Today, 26th January, we have a “lesser festival” celebrating Timothy and Titus, the companions of St Paul. Yesterday, on the other hand, was a “major festival”, for the Conversion of St Paul - a day that has long been in the calendar of the Christian Church on 25th January. As with “major” and “minor” prophets in the Old Testament, arguably, the designation can be more about how we honour their place or role, than what we know of them. In the case of the prophets, it could be said that the evaluation is made largely on the length of their books - how else can we compare Isaiah or Ezekiel with Amos or Hosea?
Festivals of the Church are, generally speaking either those based around elements in the life and death of Christ, or important aspects of the life of Mary or are given to the place and ministry of one of our Lord’s inner circle of companions. Some do not quite fall into this register, such as “The Birth of John the Baptist” and “The Conversion of St Paul” and, in some countries, churches promote their national saint's day to the order of a major festival. I recall a few years ago now when St Patrick’s Day fell on the Monday of Holy Week, due to an extremely early Easter, the debate in the Church of Ireland centred on whether or not it could be celebrated on the day or not. It shouldn’t really have done, and officially it was transferred to the previous Saturday, but it was hard to avoid a national holiday and some churches had their celebratory Eucharist on the Monday. After these come the “lesser festivals”, involving important people in the life and witness of the Church, but beyond the core of Jesus and his immediate close band of followers.
So Timothy and Titus are in the second wave of Christian evangelists. Timothy, son of a Greek father and Jewish woman who had become a Christian, was already part of the Christian community when Paul arrived in Lystra and asked him to become his helper in missionary work. Titus was born of Gentile parents and was one of the party that accompanied Paul and Barnabas when they travelled from Antioch to Jerusalem, for the crucial Apostolic Council that took place there. He was also used by Paul to carry important messages to the Church in Corinth, whilst Paul was on a missionary journey. Mostly we know these two men by name because of the short pastoral epistles in the New Testament: The First and Second Letters to Timothy, and the Letter to Titus.