St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Common of Apostles and Evangelists
Hymn: Exultet orbis gaudiis

Now let the earth with joy resound,
And heaven the chant re-echo round;
Nor heaven nor earth too high can raise
The great Apostles' glorious praise.

O ye who, throned in glory dread,
Shall judge the living and the dead,
Lights of the world forevermore!
To you the suppliant prayer we pour.

Ye close the sacred gates on high;
At your command apart they fly:
Oh! loose for us the guilty chain
We strive to break, and strive in vain.

Sickness and health your voice obey;
At your command they go or stay:
From sin's disease our souls restore;
In good confirm us more and more.

So when the world is at its end,
And Christ to judgment shall descend,
May we be called those joys to see
Prepared form all eternity.

Praise to the Father, with the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One;
As ever was in ages past,
And so shall be while ages last.

"The Calling of St. Matthew"

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
Feast Day: September 21st

St. Matthew, the holy Apostle and Evangelist, was born at Cana in Galilee, where our Lord wrought his first miracle, by changing water into wine. The Gospel says that he was a publican or tax-collector, an office greatly despised by the Jews, first, because they considered themselves a free people, and thought the government had no right to exact taxes from them; and secondly, because those who were in this office generally defrauded the people, extorting from them more than was lawful. Hence they were classed and counted among the public sinners.

One day, when Matthew was sitting in his custom-house, in the discharge of his duty, Christ passed with His disciples, and seeing Matthew, He looked lovingly on him and said: "Follow me!" Enlightened and moved by divine grace, Matthew arose, and following Christ, invited Him into his house, where he prepared a banquet for Him, to which he invited many publicans and sinners, that they might hear the instructions of the Saviour and be converted. The Pharisees complained of it to the disciples of the Saviour, saying; "Why does your master eat with publicans and sinners? " Christ answered for His disciples and said: "They that are well need not the physician, but they that are sick." By these words, He desired to intimate that they had no cause to murmur at His associating with sinners, as one could not reasonably reprove a physician for being with the sick; and He had come into the world to convert sinners, as a physician goes to heal the sick. When the feast was ended, Matthew followed Christ and was numbered by Him among the Apostles. Having received the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, he labored like the other Apostles for the conversion of the Jews. But before going to the district appointed to him as the field wherein he had to sow the word of God, he wrote his Gospel, as a short sketch of the life, sufferings and death of the Saviour, in order to impress better the teachings of the Apostles on the minds of the newly converted. This was immediately copied a great many times and preached by the other Apostles in those countries which they were to convert.

St. Matthew went to Ethiopia and thence into the neighboring states. He began his mission at Nadabar, the capital, where he met two notorious magicians named Zaroes and Arphaxad, who, by their hellish art, caused people to become sick, after which they cured them by magic, and thus gained the reputation of performing miracles, besides which, they gathered great riches. The holy Apostle discovered the fraudulent means by which they deceived the credulous, and he admonished the inhabitants of the city, not to fear those two men, as he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in whose name, all such diabolical art would be destroyed. When the two magicians saw that they lost credit and gain by these remarks of the Apostle, they endeavored by new sorcery to frighten the people; but the Saint, making their fraud public, caused himself to be greatly esteemed, so that the people commenced to attend his sermons, and to take an interest in the faith he announced.

The many miracles which the Saint performed at length opened the eyes of the blind pagans; they recognized their error, and truth took possession of their hearts. What more then all else furthered the conversion of this nation, was the miracle by which the holy Apostle raised from the dead the royal princess. Her father, the king of Ethiopia, had called the magicians to his court and requested them to give back life to his child. The wicked deceivers used all their evil powers; but the spirits of hell which they invoked, could not reanimate the lifeless body. Hence the holy Apostle, was called, who going towards the dead, commanded her, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise. The princess immediately arose, full of life and health, in presence of the king and all his courtiers. This miracle induced the king, with his whole court, to receive instruction in the Christian faith, and to be baptized with great solemnity. The example of the king was followed by all the people, and thus was paganism conquered in that country.

