St. Titus

In this episode of our volunteer-driven research project “Walking The Way with The Saints”, we focus on St. Titus of Crete, disciple and associate of Saint Paul, whose feast day is celebrated on August 25 by the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Abel John presents us with his research into the life and works of the saint, and how he inspires us today to listen for the call of God in our lives, to carry the cross and live out the Gospel in our everyday lives.

Saint Titus, was an early Christian missionary and a disciple and friend of St. Paul the Apostle. He was a Gentile who was converted to Christianity by Saint Paul. He is considered one of the Seventy-Two Disciples of the Holy Church.

Early Life

His life began on the island of Crete, where he was born to a pagan family. In his early life, he became well-educated in Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy, ancient poets and the sciences of the time. He led a virtuous life, and did not indulge in most pagan activities.

Watch a video about St. Titus prepared by Abel John

It is believed that St. Titus saw a dream that suggested that he abandon Hellenistic wisdom and seek the words of salvation. Saint Titus also read the prophecy of Isaiah and began to doubt the value of all he learned in philosophy. Hearing the news of the coming of Christ, he traveled from Crete to Jerusalem with some others to see for themselves. After hearing Jesus speak and watching His works, the young Titus joined the followers of Jesus. He witnessed the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord.

Conversion and Works

Later he accepted Holy Baptism from St. Paul himself and was converted to become a Christian. During the time of the Synod of Jerusalem, the people who favored circumcision wanted Titus to be circumcised. (Galatians 2:3). St. Paul would not allow this and stood boldly against such divisive thoughts in the early church. St. Titus was numbered as one among the Seventy-Two Disciples, and after his conversion, he became the secretary of St. Paul. According to St. Jerome (+ AD 420), St. Titus was the interpreter of St. Paul, writing what St. Paul dictated or translated St. Paul’s Latin writings to Greek.

When St. Paul had trouble with the church in Corinth, it was St. Titus that he trusted to smooth out the issues and to deliver his letter. As St. Paul departed from Asia in around AD 56, he sent St. Titus from Ephesus to Corinth with a letter that followed first epistle to the Corinthians. This letter was called the “Severe Letter”, sent in between the first and second epistles to the Corinthians, and is now considered a “lost” letter. St. Titus delivered this letter to Corinth and worked to strengthen the church there. His administrative capabilities and great zeal in the discipleship helped him resolve the issues in Corinth.

Infographic about St. Titus prepared by Varun Thomas

After St. Titus fixed the issues in Corinth, he traveled to Macedonia and rejoined St. Paul. When St. Paul heard of his success in Corinth, he wrote the second epistle to the Corinthians with joy and sent St. Titus back to Corinth with this epistle. Later, St. Titus was joined by St. Paul in Corinth. After meeting in Corinth, St. Titus was appointed to organize the collection of alms for the Church in Jerusalem.

Bishop of Crete and Last Days

When St. Paul stopped on the island of Crete to preach with St. Titus, due to the needs of other churches, he was compelled to leave Crete. Before he left, St. Paul ordained and appointed St. Titus as the bishop of his native island of Crete. St. Titus earned the trust and respect of St. Paul, that he was entrusted the mission of the island of Crete and to finish the work of St. Paul. The main responsibility that St. Titus was given was to ordain priests and bishops for the island of Crete.

When St. Paul was imprisoned in Rome to stand trial, St. Titus left Crete to be in service to his spiritual father. After St. Paul’s martyrdom, St. Titus returned to Crete and toiled to guide his flock and convert pagans to Christianity. It can be understood from these stories and traditions about St. Titus, that he was a peacemaker, a great administrator, a trustworthy disciple, a great preacher of the Gospel, and a witness for Christ among the Gentiles.

Right next to the ruins of ancient Gortyna stands the apse of the St. Titus Basilica, which dates to the 6th century AD. St. Titus, who came to Crete with St. Paul, became the island’s first missionary. At the center of his work was the cosmopolitan city of Gortyna. After the conquest of Crete by Arab Saracens in the 9th century, the city was deserted.

St. Titus died of natural causes according to Church Tradition but the year is disputed among different Churches today, with some arguing AD 96 and others arguing AD 107. He was entombed in the cathedral of Gortyna, Crete. The Syriac Orthodox Church commemorates his memory on the date of August 25th. His only remaining relics are his skull, which has been kept in veneration in the Church of St. Titus, Heraklion, Crete from 1966. These relics were originally moved to Venice during the Turkish occupation.

Reflection and Takeaway

St. Titus’ zeal in the work of God, strength and foundation in the Scripture, are all qualities and characteristics that we can all exemplify in our lives. As a Gentile, when he heard of Jesus Christ, he was not idle. He didn’t ignore the calling of God in his dream. Instead, he listened to the words of our Lord and took up his cross, and became a shepherd of the Church in Crete. We often fail to emulate his characteristics when it comes to the words of God and working for Him. We often ignore the calling, even when are given opportunity, because we lack courage or we are lazy and uninterested in suffering for Christ. Others may receive calling from God but continue to hold on to their worldly wisdom, and ignore the wisdom and the words of salvation.

Let us be like St. Titus! Let go of our fear and take up the cross for Christ. Let go of our laziness and fear and suffer for Christ. Let go of our reliance on worldly wisdom, and accept the divine wisdom of His words. Let us become zealous in our missionary work, let us strengthen our knowledge of Scripture and become knowledgeable. Let us become great administrators and witnesses of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God Bless Us All!

Further Reading

May God bless all of you!

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