St. Paul spoke with great affection and respect for St. Titus. He addressed him as “true child of mine in the faith that we share,” suggesting that he had personally recruited Titus for Christ (see Titus 1:14). So Titus became one of Paul’s most trusted colleagues, serving as his secretary, traveling companion, and ambassador. He accompanied Paul at the Council of Jerusalem that decided not to require circumcision of Jewish converts. To strengthen his case that gentile Christians need not become Jews first, Paul had refused to circumcise Titus, who was Greek.
When Paul discovered the sex scandal and subsequent dissension at Corinth, he sent Titus to deal with the situation. Apparently a gifted pastoral leader, he successfully brought the community through its ordeal. Afterwards Paul told the Corinthians of Titus’s affection for them that was “all the stronger when he remembers how obedient you have all been, and how you welcomed him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:15 NJB).
Paul appointed Titus the first bishop of Crete, assigning him to consolidate the church there by appointing elders in every town. Paul had low regard for Cretans and accepted a popular view that generally they were “liars, dangerous animals, all greed and laziness” (Titus 1:12 NJB). So he gave Titus explicit instructions to take a firm stance with Cretan believers:
Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people but to be peaceable and gentle, and always polite to people of all kinds. There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching all this, so that those who now believe in God may keep their minds constantly occupied in doing good works. All this is good, and useful for everybody. But avoid foolish speculations, and those genealogies, and the quibbles and disputes about the Law—they are useless and futile. If someone disputes what you teach, then after a first and a second warning, have no more to do with him: you will know that anyone of that sort is warped and is self-condemned as a sinner (Titus 3:1–11 NJB).
After many years of service-leadership, Titus died peacefully in Crete.
Paul depicted Titus in his specifications for the character of an elder: “a man of irreproachable character, . . . never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious; but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled; and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition” (Titus 1:6–9 NJB).
from Voices of the Saints, by Bert Ghezzi
Image credit: Saint Titus by unknown artist, 14th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.