Bishop of Ephesus and Martyr
Saint Timothy was a convert of Saint Paul, born at Lystra in Asia Minor. His mother was a daughter of Israel, but his father was a pagan, and though Timothy had read the Scriptures from his childhood, he had never been circumcised. On the arrival of Saint Paul at Lystra the youthful Timothy, with his mother and grandmother, eagerly embraced the faith. Seven years later, when the Apostle again visited the country, the boy had grown into manhood. His good heart, his austerities and zeal had won the esteem of all around him, and holy men were prophesying great things of the fervent youth. Saint Paul at once saw his fitness for the work of an evangelist, and Timothy was ordained a priest. From that time on he was the constant and much-beloved fellow-worker of the Apostle.
In company with Saint Paul he visited the cities of Asia Minor and Greece, once hastening on ahead as a trusted messenger, at another time lingering behind to confirm in the faith a recently founded church. Eventually he was made the first Bishop of Ephesus; and there he received the two epistles of his master which bear his name, the first written from Macedonia and the second from Rome, where Saint Paul from his prison expresses his longing desire to see his dearly beloved son, once more, if possible, before his death. It is not certain whether Saint Timothy arrived in Rome in time, but devotion to Saint Timothy has always been strong in Rome, which seems to argue for his presence at the martyrdom of his spiritual father.
Saint Timothy was of a tender and affectionate disposition, and certainly found his role in the idolatrous city of Ephesus difficult to sustain. Saint Paul, when he writes to Timothy, then a tested servant of God and a bishop advancing in years, addresses him as he would his own child, and seems most anxious about his forcefulness in his demanding role. His disciple’s health was fragile, and Saint Paul counsels him to take a little wine for his digestion. Saint Timothy is the Angel of the Church of Ephesus of the Apocalypse, its bishop whom Our Lord, too, exhorted to remember his original faith and piety.
Not many years after the death of Saint Paul, Timothy, who had surely profited from these counsels, won a martyr’s crown at Ephesus, when on a feast day of the goddess Diana, whose temple stood in that city, he entered into the ungovernable crowd to calm it, exhorting these souls, deprived of the light of truth, to renounce vain worship and embrace Christianity. Wild with idolatrous passion, a pagan struck down the bishop of the Christians, thus freeing him to join his beloved spiritual father in the realm of the Blessed.
Reflection. All Christians can profit, like Saint Paul’s disciple, from Our Lord’s admonition and the great Apostle’s letters. It is remarkable what great stress Saint Paul lays on the avoidance of idle talk, and on application to holy reading. These are his chief topics. He exhorts his son Timothy to avoid tattlers and busybodies; to give no heed to novelties; to shun profane and vain chatter, but hold to sound teaching; to be an example in words and conversation; to attend to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine. Let us faithfully follow these excellent counsels.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments.