Saint John the Evangelist
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Only two days after the great solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, author of the Fourth Gospel.
For the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice, John is the secondary patron, after the Virgin Mary herself.
Father Olier explains in his writings (Pietas Seminarii) the main reason for his choice of John the Evangelist: “At the Last Supper he became another Christ, and at the Cross he became the adopted son of his Mother. Venerating most of all in this saint the grace of the Eucharist, they (the Sulpicians) should strive unceasingly, following his example, to obtain this same grace that pour forth from the breast of the Lord.”
Further evidence of Father Olier’s fascination with the Fourth Gospel is the number of citations found in his writings. The Gospel of John is second only to the writings of Saint Paul to be cited frequently in the writings of M. Olier. In addition, Mary the mother of Jesus and John “the Beloved Disciple” are the two figures found at the foot of the cross in the Gospel of John (Jn 19:25-27). They represent the new “family” of disciples founded by Jesus and meant to serve as the beginning of a new community based on faith, fed and nourished by Jesus’ own body and blood.
In the history of the Society, one could also point to the contribution of several notable biblical scholars who have made significant studies in the Johannine writings, especially the late Father Raymond E. BROWN (1928-1998), of the U.S. Province. His two-volume Anchor Bible commentary on the Gospel of John, as well as his later Anchor Bible Commentary on the Letters of John, remain essential resources for all Johannine scholars.
More recently, Sulpician Father Robert MERCIER (b. 1939), of the Province of Canada, has written extensively in John’s Gospel, both in Spanish and in French.
The Gospel of John also contains one of the most important insights into Christian faith in its understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The words of the Gospel ring out loud and clear especially in the Christmas season: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).
Happy feast day to all Sulpicians! May we, like our Sulpician ancestors, be inspired and sustained by our celebration of this great feast!