Saint of the Day – 20 January – St Sebastian Martyr, Roman Soldier. He was born in Milan and was martyred in c 288. Patronages – against cattle disease, against plague, diseased cattle, dying people, plague victims, against enemies of religion, enemies of religion, archers, armourers,arrowsmiths, athletes, bookbinders, fletchers, gardeners, gunsmiths, hardware stores,ironmongers, lace makers, lace workers, lead workers, masons, police officers, racquet makers, soldiers, stone masons, stonecutters, Pontifical Swiss Guards, World Youth Day 2013, Bacolod, Philippines, diocese of, Tarlac, Philippines, diocese of, 22 cities. Attributes – arrows, crown, semi- naked youth with arrows piercing his body. St Sebastian was martyred during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot through with arrows. Despite this being the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian, he was rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Shortly afterwards he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins and as a result was clubbed to death. The details of Saint Sebastian’s martyrdom were first spoken of by 4th-century bishop Ambrose of Milan (Saint Ambrose), in his sermon (number 22) on Psalm 118. Ambrose stated that Sebastian came from Milan and that he was already venerated there at that time.
Although there is no doubt that there was a Roman martyr named Sebastian and that devotion to him dates back to the fourth century, the earliest surviving life of the saint was written a century or more after his death. According to this story Sebastian was a Praetorian, a member of an elite troop of soldiers who served as the emperor’s bodyguard. When Emperor Diocletian began his persecution of the Church, Sebastian used his status to visit Christians in prison. This was dangerous business and it was not long before he was denounced to the emperor.
Enraged that one of his own bodyguards was a Christian, Diocletian ordered the Praetorians to take Sebastian back to their camp and shoot him to death with arrows. After performing this deadly evil on their former comrade, the Praetorians assumed that Sebastian was dead. So did everyone else who heard of his martyrdom.
After sunset a Christian woman named Irene crept into the Praetorians’ camp to retrieve the body and give it a Christian burial. As Irene and her serving woman cut Sebastian down, they heard him groan. Incredibly, he was still alive.
Instead of carrying him to the catacombs for burial, Irene brought Sebastian back to her house where she and her servant nursed him. As soon as his strength returned, Sebastian went off to confront Diocletian. He found the emperor on the steps of the imperial palace. Furious that his former bodyguard was still alive, Diocletian demanded of his entourage, “Did I not sentence this man to be shot to death with arrows?” But Sebastian answered for the emperor’s courtiers. He had been made a target for archers, “But the Lord kept me alive so I could return and rebuke you for treating the servants of Christ so cruelly.”
This time the emperor took no chances, he ordered his guard to beat Sebastian to death there on the palace steps, while he watched.
Once he was certain that Sebastian truly was dead, Diocletian had the martyr’s body dumped into the Cloaca Maxima, Rome’s main sewer. Nonetheless, Christians recovered it and buried Sebastian in a catacomb known ever since as San Sebastiano.