Saint Luke lived in the First Century A.D. He was a physician, companion to Saint Paul (with whom he traveled and preached the doctrine of the new faith) and Christian historian. His name is believed by some to be an abbreviation of Lucanus. According to ecclesiastical tradition, Luke was the author of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel According to Luke (sometimes referred to as the "Third Gospel"). Little is known of his birthplace, but it is an accepted fact that he was not of Jewish heritage. It is thought that Luke may have been a native of Antioch in Syria, but Greek in birth and education. Some authorities believe he may have been a Roman citizen.
Luke was probably a Gentile, since Paul distinguishes him from Jewish coworkers (Colossians 4:10-14). He may have been "Lucius of Cyrene," a resident of Cyrenaica in Northern Africa. Use of the first person plural in Acts 16:10-17 would seem to substantiate this, particularly since the author of Acts is referred to as a "man of Macedonia" (Acts 16:9). When Luke met Paul, he had already converted to Christianity, but knew nothing about the beginnings of the movement, save what others had relayed to him. Upon becoming Paul's traveling companion, however, Luke learned much about the religion from his new comrade and soon became well-versed in Jewish customs.
Aramaic was spoken widely in Antioch and Luke knew of the sacred writings of the Hebrews. He was an educated and refined man, skilled in literary expression. He was familiar with medical terms, having studied medicine at Tarsus (sometimes called Troas), the chief city of the Roman Province of Asia. It is here that Luke is believed to have met Paul for the first time. Some authorities claim that Luke was initially a shipboard doctor.
Luke wrote his gospel around 60 A.D. and composed Acts approximately three years later. For his gospel account, Luke garnered his information from eye-witnesses and documents. Since Luke is believed to have been with Paul when the latter was imprisoned at Rome, it appears likely that he would have met the apostles and disciples, and would have been aware of the gospels written by Mark and Matthew. It is widely held that one of the people Luke interviewed...perhaps at greater length than any other witness...may have been Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.
Accompanying Paul on visits to Antioch, Caesarea and Jerusalem, it would have been in these cities that Luke also encountered people who could have provided the information he sought for his writings. While Paul was detained in Caesarea for two years, Luke began to put together a history of Christianity. He had been taking notes during his journeys and wrote in flawless Greek. During Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, which extended over several years, Luke completed his two volume history. Shortly after attaining the age of 50, Luke accompanied Paul on the second missionary journey and, at approximately 57 years of age, he joined Paul again at Philippi to embark upon a third voyage, completing the trip in Jerusalem.
Luke, referred to by Paul as the "Beloved Physician," has rightly been called the first Christian historian. He was the only Gentile writer of the New Testament. He is the evangelist, poet, artist and cantor of the infancy of Jesus Christ. It was Luke who chronicled the Christian rendition of Christmas, searching out and preserving a birth story "too humble for prouder historians to touch." The Gospel of Luke has been described as the most beautiful book in the world...the opening chapters credited with being the most magnificent of all. The first two chapters of Luke's gospel relate the Christmas story. He is the only Evangelist to provide certain information about the conception, infancy and childhood of Jesus. The events described in the Bible by Luke alone include the Annuciation (the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel that Mary had been chosen as the mother of Christ). These words of Luke are the basis for the "Hail Mary" and the Angelus (Latin for "angel"). Luke also chronicled the only Gospel account of the Visitation, which contains what is considered to be one of the world's most beautiful prayers...the Magnificat. Luke is also the only Evangelist to describe the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple according to Jewish custom.
These five events described by Luke: the Annuciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple compose the Rosary. Of all four Evangelists, it is Luke who best reveals Jesus as the man and constant friend to the poor and downtrodden, comforting even the despairing thief who was crucified alongside him.
There is some controversy regarding the details of Luke's death...even his age is a matter for speculation. Some maintain he was 74. Others that he was 84 or even 86. After preaching in Dalmatia, Gallia, Italy and Macedonia, Luke may have met his end at the hands of idolatrous Greek priests in Boeotia, who hanged him by the neck from an olive tree. However, other accounts propose that he died in Thebes and it is said that a secretion or balm from his holy body was used an an ointment to heal those suffering from diseases of the eyes. Miracles of Saint Luke's healing of ailments is believed to have continued for many years at the site of his grave, which would be visted by the faithful who came from both near and far. When the persecution of Christians came to a halt, the remains of Luke were transported to Constantinople under orders issued in 357 A.D. by Constantius, son of Constaintine the Great. It is in this location that his relics are now believed to lie, buried beneath the altar in the Church of the Holy Apostles, together with the remains of the disciples Andrew and Timothy. Luke, who never married, is venerated by the Church as a martyr. According to tradition, he was a skilled artist in addition to his other capabilities, and several pictures of "Our Blessed Lady" are attributed to his talented brush. Saint Luke's feast day is celebrated on October 18. He is the Patron Saint of Physicians, Artists, Brewers and Butchers and was referred to as "Paul's Disciple" by Saint John Chrysostom.