Thursday, January 10, 2008

St. Sebastian, Patron Saint of Athletes

Memorial
20 January
Profile
Son of a wealthy Roman family. Educated in Milan. Officer of the Imperial Roman army, and captain of the guard. Favorite of Diocletian. During Diocletian's persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing supplies and comfort. Reported to have healed the wife of a brother soldier by making the Sign of the Cross over her. Converted soldiers and a governor.

Charged as a Christian, Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and left for dead. He survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian. The emperor then had him beaten to death.

During the 14th century, the random nature of infection with the Black Death caused people to liken the plague to their villages being shot by an army of nature's archers. In desparation they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and Saint Sebastian became associated with the plague.
Born
at Narbonne, Gaul
Died
martyred c.288 at Rome
Canonized
Pre-Congregation
Patronage
archers; armourers; arrowsmiths; athletes; diocese of Bacolod, Philippines; bookbinders; Bracciano, Italy; Castel Gandolfo, Italy; diseased cattle; dying people; enemies of religion; fletchers; gardeners; gunsmiths; Huelva, Spain; Hünxe, Germany; iron mongers; lacemakers; laceworkers; lead workers; masons; plague; police; Pontifical Swiss Guards; Qormi, Malta; racquet makers; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rocca Priora, Italy; San Sebastian, Puerto Rico; soldiers; Spanish police officers; stone masons; stonecutters; diocese of Tarlac, Philippines

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.

He is patron saint of athletes because of his physical endurance and his energetic way of spreading and defending the Faith. Sebastian is also patron to all soldiers. He entered the Roman army under Emperor Carinus in 283 in order to defend the confessors and martyrs of his day without drawing attention to himself. His efforts kept the Faith of Marcus and Marcellian firm during their persecutions, right up to the time of their martyrdom. He was declared patron of plague sufferers of his reported cures of those afflicted with many diseases.

Prayer to Saint Sebastian

Dear Commander at the Roman Emporer's court, you chose to be also a soldier of Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings - for which you were condemned to die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and teh executing arrows extremely weak. So another means to kill you was chosen and you gave your life to the Lord. May athletes be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been. Amen.

Prayer re Saint Sebastian

O Lord, grant us a spirit of strength. Taught by the glorious example fo Your martyr, Saint Sebastian, may we learn to obey You rather than men. Amen.

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