The holy Apostle then went into other cities, villages and hamlets, everywhere preaching the Gospel of Christ, and confirming it, according to the promise of his heavenly Master, by many and great miracles, which caused a great number of people to be converted. The holy life which the Saint led, aided him also greatly in impressing the heathens with the truth of his words. Besides his other virtues, they especially admired the rigor which he manifested towards himself. His whole sustenance consisted of herbs. Meat, wine, and all other things agreeable to the taste, he never touched. He allowed himself no rest; he was all day occupied in preaching and instructing, and passed the greater part of the night in prayer.

Incontestible writings prove that he preached the Gospel for twenty-three years, partly in Ethiopia, partly in other countries, at the same time founding almost innumerable Churches, and supplying them with priests and bishops, in order to preserve the faith he had taught. How much he had to endure in travelling through so many barbarous countries, how he was persecuted, how many thousands he converted, is known only to God; suffice it to say, he was truly an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

Finally, he ended his life by a glorious martyrdom before the Altar. It happened as follows: Iphigenia, the eldest daughter of the newly converted king of Ethiopia, had not only become a Christian, but also, with the knowledge and consent of the holy Apostle, had consecrated her virginity to the Almighty, after having frequently heard the Saint preach on the priceless value of purity, and exhort others to guard and preserve it. Her example was followed by many other virgins, who, choosing the princess as their superior, lived together and occupied their time in prayer and work. Hirtacus, who succeeded to the throne, asked the hand of the princess in marriage. The virgin consecrated to the Almighty refused him, saying that she had promised to be faithful to her heavenly bridegroom. The king, greatly provoked at this answer, called St. Matthew, as the instructor of Iphigenia, and requested him to induce her to consent to his offer. The Saint promised to give his advice to Iphigenia on the following day, in presence of the king. The next morning, in a sermon, he explained first, that matrimony, instituted by the Almighty, is in itself a lawful and holy state, which everyone who desired it might enter. After this, he began to praise the state of virginity and to demonstrate that it is much more agreeable and pleasing to God than the state of matrimony, adding very emphatically, that when any one, after due deliberation, had consecrated his purity to the Almighty, the vow could not be broken without great sin.

A servant, said he, among other illustrations, would deserve punishment if he dared to tempt the spouse of a king to break her marriage vow; much more punishable, then, would he be, who had the heart to entice a spouse of Christ to become faithless to her word. Hence, he concluded, as Iphigenia had promised herself to Christ, it was not allowed to rob Him of her, and persuade her to unite herself to a human being. Having admonished all present to remain constant in the true faith, even if it should cost their blood and life, he proceeded to the altar to perform the holy sacrifice of Mass. Hirtacus left the church, full of rage, and following the advice of some wicked people, sent some of his soldiers to kill St. Matthew. One of these, going towards the Saint, who was standing before the altar, thrust his spear into his body; and the Saint, sinking down, expired. Some maintain, that he was beheaded with an axe; but it is quite sure that he was killed while standing at the Altar, thus becoming himself a victim, at the moment when he was offering the pure sacrifice of the New Testament.

He is called by the holy Fathers the victim of virginal purity, as he shed his blood in defending it. Hirtacus, informed of the death of St. Matthew, hastened to the house where Iphigenia and the other virgins dwelt, and repeated his demand. When she once more courageously refused his hand, he commanded her house to be set on fire, and burned to the ground with all its inmates. His wicked design was, however, frustrated; for when the flames began to arise, St. Matthew appeared and warded them off in such a manner, that neither the house nor those within it were injured. Hirtacus was punished for his evil deeds with so terrible a leprosy, that, unable to endure the sight of himself, he died by his own hands.


