There are no extant writings about the early life of St. Luke. However, the Church historian Eusebius tells us that Luke was born in Antioch and was a Gentile. We know nothing of the circumstances of the conversion of Luke.
The third of the four Gospels is attributed to St. Luke. He never met Christ in person. However, in his Gospel, Luke says that he came to a knowledge of Jesus by talking to eyewitnesses to the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Listening to these stories helped him to become a believer himself, and he penned his version of the Gospel so that others would come to know, believe and love Jesus. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. In it, we learn about the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, the work and mission of the Apostles, especially St. Paul, and how the Church grew in the world.
Paul’s Faithful Companion
Luke’s name appears in the Acts of the Apostles. He was a companion of St. Paul and traveled with him on his second missionary journey. We can deduce that he really joined Paul by reading the Acts of the Apostles. The first up to the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles were written in the third person. However, in the succeeding parts of it, it suddenly passed to the first person plural: “During [the] night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” (Acts 16:9-10)
After this, Luke then accompanied Paul to Samothrace, Neapolis and Philippi around the year 51. Another passage in the third person leads the reader to think that Luke was not arrested with Paul, but rather stayed in Philippi after his friend left. When Paul was arrested and imprisoned in Rome in the year 61, Luke remained at his side as can be seen from the Epistles of Paul to Philemon and to Timothy. After being left by all, in the last phase of his imprisonment, Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that “only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).
The Beloved Physician
Luke was a physician. This was, in fact, proven by no less than St. Paul himself when he called Luke as the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). No wonder why in his account of the Gospel, Luke helps his readers know how Jesus was concerned for the sick, the poor and those who are in need of help, forgiveness and mercy. Through his Gospel, we learn how compassionate and caring Jesus was.
The details of the death of Luke are uncertain. Some sources say he suffered martyrdom. Others say he lived to old age. The oldest traditions say Luke settled in Boeotia where he wrote the Gospel and died at age 84. His relics are found in the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua, a rib from his body was sent to his original tomb in Thebes and his skull is preserved in the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague. His feast day is October 18.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Luke
- St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors and physicians.
- St. Luke is also the patron saint of artists. It is believed that he painted a famous portrait of Mary, our Blessed Mother.
- The symbol for St. Luke’s Gospel is an ox. An ox was often sacrificed as an offering to God in the Biblical times. In his writings, St. Luke reminds his readers of the sacrifice of Jesus to save all people through His death and resurrection.
- Among the four Gospel accounts, the Gospel according to Luke is the longest. One might think that Matthew’s was the longest, but the Gospel of Luke “extends” its story to the Acts of the Apostles as its second part since they were both authored by St. Luke.
- It is only in the Gospel according to Luke that we could find three parables consecutively written. These were the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost son. They are all found in chapter 15.
Prayer to St. Luke
Lord God, who chose Saint Luketo reveal by his preaching and writingsthe mystery of your love for the poor,grant that those who already glory in your namemay persevere as one heart and one souland that all nations may merit to see your salvation.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.