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St. Sebastian, martyr of Rome, Italy
20-Jan

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:
ST. SEBASTIAN, M.

From his acts, written before the end of the fourth age. The gladiators,
who were abolished by Honorius, in 403, subsisted when these acts were
compiled. See Bollandus, who thinks St. Ambrose wrote them, also
Tillemont, t. 1, p. 551.

A.D. 288.

ST. SEBASTIAN was born at Narbonne, in Gaul, but his parents were of
Milan, in Italy, and he was brought up in that city. He was a fervent
servant of Christ, and though his natural inclinations gave him an
aversion to a military life, yet to be better able, without suspicion,
to assist the confessors and martyrs in their sufferings, he went to
Rome, and entered the army under the emperor Carinus, about the year
283. It happened that the martyrs, Marcus and Marcellianus, under
sentence of death, appeared in danger of being shaken in their faith by
the tears of their friends: Sebastian seeing this, stepped in, and made
them a long exhortation to constancy, which {184} he delivered with the
holy fire, that strongly affected all his hearers. Zoe, the wife of
Nicostratus, having for six years lost the use of speech by a palsy in
her tongue, fell at his feet, and spoke distinctly, by the saint's
making the sign of the cross on her mouth. She, with her husband
Nicostratus, who was master of the rolls,[1] the parents of Marcus and
Marcellianus, the jailor Claudius, and sixteen other prisoners, were
converted; and Nicostratus, who had charge of the prisoners, took them
to his own house, where Polycarp, a holy priest, instructed and baptized
them. Chromatius, governor of Rome, being informed of this, and that
Tranquillinus, the father of Saints Marcus and Marcellianus, had been
cured of the gout by receiving baptism, desired to be instructed in the
faith, being himself grievously afflicted with the same distemper.
Accordingly, having sent for Sebastian, he was cured by him, and
baptized, with his son Tiburtius. He then enlarged the converted
prisoners, made his slaves free, and resigned his prefectship.

Not long after, in the year 285, Carinus was defeated and slain in
Illyricum by Dioclesian, who, the year following, made Maximian his
colleague in the empire. The persecution was still carried on by the
magistrates, in the same manner as under Carinus, without any new
edicts. Dioclesian, admiring the courage and virtue of St. Sebastian,
who concealed his religion, would fain have him near his person, and
created him captain of a company of the pretorian guards, which was a
considerable dignity. When Dioclesian went into the East, Maximian, who
remained in the West, honored our saint with the same distinction and
respect. Chromatius, with the emperor's consent, retired into the
country in Campania, taking many new converts along with him. It was a
contest of zeal, out of a mutual desire of martyrdom, between St.
Sebastian and the priest Polycarp, which of them should accompany this
troop, to complete their instruction, and which should remain in the
city, to encourage and assist the martyrs, which latter was the more
dangerous province. St. Austin wished to see such contests of charity
among the ministers of the church.[2] Pope Caius, who was appealed to,
judged it most proper that Sebastian should stay in Rome, as a defender
of the church. In the year 286, the persecution growing hot, the pope
and others concealed themselves in the imperial palace, as a place of
the greatest safety, in the apartments of one Castulus, a Christian
officer of the court. St. Zoe was first apprehended, praying at St.
Peter's tomb on the feast of the apostles. She was stifled with smoke,
being hung by the heels over a fire. Tranquillinus, ashamed to be less
courageous than a woman, went to pray at the tomb of St. Paul, and was
seized by the populace, and stoned to death. Nicostratus, Claudius,
Castorius, and Victorinus were taken, and after being thrice tortured,
were thrown into the sea. Tiburtius, betrayed by a false brother, was
beheaded. Castulus, accused by the same wretch, was thrice put on the
rack, and afterwards buried alive. Marcus and Marcellianus were nailed
by the feet to a post, and having remained in that torment twenty-four
hours, were shot to death with arrows.

St. Sebastian, having sent so many martyrs to heaven before him, was
himself impeached before the emperor Dioclesian; who, having grievously
reproached him with ingratitude, delivered him over to certain archers
of Mauritania, to be shot to death. His body was covered with arrows,
and he 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 {185} 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,[3] at the entrance of
the cemetery of Calixtus. A church was afterwards built over his relies
by pope Damasus, which is one of the seven ancient stationary churches
at Rome, but not one of the seven principal churches of that city, as
some moderns mistake; it neither being one of the five patriarchal
churches, nor one of the seventy-two old churches which give titles to
cardinals. Vandelbert, St. Ado, Eginard, Sigebert, and other
contemporary authors relate, that in the reign of Louis Debonnaire, pope
Eugenius II. gave the body of St. Sebastian to Hilduin, abbot of St.
Denys, who brought it into France, and it was deposited at St. Medard's,
at Soissons, on the 9th of December, in 826; with it is said to have
been brought a considerable portion of the relics of St. Gregory the
Great. The rich shrines of SS. Sebastian, Gregory, and Medard, were
plundered by the Calvinists, in 1564, and the sacred bones thrown into a
ditch, in which there was water. Upon the declaration of two
eye-witnesses, they were afterwards found by the Catholics; and in 1578,
enclosed in three new shrines, though the bones of the three saints
could not be distinguished from each other.[4] The head of this martyr,
which was given to St. Willibrord by pope Sergius, is kept at Esternach,
in the duchy of Luxemburg. Portions of his relics are shown in the
cathedral at St. Victor's; the Theatins and Minims at Paris; in four
churches at Mantua; at Malaca, Seville, Toulouse, Munich in the ducal
palace, Tournay in the cathedral, Antwerp in the church of the Jesuits,
and at Brussels, in the chapel of the court, not at St. Gudula's, as
some have mistaken.[5] St. Sebastian has been always honored by the
church, as one of her most illustrious martyrs. We read in 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.

Footnotes:
1. Primiscrinius.
2. Ep. 180.
3. On Catacombs, see in St. Calixtus, Oct. 14.
4. Chatelain, notes, p. 355. Baillet.
5. Bollandus, Chatel. ib.

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