as a witness to the crucifixion. It was then that Jesus gave the “beloved disciple” the care of Mary saying, “Woman behold your son” and “Behold your mother”.
Perhaps the closeness of Jesus’ relationship to James and John was what encouraged their mother, Salome, to ask that they sit one on Jesus’ right and the other on His left when He came into His kingdom. Impetuosity must run in the family since James and John are referred to as “sons of thunder”.
John and Peter were the first to receive the news from Mary Magdalene of the Resurrection. They hastened to the tomb. When John, who allowed Peter to enter the tomb first, went in and saw “the linen cloths on the ground and also the cloth that had been over His head…not with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself [John 20:7]”, he believed.
In the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension, John and Peter returned to their old calling, and old familiar haunts, on the Sea of Galilee. When Christ appeared on the shore at dawn, John was the first to recognize Him. The last words of the Gospel reveal the attachment which existed between the two apostles. It was not enough for Peter to know his own fate, he must learn also something of the future that awaited his friend. The Acts shows them still united, entering together as worshippers into the Temple [Acts 3:1], and protesting together against the threats of the Sanhedrin [Acts 4:13]. They worked together in the first step of Church expansion. The apostles, whose wrath had been kindled at the unbelief of the Samaritans, was the first to receive these Samaritans as brethren [Luke 9:54, Acts 8:14].
John probably remained at Jerusalem until the death of the Virgin Mary, though one tradition, of no great antiquity, asserts that he took her to Ephesus. When he went to Ephesus is uncertain. He was in Jerusalem fifteen years after Saint Paul’s first visit there [Acts 15:6]. There is no trace of his presence there when Saint Paul was at Jerusalem for the last time.
Tradition, more or less trustworthy, gives further details. Irenaeus says that Saint John did not settle at Ephesus until after the deaths of SS. Peter and Paul. He certainly was not there when Saint Timothy was appointed bishop of Ephesus. Saint Jerome says that Saint John supervised and governed all the Churches of Asia. He probably took up his abode in Ephesus in 97. In the persecution of Domitian, he was taken to Rome, and according to tradition, was placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, outside the Latin gate, without the boiling fluid doing him any injury. [Eusebius makes no mention of this. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Saint Jerome]. He was sent to labor at the mines in Patmos. When Nreva became Emporer, he was set free and returned to Ephesus. There, it is thought, that he wrote his Gospel. It is most probable that there he would have inspired the Gospel, the two Epistles, and the Book of Revelation, although all these had several redactions before our current text.
Tradition abounds with stories of Saint John’s love and zeal. In his old age, unable to do more, he was carried into the assembly of the Church at Ephesus and his sole exhortation was, “Little children, love one another”.
The date of his death cannot be fixed with anything like precision, but it is certain that he lived to a very advanced age. He is represented holding a chalice from which issues a dragon, as he
is supposed to have been given poison, which was, however, innocuous. Also, his symbol is an eagle.