Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Saint Sebastian and a First Responder

January 20 is the feast day of Saint Sebastian, who died in 288 at the hands of the anti-Christian Roman emperor, Diocletian. Saint Sebastian was a member of the Roman emperor's Praetorian Guard, but when it was discovered that he was a Christian, he was delivered for persecution to archers from Mauritania and was riddled with arrows, as shown in this painting by the great Italian Renaissance painter, Andrea Mantegna.

Saint Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna, 1480

When we see this painting of Saint Sebastian we assume that this is how he became a Christian martyr. But in fact he survived this torture, because Saint Irene, the widow of the Christian martyr Saint Castulus, rushed to his aid. 

Saint Irene Coming to the Aid of Saint Sebastian by Trophime Bigot (1579-1650)

Saint Sebastian Aided by Saint Irene by Georges de la Tour, 1650

Saint Sebastian did not die of the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," because Saint Irene removed the arrows, took him home, and nursed him back to health. After he had recovered, Saint Sebastian openly confronted the Emperor Diocletian, calling upon him to stop his persecution of Christians. The emperor responded by ordering that Saint Sebastian be placed under immediate arrest and be bludgeoned to death. This time Diocletian succeeded. 

It is believed that Saint Sebastian is a protector against the plague, and he is the patron saint of athletes and soldiers. Saint Irene's feast day is March 30. 

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