I. The holy Apostle and Evangelist, Matthew, greatly praised virginal purity, and vows of chastity made to God; but he also preached that those became guilty of sin who broke these vows. There are heretics, who wish to be called Apostolic or Evangelical Christians, as they pretend, in all things, to conform to the teaching of the Gospel and of the Apostles. But the instructions and acts of St. Matthew prove that their pretence is groundless. Luther and Calvin, the founders of this heresy, taught that marriage was commanded to everyone, and that virginal purity was much less valuable than the married state; that the vow of it was unlawful and null before the Most High; whence it follows that to break the vow was not only allowed, but obligatory, as Luther broke it, and enticed others to do the same. How does this harmonize with what was taught by St. Matthew, a true Apostle and Evangelist of Jesus Christ? How can they call themselves Apostolic and Evangelical, who teach and believe the contrary of what was taught by the holy Apostle and Evangelist, St. Matthew? Further, St. Matthew, an Apostle of the Lord, admonished others to keep their virginity unspotted, and threatened those who tempted them to break their promise, with great punishment. Whose apostles are those who do exactly the contrary, and try to make themselves and others believe that the Almighty is not offended by sins against purity, as much as the priest proclaims from the pulpit? St. Bonaventure says, without the slightest hesitation: "The mouth of him, who entices others to impurity, is the mouth of a devil." The devil, who once spoke and deceived through the serpent, speaks and deceives through such people. They are apostles of the devil. Woe to such apostles! The same hell awaits them in which the unchaste Hirtacus has already suffered a thousand years, and will suffer eternally. But woe also to those who believe such apostles and are deceived by them! Iphigenia believed and followed the apostle of Christ, and now enjoys as a recompense the eternal bliss of heaven. May you also believe the preachers, priests, and confessors, who teach what St. Matthew taught, for through them speaks the same Lord Who spoke through the mouth of St. Matthew.

II. Christ, the Saviour, looked with His mild eyes at St. Matthew in his custom-house, and called him. Matthew obeyed, instantly arose, and followed Christ, becoming thus, from a publican, an apostle of the Lord, a great Saint. How comforting an example of divine mercy, even towards the greatest sinner! How wholesome a lesson! The same kind, merciful Saviour, who gazed so mildly upon Matthew, and called him, turns His loving eyes on you also, even if you live in mortal sin. He calls you to repentance; He calls you to follow Him. Obey Him as St. Matthew did, without putting it off. Let neither the greatness, nor the number of your sins detain you. Your Saviour is ready to forgive them, to receive you into His favor and to make you a Saint. "If you are a publican or a sinner," says St. Chrysostom, "you may still become an evangelist. If you are a blasphemer, you may still become an apostle." This means that you may obtain pardon and gain salvation, as St. Matthew and St. Paul did, the former of whom was a publican, a sinner; and the other, according to his own testimony, a blasphemer. St. Augustine says the same in the following words: "Perhaps some may think that the sin they have committed is so great that it cannot obtain pardon from God. Oh! may such thoughts be far from us. Why, O man, regard only the number of thy sins, and not the omnipotence of the heavenly Physician? As God is merciful because He is gracious, and as He can be merciful because He is omnipotent, he who believes that God will not or cannot forforgive him, closes the door of the divine mercy on himself, by denying that God is gracious or omnipotent. Hence let no one doubt the mercy of God, even if he has committed a hundred, nay a thousand crimes. But this belief should incite him to reconcile himself immediately with the Almighty."


Prayer from the Liturgical Year, 1903

How pleasing must thy humility have been to our Lord; that humility which has raised thee so high in the kingdom of heaven, and which made thee, on earth, the confidant of Incarnate Wisdom. The Son of God, who hides His secrets from the wise and prudent and reveals them to little ones, renovated thy soul by intimacy with Himself, and filled it with the new wine of His heavenly doctrine. So fully didst thou understand His love, that He chose thee to be the first historian of his life on earth. The Man-God revealed Himself through thee to the Church. She has inherited thy glorious teaching; for the Synagogue refused to understand both the divine Master and the prophets His heralds.

