Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Image of St. Luke

Facts

Feastday: October 18

Patron Physicians and Surgeons


Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians 10-14 speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" -- in other words, Jews -- and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. Not only do we have Paul's word, but Eusebius, Saint Jerome, Saint Irenaeus and Caius, a second-century writer, all refer to Luke as a physician.

We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke's Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion but looking at the language of Acts we can see where he joined Saint Paul. The story of the Acts is written in the third person, as an historian recording facts, up until the sixteenth chapter. In Acts 16:8-9 we hear of Paul's company "So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' " Then suddenly in 16:10 "they" becomes "we": "When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them."

So Luke first joined Paul's company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they traveled first to Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. Luke then switches back to the third person which seems to indicate he was not thrown into prison with Paul and that when Paul left Philippi Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there. Seven years passed before Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. In Acts 20:5, the switch to "we" tells us that Luke has left Philippi to rejoin Paul in Troas in 58 where they first met up. They traveled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 24). And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.

Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.

The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.

A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.

Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.



More about St. Luke from Wikipedia

St. Luke Comments



More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

26.

Image of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the upper class of ... continue reading | shop

27.

Image of St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

Thomas is believed to have been born in the castle of Roccasecca in the old county of the Kingdom of Sicily, which is now known as the Lazio region of Italy, in 1225. His parents were ... continue reading | shop

28.

Image of St. Elizabeth

St. Elizabeth

What we know of St. Elizabeth comes from the Gospel, the book of Luke, in particular. In Luke, Elizabeth, a daughter of the line of Aaron, and the wife of Zacharias, was "righteous before ... continue reading | shop

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Pius V, Pope

St. Pius V, Pope

Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost leaders of the Catholic Reformation. Born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy, to a poor family, he labored as a shepherd until the age of fourteen and then ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of St. Christina

St. Christina

St. Christina was the daughter of a rich and powerful magistrate named Urbain. Her father, who was deep in the practices of heathenism, had a number of golden idols, which our saint destroyed, and distributed the pieces among the poor. Infuriated by this act, Urbain ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Benedict the Black

St. Benedict the Black

There is a saint called Benedict the Black or Benedict the Moor. He was born a slave near Messina, Italy. He was freed by his master and became a solitary, eventually settling with other hermits at Montepellegrino. He was made superior of the community, but when he was ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Polycarp

St. Polycarp

Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear their stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an example for all to follow, even the nonbeliever.

Here's 3 reasons why the canonization of Mother Teresa matters to you

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Her canonization is an important event for Catholics and all people around the world. Here's 3 reasons why. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When Mother Teresa is ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 16:1-10
1 From there he went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra, where there was a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,2 ... Read More

Gospel, John 15:18-21
18 If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 30th, 2016 Image

St. Pius V, Pope
April 30: Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost ... Read More