Bold Witness To The Truth – St. Sebastian

Do you care about truth?

I’m sure mostly everyone would say yes to that question. But, unfortunately, a lot of us aren’t being honest with our answer. If we really cared about the truth, we would not close our eyes and ears when confronted with reality. Many of us take what we see at face value, failing to investigate claims that go against our world view. We believe those who are closest to us without investigating if there could be another possibility — even when presented with evidence.

Truth is not belief. You can believe you are correct, but when it comes to proving your claims, facts matter. And there are no “alternative facts.” St. Sebastian is still relevant today because of his quest to find and defend the truth.  The time he understood he was a Christian there was no looking back.

St. Sebastian was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian, and served as a captain of the infamous Praetorian Guard. He had secretly been bringing supplies to persecuted Christians, and his missionary efforts were known in shady underground circles. St . Sebastian was a man of great faith when such faith had to be proclaimed, he was even known to have brought Christianity to fellow members of the Roman armed services thereby risking his own life.

The emperor was furious that he had been tricked all along by St. Sebastian keeping his Christianity hidden, and he ordered that St. Sebastian would be put to death in a terrible way. The Emperor, who was already infamous for ordering the deaths of hundreds of Christians, scolded Sebastian and ordered him to be killed by having him tied to a tree on a training field and used as target practice.

Archers riddled his body with arrows. Believed to be dead, the archers left his body for retrieval and burial. He was recovered by Irene of Rome, whose Christian husband was a servant to Diocletian and also martyred. Irene discovered that Sebastian was still alive and she hid him and nursed him back to health.

Once recovered, St. Sebastian went to hide in a passageway so that he could talk to Diocletian secretly. St. Sebastian told Diocletian what he thought of his cruelty, and tried to preach to him about becoming a Christian. Diocletian was surprised to see him alive, but said nothing and left. Diocletian went back to his residence, and told his soldiers to find St. Sebastian and see to it that he died this time. The soldiers beat St. Sebastian with heavy clubs until he was dead. Then they took his body and pushed it into one of the city’s sewers.

Historians attribute him as patron saint of athletes. St. Sebastian was also commonly invoked as a protector against the plague. Saint Sebastian is a popular male saint, especially today among athletes. In medieval times, he was regarded as a saint with a special ability to intercede to protect from plague, and devotion to him greatly increased when plague was active.

St. Sebastian  is the patron saint of our Aquem Church. Aquem Parishioners celebrate his feast on Sunday before Ash Wednesday every year.

Few lesser known facts about St. Sebastian

  1. When was he born, and what was his life like?

The specifics of St. Sebastian’s birth and childhood have been lost through the ages. It is believed that he was born in Gaul (modern-day France) to a wealthy Roman family. He was raised as a Christian in a time when being a Christian was very dangerous.  In the year 283, he entered the Roman imperial army in order to secretly assist Christians who were to be martyred for their faith.

  1. What were some of the main events in his ministry?

According to the tradition of his life, Sebastian ministered to twin brothers Marcus and Marcellian. They were deacons in the Christian church and refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods, and they were arrested and set to be put to death. Their parents tried to force them to renounce their faith, but after Sebastian interceded and spoke to them, they became converts to Christianity as well. He also ministered to a local official who was converted along with his wife, Zoe. Zoe was said to have been mute for six years, but when she expressed a desire to become a Christian, she regained her ability to speak.

  1. How did he die?

When his faith was ultimately discovered by Emperor Diocletian, he was ordered to be shot with arrows. When this sentence was carried out, however, he did not die. He returned to the emperor’s palace and publicly spoke out against him. The emperor sentenced him to be beaten to death, and Sebastian finally died in the year 286.

  1. What other saints are associated with St. Sebastian?

After he was shot full of arrows and left for dead, it was said that Irene, the widow of a local official who helped to hide Christians from persecution, went to retrieve his body for burial. She discovered that he was still alive, and nursed him back to health. Irene was later beatified and venerated as St. Irene of Rome.

  1. Where are his remains?

His body is said to be buried in Rome in a church built by Pope Damasus I in 367

  1. What else is he known for?

In the Middle Ages, St. Sebastian saw a great surge in his popularity due to the belief that he could protect against the plague. The reason for this belief is a link with Greek mythology. Apollo, the god of archery, would sometimes destroy his enemies with arrows that carried a deadly plague; and since Sebastian was tortured by archers but did not die, he was believed to have the power to intercede for and protect those who suffered from the plague. This was also linked to Scriptural references of God afflicting people and nations with arrows of punishment. He was also said to have freed Rome itself from pestilence in the 7th century.

  1. How is St. Sebastian depicted in art and culture?

St. Sebastian is most frequently depicted in the midst of his final torture, his body riddled with arrows. Some pieces of art portray St. Irene visiting him in the form of an angel coming to attend to him. The final level of investigation determines whether or not miracles were performed. Proof of at least two miracles performed by God through this person must be verified. Once this is proven, the Pope may canonize this person as a saint through a public proclamation.

  1. What is that makes St. Sebastian the patron saint of athletes?

Some Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, recognize certain saints as able to intercede before God in prayer on behalf of those suffering from a particular ailment or to pray on behalf of a certain kind of believer. St. Sebastian is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, which are said to be effective in their ministry and intercession against sickness or infirmity. In a twist of irony, St. Sebastian is the patron saint of archers, as well as pin-makers. A more modern association makes St. Sebastian the patron saint of athletes. This may be due to his extreme endurance under great physical stress and torture.

  1. What other patronages is he known for?

Medieval popularity makes him the patron saint of those suffering from the plague, and he is also the patron saint of a holy Christian death. He is also the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro.


Like many early saints whose accounts arose before the founding of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Sebastian may have been a legendary figure. However, his example can inspire Christians of all walks for his dedication and devotion to the Lord even under the fear of persecution and death. He boldly walked into the belly of the beast in order to minister to those who were sure to be put to death for their faith and even helped some of those prisoners escape their fate.

With his miraculous recovery, he has also been branded as a portrait of physical endurance and grace under fire, traits that are absolutely necessary for successful athletes. With the addition of other key patronages throughout history, these qualities, as well as others, have made him the patron saint of athletes everywhere, who look to St. Sebastian for focus and discipline as they train their bodies and minds for excellence.

Credits: Various websites on St. Sebastian Few adaptions from Book of Saints & Martyrs.

-By:Agnelo A. S. Fernandes (Ward 12)