Memorial; Liturgical Color: Red
Today’s saints were two bishops from the apostolic period of the Church, the decades immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ. In this grace filled time the apostles and St. Paul were carving the first deep furrows into the pagan soil they travelled, planting in the earth the seeds of Christian faith which succeeding bishops would water, tend, and harvest.
Little is certainly known about today’s saints apart from references to them in the Acts of the Apostles and in the epistles of St. Paul. But these numerous references are enough. The generations of theologians, bishops, martyrs, and saints who lived in the post apostolic period give universal and consistent witness to the veracity of Paul’s letters and the events they recount. There are theological, rather than historical, lessons to be taken from the lives and ministry of today’s saints.
Saints Timothy and Titus were apostles of an apostle. They shared in, and cooperated with, the ministry of St. Paul, who had a direct connection to Christ through a miraculous occurrence on the road to Damascus, a feast commemorated, not coincidentally, the day prior to today’s memorial. Timothy, Titus, and many others, known and unknown, carried out on a local level a priestly ministry which Paul engaged in on a more regional level. It was St. Paul’s practice, and probably that of the other surviving apostles, to appoint assistants wherever they went who acted with the authority of the apostle who appointed them. These assistants were variously called priests or bishops, terms that were often interchangeable. Deacons shared in the priestly ministry too, but more as assistants to bishops.
A direct connection to an apostle, either through his direct ministry or through a group or person he appointed (presumably through an ordination rite), was fundamental to establish a church. Accredited leaders were needed. This is a constant theme in the writings of St. Paul. No apostle – no Church. The body could not be separated from the head and still survive. In other words, the proclamation of the gospel always – always – occurred contemporaneously with the foundation of a solidly structured local Church. The modern tendency to emphasize the internal, personal, and spiritual message of Christ over the external, public, hierarchical Church which carried his message was a dichotomy unknown to early Christianity. The Church carries a message and is itself a message. The content of the gospel and the form of the gospel community go hand in hand.
A later tradition holds that St. Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus, in modern day Turkey. Equally ancient traditions state that St. John retreated to Ephesus before eventually dying on the island of Patmos, and that the Virgin Mary followed John to Ephesus, living in a house above the town. It is possible, then, that St. Timothy drank from the deepest wells of the Christian tradition. Sitting around the warm glow of a fire in a dark room at night, he may have heard about the life of Christ from the very lips of the most important witnesses. We can imagine that he heard much of what is not today preserved, and from the very man who ends his gospel by saying that “there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25.)
Saints Timothy and Titus, apostles of St. Paul, through your lives dedicated to the mission fields of the Church, you helped laid the foundations of Christianity, and carried on the priestly ministry of Jesus by preaching, teaching, and governing those who first heard the gospel and accepted its power in their lives. Help us to be so bold and fruitful in the modern world.
More from Butler’s Lives of the Saints:
TIMOTHY was a convert of St. Paul. He was born at Lystra in Asia Minor. His mother was a Jewess, but his father was a pagan; and though Timothy had read the Scriptures from his childhood, he had not been circumcised as a Jew. On the arrival of St. Paul at Lystra the youthful Timothy, with his mother and grandmother, eagerly embraced the faith. Seven years later, when the Apostle again visited the country, the boy had grown into manhood, while his good heart, his austerities and zeal had won the esteem of all around him; and holy men were prophesying great things of the fervent youth. St. Paul at once saw his fitness for the work of an evangelist. Timothy was forthwith ordained, and from that time became the constant and much-beloved fellow-worker of the Apostle. In company with St. Paul he visited the cities of Asia Minor and Greece—at one time hastening on in front as a trusted messenger, at another lingering behind to confirm in the faith some recently founded church. Finally, he was made the first Bishop of Ephesus; and here he received the two epistles which bear his name, the first written from Macedonia and the second from Rome, in which St. Paul from his prison gives vent to his longing desire to see his “dearly beloved son,” if possible, once more before his death. St. Timothy himself not many years after the death of St. Paul, won his martyr’s crown at Ephesus. As a child Timothy delighted in reading the sacred books, and to his last hour he would remember the parting words of his spiritual father, “Attende lectioni—Apply thyself to reading.”
Reflection.—St. Paul, in writing to Timothy, a faithful and well-tried servant of God, and a bishop now getting on in years, addresses him as a child, and seems most anxious about his perseverance in faith and piety. The letters abound in minute personal instructions for this end. It is therefore remarkable what great stress the Apostle lays on the avoiding of idle talk, and on the application to holy reading. These are his chief topics. Over and over again he exhorts his son Timothy to “avoid tattlers and busybodies; to give no heed to novelties; to shun profane and vain babblings, but to hold the form of sound words; to be an example in word and conversation; to attend to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.”
Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. 
TITUS was a convert from heathenism, a disciple of St. Paul, one of the chosen companions of the Apostles in his journey to the Council of Jerusalem, and his fellow-laborers in many apostolic missions. From the Second Epistle which St. Paul sent by the hand of Titus to the Corinthians we gain an insight into his character and understand the, strong affection which his master bore him. Titus had been commissioned to carry out a twofold office needing much firmness, discretion, and charity. He was to be the bearer of a severe rebuke to the Corinthians, who were giving scandal and were wavering in their faith; and at the same time he was to put their charity to a further test by calling upon them for abundant alms for the church at Jerusalem. St. Paul meanwhile was anxiously awaiting the result. At Troas he writes, “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus, my brother.” He set sail to Macedonia. Here at last Titus brought the good news. His success had been complete. He reported the sorrow, the zeal, the generosity of the Christians, till the Apostle could not contain his joy, and sent back to them his faithful messenger with the letter of comfort from which we have quoted. Titus was finally left as a bishop in Crete, and here he, in turn, received the epistle which bears his name, and here at last he died in peace.
The mission of Titus to Corinth shows us how well the disciple caught the spirit of his master. He knew how to be firm and to inspire respect. The Corinthians, we are told, “received him with fear and trembling.” He was patient and painstaking. St. Paul “gave thanks to God, Who had put such carefulness for them in the heart of Titus.” And these gifts were enhanced by a quickness to detect and call out all that was good in others, and by a joyousness which overflowed upon the spirit of St. Paul himself, who “abundantly rejoiced in the joy of Titus.”
Reflection.—Saints win their empire over the hearts of men by their wide and affectionate sympathy. This was the characteristic gift of St. Titus, as it was of St. Paul, St-Francis Xavier, and many others.
Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed.