DECEMBER 14, 2014 -
"A STRONG AND BLESSED MARTYR"
Saint Sebastian was a fervent soldier of Christ while serving in the army of the Emperor Diocletian. Greatly regarded, he was elevated to the command of the first legion. He was a prudent man, upright in word and deed and faithful in spirit. His rank enabled him to be of service to those who were imprisoned for their faith in Christ. He relieved their suffering and urged them to remain steadfast, despite persecution.
Two brothers, Mark and Marcellian, had been accused of being Christians, and were awaiting execution in prison. Their friends implored them to save their lives by abandoning what they believed in. They seemed to waver in their faith. When Sebastian heard of it, he planned a visit to strengthen them.
In the meantime, Tranquillin, the father of the two brothers had obtained a postponement of thirty days for the youths and also had them transferred to the house of Nicostratus, the keeper of records.
So, Sebastian went to see them there. Gathered together along with the two brothers were their parents, 16 heathen prisoners, Nicostratus and his wife, Zoe. Of course there was the danger that Sebastian could be betrayed.
The room was illuminated by an opening in the roof and Sebastian entered and stood in the rays that poured through. The metal of his armor shone with brilliance, as if he were an angel of light. “O most happy soldiers of Christ, valiant warriors in the fight,” he said. “Are you now, I ask, about to withdraw from the fight and lay aside the crown? Let them see you as Christian soldiers, sheathed rather in fortitude than in armor of iron.” Words of hope poured from his lips.
The scene that followed baffles description. All were moved and they wept. Mark and Marcellian were ashamed of their hesitation. Their parents were convinced; the prisoners also felt a swelling of affection. Zoe knelt before Sebastian with an outstretched arm, but spoke ot a word, for her tongue had been paralyzed since the age of sic. But Sebastian prayed and she was healed, crying: “Blessed art thou, and blessed is the word of thy mouth and blessed are they that believe in Christ.” When Nicostratus saw the grace of God revealed in the healing, he fell to the feet of Sebastian and offered to unlock everyone’s chains. But this they could not consent to.
The effort Sebastian made to strengthen the groups’ courage could not long remain a secret and he was denounced to the Emperor. Diocletian sent for him and in a rage said: “What, I have had you around my person and you conspire against me?” Sebastian answered, “I pray daily for your safety and for the prosperity of the state, to the God in heaven for I believe no help can be received from gods of stone.”
Diocletian ordered him to death by arrows. He was left for dead, but a widow took him and nursed him until he was convalescent. One day, as he began to heal, the Emperor passed. Sebastian crept to greet him. The Emperor was astounded to see him! “I am Sebastian, “ the saint said, “raised from the dead to witness against you for the persecution of the servants of Christ.” The Emperor ordered him beaten to death and the body cast into the sewer.