Saint/s of the Day – 20 January – Fabian & Sebastian
Fabian was a pope, and Sebastian was believed to be a soldier. Both were faithful to Christ until death. The traditional story told about Saint Sebastian is that he was an army officer who was condemned to death for his belief in Jesus. His fellow soldiers shot him with arrows. Surviving this, he was clubbed to death.
More is known about Saint Fabian (born c200-250) who was pope in 236 during unstable political times. Philip, an ambitious and ruthless man, killed Emperor Maximus and made himself emperor. Later, he regretted his behavior and changed the government policy from persecution of Christians to tolerance for them. For the first time, being a Christian was legal but peace for the Christians did not last long. Philip was killed by his lieutenant, Decius, who became the next emperor. Decius believed that his empire could be saved only if the pagan customs of ancient Rome were restored. He sent an edict that commanded the death penalty for all who would not give up their following of Christ. Pope Fabian eagerly died for the faith. Following his example, many Christians died as martyrs, though many others denied their faith in Christ.
St Sebastian (c256-287) – Captain of the Praetorian Guard, Roman Soldier and Martyr – Patron of against cattle disease, against plague, diseased cattle, dying people, plague victims, against enemies of religion, of archers, rmourers, arrowsmiths, athletes, bookbinders, letchers, gardeners, gunsmiths, hardware stores, ironmongers, lace makers, lace workers, lead workers, masonary workers, police officers, racquet makers,
soldiers, stone masons, stonecutters, Pontifical Swiss Guards, World Youth Day 2013,
Bacolod, Philippines, diocese of Tarlac, Philippines, 21 cities
St Sebastian is one of the great heroes of the early Church and has been venerated since his death during the Great Persecution of Diocletian. According to St Ambrose, he was born in Narbonne, in France but was raised in Milan. The persecution began under Decius continued under Diocletian and the days were difficult for Christians. This was in the final throes of the Roman Empire to stamp out Christianity and it failed, in fact is strengthened.
Little is known with certainty about Sebastian’s life except that he came from Milan, the fact that he was a soldier and some of the details of his martyrdom. An early account of his martyrdom is that he was shot with arrows by his fellow soldiers but recovered through the ministrations of fellow Christians, in particular St Irene. Once he regained health, Sebastian stood by a staircase where the emperor was to pass and harangued Diocletian for his cruelties against Christians. This freedom of speech and from a person whom he supposed to have been dead, greatly astonished the emperor; but, recovering from his surprise, he gave orders for his being seized and beat to death with cudgels and his body thrown into the common sewer. A pious lady, called Lucina, admonished by the martyr in a vision, got it privately removed and buried it in the catacombs at the entrance of the cemetery of Calixtus, where now stands the Basilica of St. Sebastian.
Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, by Il Sodoma, c. 1525
Sebastian was said to be a defense against the plague. The Golden Legend transmits the episode of a great plague that afflicted the Lombards in the time of King Gumburt, which was stopped by the erection of an altar in honour of Sebastian in the Church of Saint Peter in the Province of Pavia.
An ancient window in the Cathedral of Strasbourg shows him as a knight with a sword and shield and he has long been invoked as the patron of soldiers, with St Martin of Tours. Because of the legend of his being pierced with arrows, he is the patron of archers.
His name has always been linked with that of St Fabian, Pope and Martyr.