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Ordinary Time: September 21st

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Other Titles: Levi


September 21, 2007 (Readings on USCCB website)


God of mercy, you chose a tax collector, Saint Matthew, to share the dignity of the apostles. By his example and prayers help us to follow Christ and remain faithful in your service. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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» Enjoy our Liturgical Seasons series of e-books!

At the time that Jesus summoned him to follow Him, Matthew was a publican, that is, a tax-collector for the Romans. His profession was hateful to the Jews because it reminded them of their subjection; the publican, also, was regarded by the pharisees as the typical sinner. St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist. He was the first to put down in writing our Lord's teaching and the account of His life. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself spoke.

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
No one was more shunned by the Jews than a publican, who was a Jew working for the Roman enemy by robbing his own people and making a large personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with others Jews.

One day, while seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at Matthew and said two words: "Follow me." This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver to follow Christ. His original name, "Levi," in Hebrew signifies "Adhesion" while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means "Gift of God." The only other outstanding mention of Matthew in the Gospels is the dinner party for Christ and His companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come "not to call the just, but sinners."

St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist, with his Gospel being the first in position in the New Testament. His Gospel was written to convince the Jews that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.

Not much else is known about Matthew. According to tradition, he preached in Egypt and Ethiopia and further places East. Some legends say he lived until his nineties, dying a peaceful death, others say he died a martyr's death.

In the traditional symbolization of the evangelists, based on Ezech. 1:5-10 and Rev. 4:6-7, the image of the winged man is accorded to Matthew because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Christ.

Patron: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.

Symbols: Angel holding a pen or inkwell; bag of coins; loose coins; halberd; inkwell; king; lance; man holding money; man holding money box and/or glasses; money bag; money box; purse; spear; sword; winged man; young man; book; man sitting at a desk.

Things to Do:

  • Do something for the needy: money for missions, donations of clothing or toys, canned goods drive, etc.

  • Take time to read St. Matthew's Gospel, keeping in mind that St. Matthew depicts the humanity of Christ and emphasizes His physical sufferings. He makes frequent reference to the fulfillment of prophecies because he wrote to Jews and to Jewish Christians.

  • Discuss St. Matthew's call from Christ "Follow me" with your children and how we are all called to belong to the family of God.

  • Visit this AnaStPaul and Catholic Harbor and for more information about St. Matthew.

  • Watch this video about St. Matthew.

  • Pray for those who work for financial institutions.

  • Read St. Matthew: a Patron Saint for Bankers and Accountants.

  • See John Dillon medieval archives for images of St. Matthew.

  • Make Silver Dollar Pancakes in honor of St. Matthew. Use this recipe on Catholic Cuisine's website or one of the suggestions Catholic Culture offers under recipes.

Autumn Embertide: Ember Wednesday
The Ember days of Autumn are days of thanksgiving for the completed harvest of fruits and grapes. The pre-1962 liturgy connects the Ember Days with the solemn commemoration of the Jewish New Year’s celebration of the Old Testament (Rosh Hashanah) and the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). These Ember days, therefore, have become days of thanksgiving and atonement. There are four focal points for the September Embertide:

  1. Days of Thanksgiving. The Autumn Ember Days days of thanksgiving for the completed harvests of fruits and particularly grapes. The former liturgy connected the Ember Days with are outside the main liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) but are closest to the Fall Equinox. We are giving special thanks to God for the gifts of the fall harvest, particularly the grapes, which give us the gift of wine for the Eucharist.

  2. Days of Atonement, Spiritual Renewal and Refreshment. Holy Mother Church provides us with yet another opportunity to redirect, refresh and renew.

  3. Prayer for Priests. The Church no longer regularly ordains priests during the Quarterly Ember Days, but this is a special time, particularly Ember Saturday, to pray for priests and for seminarians, particularly the ones who are about to be ordained within the year.

  4. Reflecting on the Spirit of the Season.. Each set of Ember Days reflect the season of the Liturgical Year in which they occur. The Ember Days in September are outside the main liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) and are closest to the Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, when the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. September is harvesting time, and a time of preparation for winter. It is a busier time for most, and not just because of agrarian needs. September marks a time of transition with the beginning of the academic year.

Wednesday of Ember week was traditionally devoted to our Lady and in imitation of her it was a day of reflection and spiritual orientation. All four Ember Wednesdays were celebrated in the station church of St. Mary Major.

September Ember Wednesday Meditation
This excerpt from Pius Parsch is based on the 1962 Missal. The current Missal doesn't have special propers and readings for Ember Days.

Wednesday of Ember week is always “Mary’s Day”’ hence at Rome the divine liturgy is celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Hardly any other Ember Mass brings us as much of the spirit of the olden Ember festivals as this. The opening words put us immediately in a joyous mood. And at the climax of the celebration we proclaim with the Church, “The joy of the Lord is our true strength.” It is an idea worth remembering. Christian does not seek to lame the vital forces of life but to purify and ennoble them. Where there is life, there must be feeling, spirit, joy. One should not think that such expressions of life are questionable or proper only to the children of the world. Nor must joy confine itself to the supernatural, over the natural too we may be happy. Ember week provides a splendid occasion to show joyous gratitude for the gifts and fruits of nature.

Now a few observations on the three Lessons, for in striking graduation they bring to our attention three primary Ember blessings: bodily food—spiritual nourishment—fasting.

First Lesson, Amos 9:13-15. Amos, the shepherd-prophet, projects the prosperity of the Holy Land after the return from exile. He is, we know, describing in prophetical perspective the spiritual well-being of God’s kingdom upon earth and the blessedness of the “new heaven and the new earth” hereafter. The early Church, however, would adapt in adopting and used the text to score the produce of nature presently being harvested. We are being urged to show a most sincere gratitude to the Father and Source of whatever comes from field, orchard, or garden. Let nature be a big picture-book illustrating the good and great God on every page. It is the warmth of His love that is ripening autumn’s baskets of vegetables, grain, and fruit.

Second Lesson, 2 Esdras 8:1-10 or Nehemiah 8:1-10. Alongside these baskets of food for our bodies, the liturgy places supernatural nourishment, the word of God. For the Lord once said: “Not from bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” On few occasions in history was the word of God more highly esteemed than that recorded in the second Lesson. Esdras read from the inspired scroll; with holy reverence the people listened before worshipping God present in His words, exultingly joyous over the divine revelation. These then are the two principal blessings of the past quarter-year, bread for the body and the word of God for the soul. They have come to us in abundance. And we are grateful.

Third Lesson, Mark 9:16-28. How does fasting fit into the picture? Human nature is subject to the curse of original sin; like the boy in the Gospel we come under the devil’s influence, and his power cannot be counteracted with the usual tools. Extraordinary tools are necessary, like “prayer and fasting.” A good reason, surely, for the quarterly Ember days. With thankful hearts we may enjoy the fruits of earth, praising the good God; the inspired words of holy Scripture may bring untold spiritual blessings; nevertheless, more is needed. to tame proud and stubborn nature the mighty levers of prayer and fasting must be brought into action, not merely our own individual praying and fasting, but that of Christ too, viz., the oblation of His whole life as it comes to us through Mass and holy Communion.

—Excerpted from Pius Parsch, Year of Grace, Volume 5.

September Ember Wednesday
Station with Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major):

We humbly ask today's great patroness, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to obtain for us a true ember spirit and to accompany us as we approach the holy Table "to eat fat meats, and drink sweet wine, and send portions to them that have not prepared for themselves; because it is the holy (ember) day of the Lord; be not sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength." (Msgr. Martin Hellriegel)

For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.
Churches of Rome Info: Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
Rome Art Lover: Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore