St Fabian and St Sebastian

St Fabian (from here): Fabian came to Rome as an unknown layperson after Pope Anteros died in 236. Seeing all the important people gathered to make this momentous decision must have been overwhelming. Which one would be the new pope? Someone known for power? Someone known for eloquence? Someone known for courage?

Suddenly during the discussion, a dove descended from the ceiling. But it didn’t settle on “someone known” for anything at all. The dove, according to Eusebius, “settled on [Fabian’s] head as clear imitation of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon the Savior.” There must have been something of the Holy Spirit working because everyone suddenly proclaimed Fabian as “worthy” to be pope and this stranger was elected.

The dove signifies peace, and this dove was prophetic. Starting close to Fabian’s election, the suffering and persecuted Church began a time of peace. The emperor, Philip, was friendly to Christians and not only was the persecution stopped but Christians experienced acceptance.

But, in a timeless story, the people who had always been in power were not happy to see the newcomers growing and thriving. The new emperor, Decius, ordered all Christians to deny Christ by offering incense to idols or through some other pagan ritual.

In the few years of peace, the Church had grown soft. Many didn’t have the courage to stand up to martyrdom. But Fabian, singled out by symbol of peace, stood as a courageous example. He died a martyr in 250 and is buried in the Cemetery of Calixtus that he helped rebuild and beautify. A stone slab with his name can still be found there.

St Sebastian (from here): According to his legend, Sebastian was born at Narbonne, Gaul. He became a soldier in the Roman army at Rome in about 283, and encouraged Marcellian and Marcus, under sentence of death, to remain firm in their faith. Sebastian made numerous converts: among them were the master of the rolls, Nicostratus, who was in charge of prisoners and his wife, Zoe, a deaf mute whom he cured; the jailer Claudius; Chromatius, Prefect of Rome, whom he cured of gout; and Chromatius’ son, Tiburtius. Chromatius set the prisoners free, freed his slaves, and resigned as prefect.

Sebastian was named captain in the praetorian guards by Emperor Diocletian, as did Emperor Maximian when Diocletian went to the East. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered during Maximian’s persecution of the Christians that Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered executed. He was shot with arrows and left for dead, but when the widow of St. Castulus went to recover his body, she found he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Soon after, Sebastian intercepted the Emperor, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians, and was beaten to death on the Emperor’s orders.

Saint Sebastian was venerated at Milan as early as the time of St. Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way. He is patron of archers, athletes, and soldiers, and is appealed to for protection against plagues.

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