A patron saint for stomach ailments

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St. Timothy (1st century)

Feast day: Jan. 26

On Jan. 26 the church celebrates the feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus, two disciples and friends of St. Paul who are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and in St. Paul’s letters. We know more about Timothy than about Titus. Furthermore, for the purposes of this column, St. Timothy is a patron saint of something we’ve all experienced — stomach trouble, while it appears that nothing in particular has been attributed to St. Tutus.

In 1 Timothy 5:23, St. Paul urges Timothy, “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.” Apparently the man suffered from some type of chronic stomach complaint of which Paul was aware. A few years ago, when I came down with some bug or other and my stomach was a mess, I thought I’d try St. Paul’s advice. A little wine worked. A little more even more so. It may have been psychosomatic, but on that day I didn’t care. I felt better.

Timothy, his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were all among the earliest Christians. Timothy’s father remained a non-believer. Paul was impressed by Timothy’s profound faith and had a fatherly affection for the young man. Timothy accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys to Macedonia and Corinth, and was there the day Paul expressed his frustration with a Jewish audience who rejected the gospel. Paul shook the dust from his cloak in their direction, declaring that henceforth he would preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.

At one point, Paul sent Timothy to the Christians in Corinth as his surrogate. In 1 Corinthians, he tells the Corinthian Christian community that Timothy is his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord,” and reminds them that Timothy, like Paul, is doing God’s work and therefore deserves their kindness and respect.

In his letter to the Philippians, who wanted Paul to come to them but he could not, he promised to send Timothy instead, assuring the Christians of Philippi that Timothy is as concerned for their spiritual welfare as Paul.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul says he is sending him to Ephesus, where the Christians have been dabbling in myths and speculative theology rather than the true doctrines Paul brought to them. Paul must have recognized that the assignment he was giving to Timothy would not be an easy one, because he spends a few lines encouraging him to cultivate the spiritual virtues such as faith, gentleness and endurance in the face of the pride of the Ephesians.

We aren’t sure what became of Timothy. The early Christian historian Eusebius says that Timothy became bishop of the unruly Christians of Ephesus. He was martyred during a pagan festival in honor of the god Dionysius. The custom was for festival goers to go about carrying a small statue of Dionysius in one hand, and a club in the other. When Timothy objected to the pagan rites, the devotees of Dionysius used their clubs to beat him to death.

St. Timothy’s relics were transferred in 356 from his tomb in Ephesus to a shrine in Constantinople. Both St. Jerome and St. John Chrysostom testify to the miraculous cures wrought at the shrine through the intercession of St. Timothy.

Craughwell is the author of The Saint Will Change Your Life.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018