APRIL 25 is the traditional memorial of ST. MARK, EVANGELIST (+c. 74).
Most of what we know about St. Mark is shrouded in tradition. The story is that he was born in Cyrene, in what is now Libya. Cyrene was one of the most important cities in northern Africa, settled by Greeks hundreds of years before and ruled by Romans and Greeks ever since. At the time right after Alexander the Great died and Ptolomy took over, life in Cyrene was unstable. Ptolomy imported Jews from other areas around the Egyptian kingdom to settle in Cyrene and keep the city safer. But the Jews did not forget their faith. As a matter of fact, in Jerusalem there was a synagogue for the Cyrenean Jews, who would come up for Passover or Pentacost. Mark had a home with his mother, Mary, in town. He may have heard about Jesus on that first Pentacost.
Since there were few Arabs in Africa at that time, one would expect that Mark may have had the dark Mediterranean features, like Sicilians.
Tradition also says that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas, the disciple, and went by the name John Mark. The house where the descent of the Holy Spirit came on the first Pentacost was said to be Mark and Mary’s house. After this event, Mark began to follow his cousin. Barnabas and Paul went through Cyprus teaching the good news. After Peter was saved by the angel and left prison, about 41, Mark accompanied him to Rome, acting as interpreter, travel companion and transcriber. During this time, recording Peter’s sermons, he began to write his Gospel, where Peter figured prominently. He wrote in Greek because that was the common language of most of the Mediterranean area ruled by Rome. He stayed with Peter about two years.
In about 49, Mark went to Alexandria. He preached and eventually started the third most important patriarchate, second only to Rome and Jerusalem. The Coptic Christians trace their founding to Mark. The majority of the converts to the new religion were common Egyptians, not the Greeks of the Jews. By 60, it can be said that the Church there was established.
Mark is said to have been martyred by being dragged to his death. Stories abound about the whereabouts of his remains. There is no final decision about his final resting place. It could be Alexandria; it could be St. Mark’s in Venice.
“The church, which is in Babylon, co-elected, saluteth you: and my son, Mark. Salute one another with a holy kiss. Grace unto you all, who are in Christ Jesus.”