Response to a Question
A question was recently asked about the titles given to people from church history. I started to respond but then I figured there was enough blabber on my part to constitute a blog.. so here it is.
Question from Mark the Lion: Who gave these men their titles? I was wondering??
That is a great question and I’m going to answer it two ways. First on titles in the religious duties and then about patronage.
The church began apostolic and has remained til this day. Christ gave authority to his apostles and they in turn passed that authority on to those who would come after. This is called an apostolic succession. The orders for ministry, whether for the presbyter or the bishop all stem from this. Even Paul was given the ‘right hand’ of fellowship. Mark was a disciple of Jesus, who must have received that ‘right hand’ as well, and as such travelled with apostles and eventually, upon founding the Alexandrian church was placed as bishop. A bishop is basically an overseer of a large area or community, whereas the priest (presbyter) tends to a more local flock.
As for the other titles such as referring to Mark as the evangelist? Well that comes mostly from tradition. Many of the saints and other figures from church history often bear additional names because the culture they were in also did the same. Charlemagne was an emperor whose name means Charles the Great (a name over used). There is King Richard the Lionheart and Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror etc. So similar names were employed for popular saints. Some saints ended up with more than one moniker; for instance Mary, is referred to as the Blessed Virgin, Queen of Heaven, Theotokos, the Madonna, etc. This is because there is an identity that people like to focus on. A person who sees the importance in motherhood may like to think of Our Lady of Le leche, or breastfeeding mothers.
This ties in the concept of patronage. Patronage is really just a way to see our lives in light of those who also have walked in our shoes. In this case Our Lady of Le Leche has special meaning not only for women who breastfeed or those with small children but also for those who have lost children. Mary suffered along with Jesus as a mother who is going to lose her child. There is a shrine in St. Augustine Fl. for Le Leche. A very beautiful and peaceful place, it is surrounded by a graveyard for children and infants.