There is one teaching, indeed, which not all, even of the elect, can understand and receive; just as in heaven not all follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, nor can all sing the new canticle reserved to those whose love here on earth has been undivided. O evangelist of holy virginity, and martyr for its sake! watch over the choicest portion of our Lord's flock. Remember also, O Levi, all those for whom, as thou tellest us, the Emmanuel received His beautiful name of Savior. The whole redeemed world honors thee and implores thy assistance. Thou hast recorded for us the admirable sermon on the mountain; by the path of virtue there traced out, lead us to that kingdom of heaven, which is the ever-recurring theme of thy inspired writing.


Prayer to St. Matthew as your Patron Saint

Saint Matthew, whom I have chosen as my special patron, pray for me that I, too, may one day glorify the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Obtain for me your lively faith, that I may consider all persons, things, and events in the light of almighty God. Pray, that I may be generous in making sacrifices of temporal things to promote my eternal interests, as you so wisely did.

Set me on fire with a love for Jesus, that I may thirst for His sacraments and burn with zeal for the spread of His kingdom. By your powerful intercession, help me in the performance of my duties to God, myself and all the world.

Win for me the virtue of purity and a great confidence in the Blessed Virgin. Protect me this day, and every day of my life. Keep me from mortal sin. Obtain for me the grace of a happy death. Amen


A Scriptural Litany

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

God the Father of heaven,
have mercy on us. *

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,*
God the Holy Ghost,*
Holy Trinity, one God,*

God, of Whom, by Whom, and in Whom are all things, *
(Rom. xi. 36.)

God, in Whom we live, and move, and are, *
(Acts xvii. 28.)

Who alone hast immortality, and dwellest in light inaccessible, *
(1 Tim. vi. 16.)

Whose majesty filleth the whole earth, *
(Ps. lxxi. 19.)

Whom heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain, *
(2 Kin. viii. 27.)

Who hast made all things for Thyself, *
(Prov. xvi. 4.)

Who workest all things according to the counsel of thy will, *
(Eph. i. 11)

In Whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh, *
(Job xii. 10.)

Who openest thine hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature, *
(Ps. cxliv. 16.)

Who hast power to cast body and soul into hell, *
(Matt. x. 28.)

Who dost great things and unsearchable, and wonderful things without number, *
(Job v. 9.)

Whose eyes are brighter than the sun, beholding all the ways of men, *
(Eccl. xxiii. 28.)

Who catchest the wise in their craftiness, and disappointest the counsel of the wicked, *
(Job v. 13.)

Who searchest the heart, and triest the reins, *
(Jer. xvii. 10)

Whose judgments are incomprehensible, and whose ways are unsearchable, *
(Rom. xi. 33.)

Who art the Father of orphans, and the Judge of widows, *
(Ps. lxvii. 6.)

Merciful and patient, of much compassion, and true, *
(Ps. lxxxv. 15.)

Our protector, and our reward exceedingly great, *
(Gen. xv. 1.)

King of kings, and Lord and lords, *
(1 Tim. vi. 13.)

King of ages, immortal and invisible, *
(1 Tim. i. 17.)

Be merciful, Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

From all sin,
O Lord, deliver us. **

From pride and vain-glory, **

From avarice and worldly solicitude, **

From anger, resentment, and envy, **

From calumny, detraction, and rash judgment, **

From gluttony, drunkenness, and impurity, **

From spiritual sloth, and the forgetfulness of our salvation, **

From the abuse of thy grace, and a reprobate sense, **

From the worm that never dieth, and the fire that shall never be extinguished, **

From being deprived of the sight and enjoyment of Thee, **

Through Thy almighty power and infinite wisdom, **

Through Thy incomprehensible majesty and eternal glory, **

Through Thy ineffable bounty and superabundant mercy, **

Through all the humiliations and sufferings of thine only-begotten Son, **

We sinners, Beseech Thee, hear us.
That we may love Thee, the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.

