ST SEBASTIAN,
Martyr (A.D. 288?)
Butler's Lives of the Saints I- P. 128.
According to the "acts", assigned without any adequate reason to the authorship of
St Ambrose, St Sebastian was born at Narbonne in Gaul, though his parents had
come from Milan, and he was brought up in that city. He was a fervent servant of
Christ, and though his natural inclinations were averse from a military life, yet to be
better able to assist the confessors and martyrs in their sufferings without arousing
suspicion, he went to Rome and entered the army under the Emperor Carinus about
the year 283. It happened that the martyrs, Marcus and Marcellian under sentence of
death, appeared in danger of faltering in their resolution owing to the tears of their
friends; Sebastian, seeing this, intervened, and made them a long exhortation to
constancy which he delivered with an ardor that strongly affected his hearers. Zoë,
the wife of Nicostratus, who had for six years lost the use of speech, fell at his feet,
and when the saint made the sign of the cross on her mouth, she spoke again
distinctly. Thus Zoë, with her husband, Nicostratus, who was muter of the rolls
(primiscrinius), the parents of Marcus and Marcellian, the gaoler Claudius, and
sixteen other prisoners were converted; and Nicostratus, who had charge of the
prisoners, took them to his own house, where Polycarp, a priest, instructed and
baptized them. Chromatius, governor of Rome, being informed of this, and that
Tranquillinus, the father of Marcus and Marcellian, had been cured of the rut by
receiving baptism desired to follow their example, since he himself was grievously
afflicted with the sane malady. Accordingly, having sent for Sebastian, he was cured
by him, and baptized tired with his son Tiburtius. He then released the converted
prisoners, made his slaves free, and  resigned his prefectaship.
Not long after Carinus was defeated and slain in Illyricum by Diocletian, who the
year following made Maximian his colleague in the empire. The persecution was still
carried on by the magistrates in the same manner as under Carinus, without any new
edicts. Diocletian, admiring the courage and character of St Sebastian, was anxious
to keep him near his person; and being ignorant of his religious beliefs he created
him captain of a company of the pretorian guards, which was a considerable dignity.
When Diocletian went into the East, Maximian, who remained in the West, honored
Sebastian with the same distinction and respect. Chromatius retired into the country
in Caimpania, taking many new converts along with him. Then followed a contest of
zeal between St Sebastian and the priest Polycarp as to which of them should
accompany this troop to complete their instruction, and which should remain at the
post of danger in the city to encourage and assist the martyrs. Pope Cams, who was
appealed to, judged that Sebastian
should stay in Rome. In the year 286, the persecution growing fiercer, the pope and
others concealed themselves in the imperial palace, as the place of greatest safety,
in the apartments of one Castulus, a Christian officer of the court. Zoë was first
apprehended, when praying at St Peter's tomb on the feast of the apostles. She was
stifled with smoke, being hung by the heels over a fire. Tranquillinus, ashamed to
show less courage than a woman, went to pray at the tomb of St Paul, and there
was seized and stoned to death. Nicostratus, Claudius, Castorius and Victorinus
were taken, and after being thrice tortured, were thrown into the sea. Tiburtius,
betrayed by a false brother, was beheaded. Castulus, accused by the same wretch,
was twice stretched upon the rack, and afterwards buried alive. Marcus and
Marcellian were nailed by the feet to a post, and having remained in that torment
twenty-four hours were shot to death with arrows. St Sebastian, having sent so
many martyrs to Heaven before him, was himself impeached before Diocletian; who,
after bitterly reproaching him with his ingratitude, delivered him over to certain
archers of Mauritania, to be shot to death. His body was pierced through with
arrows, and he was left for dead. Irene, the widow of St Castulus, going to bury him,
found him still alive and took him to her lodgings, where he recovered from his
wounds, but refused to take to night. On the contrary, he deliberately took up his
station one day on a staircase where the emperor was to pass, and there accosting
him, he denounced the abominable cruelties perpetrated against the Christians. This
freedom of language, coming from a person whom he supposed to be dead, for a
moment kept the emperor speechless; but recovering from his surprise, he gave
orders for him to be seized and beaten to death with cudgels, and his body thrown
into the common sewer. A lady called Lucina, admonished by the martyr in a vision,
had his body secretly buried in the place called ad catacumbas, where now stands
the basilica of St Sebastian.
Lives of the Saints