20 Jan – Memorial for St. Fabian, pope and martyr; Memorial for St. Sebastian, martyr
Pope St. Fabian (d. 250) was a layman and a farmer. He came into Rome on a day when a new pope was to be elected. A dove flew in and settled on his head. The gathered clergy and laity took this as a sign that Fabian had been anointed, and he was chosen Pope by acclamation.
He sent St. Dionysius and other missionaries to Gaul, and condemned the heresies of Privatus. He was martyred for his faith in the persecutions of Decius.
St. Sebastian (d. 288) was the son of a wealthy Roman family. He was educated in Milan and became an officer of the Imperial Roman army, and captain of the guard. He was a favourite of Diocletian. During Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing supplies and comfort. He was reported to have healed the wife of a brother soldier by making the Sign of the Cross over her. He converted soldiers and a governor.
He was charged as a Christian, tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and was left for dead. He survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian. The emperor then had him beaten to death.
During the 14th century, the random nature of infection with the Black Death caused people to liken the plague to their villages being shot by an army of nature’s archers. In desperation, they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and St. Sebastian became associated with the plague.
- Patron Saint Index
“See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks — when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…”
A new covenant, a new narrative. Seems like that’s what’s needed for this post-COVID life, certainly for me. Whether it’s trying to find a way to peacefully be with family I haven’t seen enough of, or reconnecting with friends who have grown unfamiliar because of time, distance and my own absence; or simply being with people who may not share my view of the world. Finding my way back to ‘life in person post-Covid’ has not been easy. I seem to have lost some of my social skills, possibly from a lack of practice? Or maybe because the fabric of society has changed so much in the last three years. Social interactions now fill me with anxiety. In this strange world of identity politics, new pronouns and evangelical political correctness, I find myself more reticent, more guarded, less approachable. Whatever happened to the world I inhabited? When did it change so dramatically, become so… combative? Did I get left behind? Am I the one who is out of touch? A bit of all of the above maybe?
I am reminded in today’s gospel by the fact that Christ was thought a radical in his time. He built a church. From scratch. In his own words, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household” (Matt 10: 34-36). The pain and prescience of that statement is only now beginning to dawn on me. I am not a radical. All I want is for people in my life to get along, and to be able to get along with them. So am I foolish to try to keep the peace? To want peace in my family and amongst my friends? Should I, instead, expect unrest and resign myself to upheaval and discord? Did Christ also not say “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9)”? What of that then?
This new post-COVID life seems full of difficult questions with no answers. Every interaction feels like a minefield. At the risk of being too bold, what I need is for God to shine a light on how I am supposed to live. Show me the road, give me the words and then grant me the fortitude to walk His way. A new covenant? A new narrative? Yes, I need help Lord, because this new world with its new rules and laws has become alien to me, and I have become a relic in it.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for God’s help navigating the nuances of secular culture, while holding fast to our Catholic faith. We pray for God’s guidance on what to say and how to say it, as He guided the apostles in Christ’s time.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, an everlasting, ever enduring source of comfort, strength, courage and inspiration.