We beseech Thee, hear us. ***

That we may adore Thee alone, and serve Thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives, ***

That we may never take Thy holy name in vain, ***

That we may sanctify the feasts and holy days of the Church, ***

That we may give due honor and obedience to our parents and lawful superiors, ***

That we may not injure our neighbor in body, soul or peace of mind, ***

That we may crucify the flesh, with its vices and concupiscences, and be ever clean of heart, ***

That we may not do to others what we would not have others do to us, ***

That we may not covet our neighbor's goods, ***

That Thou wouldst make all grace abound in us, ***

That we may present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Thee, ***

That Thou wouldest bring us to the kingdom which Thou hast prepared for us from the foundation of the world, ***

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord,
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen

Let us pray:

O adorable Lord, in Three distinct and equal Persons One God, Who requirest the homage of our reason by the belief of mysteries which are above our understanding, and that of our will by the observances of precepts which are mortifying to our natural inclinations; give us Thy grace to perform this two-fold duty, and grant that we may never oppose our uncertain reasoning to Thy infallible truth, nor deliberately transgress Thy most high and holy commands. Thus continuing until death, in entire subjection to Thee, may we come at last to the clear and perfect enjoyment of Thee. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen

The Calling of St. Matthew

St. Matthew, Apostle: Feast Day Septmber 21st
by Leonard Goffine, 1871

Matthew, before his conversion called Levi, was a Galilean, a son of Alpheus (Mark ii. 14.), consequently a brother of St. James the Less, another of the apostles. (Mark iii. 18.) Matthew was a collector of the toll which the Jews were obliged to pay to the Roman emperors, and was called from his custom-house by our Lord to be an apostle. In his gospel which he wrote later, he calls himself from humility always by his early designation, Matthew the Publican. He followed Jesus faithfully, and after the descent of the Holy Ghost remained, as the historical writers Eusebius and Epiphanus inform us, in Judea and its neighborhood, until just before the destruction of Jerusalem when the apostles dispersed, and went into foreign lands to preach the doctrine of Christ. When obliged to separate from the recent converts in Jerusalem, Matthew wrote his gospel to leave with them in place of his presence among them, and was the first to write concerning our Lord's life upon earth. He led a rigorous life, prayed much, never touched meat, and lived on herbs, roots, and wild fruits. He was at last stabbed by the Ethiopian King Hirtakus, as the generality of writers inform us, while standing at the altar and offering the sacrifice of Mass, because the saint had refused consent to the king's marriage with the virgin Eugenia who was dedicated to God. His sacred remains were, in the tenth century, brought to Salerno, Naples, where they are still highly venerated.

Matthew was the first to write a gospel. How proper it is, that he who after many sins becomes converted, should be the first to announce the infinite mercy of the Redeemer who came into this world not to call the just, but sinners.

In the Introit of the Mass, the Church sings: The mouth of the just man shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart. Be not emulous of evil doers, nor envy them that work iniquity. Glory, &c.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Grant, O Lord, we may be aided by the prayers of blessed Matthew, the apostle and evangelist: that what we cannot obtain by our own weakness, may be granted us by his intercession. Through etc.

LESSON. (Ezech. i. 10 - 14.) The likeness of the four living creatures was this: there was the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four; and the face of an ox on the left side of all the four; and the face of an eagle over all the four. And their faces and their wings were stretched upward: two wings of every one were joined, and two covered their bodies. And every one of them went straight forward: whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went, and they turned not when they went. And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like that of burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps. This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire, and lightning going forth from the fire. And the living creatures ran and returned like flashes of lightning.

EXPLANATION. The four living creatures who were Cherubim, that is, powers of heaven, many holy fathers understand to be emblems of the four Evangelists, as these represent Christ in His fourfold attributes of Man, King, Priest, and God. The emblem of man is given, therefore, to St. Matthew, because he relates the birth of Christ according to humanity; of a lion to St. Mark, because he describes Christ as King; of an ox who was slaughtered by the Jews as a sacrifice to St. Luke, because he represents Christ as High Priest who was Himself the sacrifice; of an eagle to St. John, because he soared like an eagle to the heavenly heights, and relates the divinity of Christ and His eternal origin.

