Evangelist. St Mark was the first Gospel writer. He is usually associated with John Mark, whose mother's house in Jerusalem was a meeting place for the Apostles. He was also probably the young man described in Mark 14: 51 who followed Christ after his arrest and then ran away.
He later accompanied both Paul and Peter. Paul and Barnabas (Mark's cousin) took him with them on their first missionary journey. Mark turned back at Perga. There was some argument. Barnabas and Mark later preached together in Cyprus.
Some time after, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, Mark was there again helping him. Paul refers to him affectionately as his 'son' (Col 4:10). Peter also speaks of him with affection (1 Pet 5: 13 and 15)
According to legend he became bishop of Alexandria. Historians think the Gospel of St Mark was written in Italy, probably in Rome. Tradition holds that Mark was martyred in the eighth year of Nero in Alexandria.
There is a long history of St Mark's relics. His body was brought to Venice in the ninth century. The basilica which was burnt down in 976 and rebuilt contains relics from Alexandria and a beautiful series of mosaics which tell the story of St Mark's life. The symbol of St Mark is a winged lion. St Mark is patron saint of Venice.
Bishop. Saint Mellitus was one of the second band of missionaries sent from Rome to England by Pope Gregory I. He took with him a letter advising Augustine not to destroy the temples of the Saxons, but only their idols. The temples he was told, should be turned into churches, and the pagan feasts adapted to Christian purposes.
In 604 he was consecrated the first bishop of the East Saxons, with his see in London. He converted the King Sabert, but not his sons. When the king died they drove Mellitus out, after he refused their demand to give them the 'white bread' (the Eucharist).
Mellitus withdrew to Gaul for a year with St Justus of Rochester. When he returned to England he was made Archbishop of Canterbury. He built St Mary's Church there.
Mellitus died on this day in 624 and was buried near St Augustine in the abbey church of St Peter and St Paul. Bede said that he was 'noble by birth but yet nobler in mind'.
St Pedro de Betancur
Priest and the first saint of Guatemala.
Born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Pedro was a shepherd until he was 24 when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City in the following year.
When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established. Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. But he found studying very difficult and eventually left school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order.
Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed.
Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. Other men came to share in Pedro's work.
He died in 1667, but his community went on to become the Bethlehemite Congregation. Pedro is known as the 'St Francis of the Americas'.
He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbours. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries.
Pedro was beatified in 1980. On July 30 2003, he was canonised by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City before a crowd of more than 500,000 people. During the ceremony, the Holy Father said he was an outstanding example of Christian mercy. He said Pedro practiced mercy 'heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.'