St. Sebastian, Martyr

Feast Day
January 20

St. Sebastian was an officer in the Roman army, esteemed even by the heathens as a good soldier, and honored by the Church ever since as a champion of Jesus Christ. Born at Narbonne, Sebastian came to Rome about the year 284, and entered the lists against the powers of evil.

He found the twin brothers Marcus and Marcellinus in prison for the faith, and, when they were near yielding to the entreaties of their relatives, encouraged them to despise flesh and blood, and to die for Christ. God confirmed his words by miracle: light shone around him while he spoke; he cured the sick by his prayers; and in this divine strength he led multitudes to the faith, among them the Prefect of Rome, with his son Tiburtius. He saw his disciples die before him, and one of them came back from heaven to tell him that his own end was near.

It was in a contest of fervor and charity that St. Sebastian found the occasion of martyrdom. The Prefect of Rome, after his conversion, retired to his estates in Campania, and took a great number of his fellow-converts with him to this place of safety. It was a question whether Polycarp the priest or St. Sebastian should accompany the neophytes.

Each was eager to stay and face the danger at Rome, and at last the Pope decided that the Roman church could not spare the services of Sebastian. He continued to labor at the post of danger till he was betrayed by a false disciple. He was led before Diocletian, and, at the emperor’s command, pierced with arrows and left for dead.

Irene, the widow of St. Castulus, going to bury him, found him still alive, and took him to her lodgings, where, by care, he recovered of his wounds, but refused to fly, and even placed himself one day by a staircase, where the emperor was to pass, whom he first accosted, reproaching him for his unjust cruelties against the Christians.

This freedom of speech, and from a person too 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. A church was afterwards built over his relics, by Pope Damasus, which is one of the seven ancient stationary churches at Rome.

St. Sebastian has been always honoured by the church, as one of her most illustrious martyrs. We read in the life of Paul the deacon, in what manner, in the year 680, Rome was freed from a raging pestilence, by the patronage of this saint. Milan, in 1575, Lisbon, in 1599, and other places, have experienced, in like calamities, the miraculous effects of his intercession with God in their behalf.

Source:
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

Pictorial Lives of The Saints
Benziger Brothers 1878

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