Let us agree with heart and with lips to the sacred doctrines of the four Evangelists, and let us be staggered by nothing we find in their writing.

GOSPEL. (Matt. ix. 9 - 13.) At That Time: Jesus saw a man sitting in the custom-house, named Matthew; and he said to him: Follow me. And he arose up, and followed him. And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health, need not a physician, but they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth. I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.

Why were the publicans so hated by the Jews?

Because the Jews regarded it as most unjust and sinful, that they should be subjected to the pagan Romans and obliged to pay taxes to them, and as the publicans hired the collection of the taxes from the Romans, and were desirous to receive a large proportion of them for themselves, they were guilty of much injustice and extortion, were therefore hated by the Jews, and regarded as so unprincipled, that the words publican and sinner became synonymous.

What do we learn from Matthew's immediate following of Christ?

That we should at once obey the call to penance, that Christ may not cease to call, and draw His grace from us; that we should not only avoid sin but also the occasions of it, as Matthew not only avoided sin, but abandoned the business of a publican, which gave him opportunities for sin, and followed Christ.

How did he live after his conversion?

After his conversion Matthew strove to be like Christ poor and humble, meek and patient, good and charitable; for he who wishes to follow Christ, must walk as He walked (John ii. 6.), must take up his cross of daily trials, and patiently carry it after Christ. Matthew did this unceasingly all his life.

Why was Jesus willing to eat with sinners?

That He might use the occasion to convert them by giving their souls His words for food.

Well would it be for us, if at our meals, instead of vain and often quarrelsome conversation, we were to speak of God and, sacred things, thus gaining by God's grace souls for God and heaven, and promoting His honor. As St. Dionysius says, among all good things which are agreeable to God, the greatest, the divine one, so to say, is to aid in the conversion of sinners.

Who are those in health, who the sick, who the physician?

Those in health are the just who live in the grace of God. O what a valuable life is this, and what great care is required to preserve it! The sick are the sinners, for every sin makes the soul unclean, wounds and even kills it, that is, robs it of the grace and goodpleasure of God, in which consists the spiritual life of the soul. How hateful, then, is sin, which steals from her the highest good! The physician is Christ, of whom it is said in Psalm cvi.: He sent his word (Christ) and healed them. If thou hast sinned, go to this physician to be healed, that thou mayst regain thy soul's health.

Why does Christ say: I will have mercy and not sacrifice?

Because the Pharisees thought every thing of external sacrifice and considered if they only diligently offered, that they were already pleasing to God, even though they showed no mercy and combatted not against their corrupt inclinations to anger, envy, malice, and pride. But the sacrifice of our prayers, our good works and mortifications, will not please God, unless they come from pure love to Him, far less if they come from a proud, vindictive and impure heart, and if we out of regard for ourselves fail to do deeds of mercy to our neighbor.

What did Christ mean by saying: I am not come to call the just but sinners?

Sts. Hilary, Jerome and Bede understand these just to be the Pharisees, who pretended to be just in all things, and would not receive the call of Jesus, even if he had called them; Jesus knowing this, he called those, whom the Pharisees regarded very great sinners, who, however, humbly heard and followed the call of Jesus.

PRAYER TO ST. MATTHEW: O holy Apostle, who after thy conversion didst prepare Christ a fine banquet, and a yet more glorious feast for us in thy holy gospel, for it is like the book which the angel gave to Ezechiel to eat and which was as sweet as honey in his mouth (Ezech. iii. 3.), may it be a food for my soul. Implore for me the grace to read it with attention and in the spirit and meaning of the holy Catholic Church, to meditate upon it, and to live in accordance with thy words, written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, so that I may say with the Psalmist: How sweet are thy words to my palate; more than honey to my mouth. (Ps. cxviii. 103.)