January 26: Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops—Memorial
Saint Timothy: 17–97 A.D
Invoked against intestinal disorders and stomach diseases
Saint Titus: First Century–96 A.D
Patron Saint of Crete
Liturgical Color: White
I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be heartened by hearing news of you. For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know his worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel. ~Philippians 2:19–22
For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. ~2 Corinthians 7:5–7
Yesterday the Church celebrated the Conversion of Saint Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Today the Church honors two of Paul’s co-workers. Saints Timothy and Titus were both chosen as bishops in the apostolic age of the early Church, and each received letters from Saint Paul that are included in the New Testament. One early tradition states that Timothy died a martyr’s death by stoning at about the age of eighty, after opposing a procession in honor of the pagan goddess Diana. No details are known about the death of Titus.
Timothy was born in either Lystra or Derbe, modern-day Turkey. He was the “son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). Since his father was a pagan, Timothy was most likely not raised in a strict Jewish home, even though his mother and grandmother were Jewish Christians. However, Saint Paul mentions that “from infancy” Timothy was versed in the Jewish Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 3:15). Saint Paul also suggests that Timothy was a bit timid in his personality (see 1 Corinthians 16:10).
Timothy began his conversion to the Christian faith after Paul and Barnabus visited his hometown of Lystra during their first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabus had recently been rejected by many of the Jews, so they began to turn their preaching toward the Gentiles. Timothy, being of both Jewish and Gentile origin, must have paid special attention. During that visit, Paul healed a man who was crippled from birth (see Acts 14:8–10) as a way of showing that the power of God worked through him. In subsequent years, a Christian community in Lystra emerged which held Timothy in high regard (see Acts 16:2). Therefore, when Saint Paul passed through Lystra during his second missionary journey a few years later, he met Timothy and invited him to join him in his travels. Timothy not only agreed but also allowed Paul to circumcise him so that when they preached to the Jews, the Jews would not hold his uncircumcision as a child against him.
Titus was a Greek, not a Jew, most likely born and raised on the island of Crete. Tradition states that he was educated in Greek philosophy and poetry as a youth. After Paul and Barnabas completed their first missionary journey, the same journey that sparked faith in the heart of Timothy, they traveled to Jerusalem to help resolve a dispute over whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity should undergo the Jewish rite of circumcision. Paul invited Titus to join him in Jerusalem, perhaps in part because Titus was a Gentile convert who did not undergo circumcision (see Galatians 2:3).
Details about Titus’ conversion are unknown. What is known is that he became a close companion of Paul during those early years of the Church. With Titus’ assistance, Paul prevailed at the Council of Jerusalem by convincing the others that circumcision for Gentile converts was unnecessary. This was a huge decision that opened the door widely to the Gentiles, inviting them to freely enter.
In the three to four decades to follow, both Timothy and Titus assisted Paul and the other leaders of the early Church by preaching and tending to administration. Timothy’s journeys led him to especially assist the Church in the Greek cities of Philippi, Athens, Thessalonica, and Corinth, eventually becoming the first bishop of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey.
Titus was also sent far and wide by Paul. After Paul had difficulties with the new members of the Church in Corinth, he sent Titus to them to restore the peace (see 2 Corinthians 7:6–13). Titus was also sent to assist in Jerusalem, eventually becoming the first bishop of Crete (see Titus 1:5–9) and later assisting in Dalmatia, in modern-day Croatia.
Saint Paul was arguably the greatest evangelist in the history of the Church, but he could not have accomplished all that he did on his own. Trusted co-workers like Saints Timothy and Titus were essential to the mission. As we honor their lives, consider the ways that God wants you to act as a co-worker in the vineyard of this world. In the end, all that will matter is the salvation of souls. God wants to use you, as He used these great apostles, to continue the good work of bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Saints Timothy and Titus, you were called by God to share in the apostolic ministry of Saint Paul, to go forth to preach, and to draw many souls to Heaven. Your faith, zeal, and countless virtues assisted you in this mission. Please pray for me, that I may also share in the apostolic work of the Church and help bring many souls to Christ. Saints Timothy and Titus, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.