St. Sebastian of Rome (+288)
Commemorated on December 18
St. Sebastian was born in the city of Narbonum in Gaul (modern France), and he received his education at Mediolanum (now Milan). Under emperors Diocletian and Maximian, he was head of the imperial guards. St. Sebastian was respected for his authority, and was loved by the soldiers and those at court. He was a brave man filled with wisdom; his word was honest, his judgment just. He was insightful in advice and faithful in his service and in everything entrusted to him. He was a secret Christian, not out of fear, but so that he could provide help to the brethren in a time of persecution.
St. Sebastian encouraged many Christians to stand firm in the Faith in the face of martyrdom. One of them was Zoe, the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, who had lost her ability to speak six years previously. She fell down at the feet of St. Sebastian. He made the Sign of the Cross over Zoe, and she immediately began to speak glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an angel holding an open book in which everything St. Sebastian said was written. Nicostratus and Zoe asked for Baptism. St. Sebastian told him to assemble the prisoners so that those who believed in Christ could be baptized. The priest Polycarp prepared them for the Mystery, instructing them to fast in preparation for Baptism that evening. Some Roman officials and their families also became Christians, and the newly-baptized numbers grew from 64 to 1,400. Many Christians chose to remain in Rome knowing that soon the time would come for them to suffer for the Faith.
St. Sebastian was personally interrogated by emperor Diocletian and seeing the determination of the holy martyr, he ordered him taken out of the city, tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Irene, the wife of St. Castulus, went at night in order to bury St. Sebastian, but found him alive and took him to her home.
St. Sebastian soon recovered from his wounds. Christians urged him to leave Rome, but he refused. Coming near a pagan temple, he saw the emperors approaching and he publicly denounced them for their impiety. Diocletian ordered the holy martyr to be taken to the Circus Maximus to be executed. They clubbed St. Sebastian to death, and cast his body into the sewer. St. Sebastiaqn appeared to a pious woman named Lucina in a vision, and told her to take his body and bury it in the catacombs. This she did with the help of her slaves.