St. Sebastian

Today is the memorial of St. Sebastian, who died in Rome at the beginning of the persecution of Diocletian. I’ve seen so many paintings in Italy of St. Sebatian with numerous arrows sticking out of various parts of his body that I drew what seemed to me the obvious conclusion: that he was killed by arrows. Wrong conclusion.

Sebastian, who was a captain in the praetorian guards, was ordered executed when it was discovered that he was a Christian. (His motive for entering the army was to support the martyrs of his day without drawing attention to himself and to try to convert those who were in charge of prisoners.) He was, indeed, shot with arrows and left for dead. However, when St. Irene, the widow of St. Castulus, went to recover his body, she found him alive and nursed him back to health. He was ultimately killed, but it was by being beaten to death.

Sebastian is patron saint of soldiers, as well as athletes, the latter because of his physical endurance and the zeal with which he preached the Gospel.

At a time when there is so much conflict in the world and so many soldiers in so many armies are in harms way, we might ask St. Sebastian to watch over them.