St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Pope Saint Fabian M
Saint Sebastian M
(Optional Memorials)
January 20



Blessed Benedict Ricasoli, OSB Vall., Hermit (AC)
Born at Coltiboni, diocese of Fiesole, Italy; died 1107; cultus confirmed in 1907. Blessed Benedict entered the monastery founded by his parents for the monks of Vallumbrosa on a mountain near his birthplace. Later he became a hermit in a cell nearby (Benedictines).


Blessed Daniel of Cambron, OSB Cist., Abbot (PC)
Died 1232. Third abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Cambron in Hainault (Benedictines).


Blessed Didier of Thérouanne B (PC)
(also known as Desiderius)

Died 1194. Desiderius was the 33rd bishop of Thérouanne and founder of the Cistercian abbey of Blandecques (Blandyke; a word with special significance for those who have attended Jesuit schools in England) near Saint-Omer. At the end of his life he resigned and prepared for death in a Cistercian monastery. He is usually styled a saint and is claimed by the Cistercians as one of their own (Attwater2, Benedictines).


Eustochium Calafato, OFM (AC)
(also known as Eustochia of Messina)

Born in Annunziata (near Messina), Sicily, on Good Friday, 1434; died 1468; cultus confirmed in 1782; canonized by John Paul II in 1988; feast day formerly February 1 and/or February 16. There are two contemporary lives written about Esutochium Calafato.

Though Smeralda (Emerald) was the daughter of Countess Matilda (Macalda) Romano Colonna of Calafato and her husband Bernard, a wealthy merchant, she was raised in a pious household. Her mother was known for her great holiness of life and provided an excellent model for her young daughter.

In 1446, Smeralda gave up the privileged life to become Eustochium, a Poor Clare at Santa Maria di Basicò after she experienced a vision of Christ crucified. At first the sisters refused to accept her, because they were afraid of angering her brothers who had threatened to burn down the convent if their sister were admitted. Eventually, Smerald convinced both the nuns and her brothers. Disillusioned by the convent's laxity, in 1457, she was given permission to found a Franciscan community of stricter observance nearby. In 1463, the community was transferred to Monte delle Vergini (Maidens' Hill) and included some of her close relatives. The following year she was elected abbess.

Eustochium's love of Jesus in poverty and penance was outstanding. She wrote a treatise on the Passion, which, unfortunately, is now lost. Though she never visited the Holy Land, Eustochium had a devotion to the holy places that is reminiscent of Saint Bridget of Sweden. Eustochium suffered many internal and external trials that hastened her death at age 35. The saint was buried in Montevergine. When her incorrupt body was exhumed, it was described in great detail by the archbishop of Messina in 1690 (Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer).

In art, Saint Eustochium is portrayed with a cross in her hand or kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament (Farmer).


Euthymius the Great, Abbot (RM)
Born at Melitene, Armenia, c. 378; died in Palestine on January 20, 473. Saint Euthymius was the fruit of the fervent prayers of his wealthy parents through the intercession of a local martyr, Saint Polyeuctus. Euthymius studied under the bishop of Melitene, who ordained and appointed him supervisor of monastic settlements of the diocese. In that capacity, Euthymius often visited Saint Polyeuctus's monastery, where he would spend whole nights in prayer on a nearby mountain. From the octave of Epiphany to the end of Lent, Euthymius was continuously in prayer.

When he was about 30, his love of solitude had grown so strong that he secretly migrated to Palestine. After offering his prayers at the holy places in Jerusalem, he settled in a cell six miles distant near at the Pharan laura. He earned money for his bread and some alms for the poor by weaving baskets.

About 411, he moved 10 miles closer to Jericho, where he and a companion, named Theoctistus, lived as hermits in a cave. When a number of other hermits gravitated to him, he left them with his companion Theoctistus as superior, settled in the desolate country between Jerusalem and Jericho, and began his solitary life. He would meet with his spiritual children only on Saturdays and Sundays, and would abide for only a short time in one place, then move to another, usually in caves. Thus, he became their spiritual director without giving up his own solitary mode of life.

Saint Euthymius was one of the most revered of the early Palestinian monks. He attracted enormous crowds by his preaching, and combatted Nestorianism and Eutychianism alike. He gained influence among the Arabs by his healing of the paralytic son of an important sheikh, simply with a short prayer and the Sign of the Cross. The sheikh, who had vainly employed Persian magic arts seeking some relief for his son, immediately requested baptism.

So many Arabs followed suit that Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem consecrated Euthymius bishop to minister to them. In 420, Juvenal built him a laura on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, which Euthymius ruled through vicars to whom he gave directions on Sundays. Cyril of Scythopolis relates that this was only one of many miraculous cures wrought by Euthymius, usually with the Sign of the Cross. It was in his capacity as bishop that Euthymius attended the Council of Ephesus in 431.

His humility and charity won the hearts of all who spoke to him. He seems to have surpassed even the great Saint Arsenius in the gift of perpetual tears. Empress Eudoxia, widow of Theodosius II, sought the advice of Saint Simeon Stylites regarding the frightening afflictions of her family. He referred her to Euthymius. Because Euthymius would allow no woman to enter his laura, she built a lodging and asked him to come to her there. She followed his counsel as the command of God, gave up her allegiance to the Eutychians, returned to orthodoxy in 459, and received the Council of Chalcedon.

On January 13, 473, Martyrius and Elias, both of whom Euthymius foretold would be patriarchs of Jerusalem, came with several others to visit him and accompany him to his Lenten retreat. But he said he would stay with them all that week, and leave on the next Saturday, giving them to understand that his death was near at hand. He appointed Elias as his successor, and foretold to Domitian, a beloved disciple, that he would follow him out of this world on the seventh day, which happened just as he prophesied. At the time of his death, Euthymius had spent 66-68 years in the desert. He is still highly revered throughout the East (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Walsh).


Fabian, Pope M (RM)
Died 250. On January 10, 236, Saint Fabian succeeded Saint Antheros as pope and governed as bishop of Rome for 14 peaceful years until his martyrdom under Decius. He was a layman, who, according to Eusebius, was chosen because a dove flew in through a window during the election and settled on his head. This 'sign' united the votes of the clergy and people for this layman and stranger. He condemned Bishop Privatus of Lambaesa, Africa, for heresy, brought the body of Saint Pontian, pope and martyr, from Sardinia, and had significant restoration work done on the catacombs. He sought out the relics of Saints Pontian and Hippolytus, who had died in exile, and had them translated to Rome. The Liber Pontificalis credited him with the division of Rome into seven deaconries, which gave the Church of Rome a close-knit structure. Fabian also sent Saint Dionysius (Denis) and other preachers into Gaul.

He was the first victim of the Decian persecutions. Saint Fabian is described by his contemporary, Saint Cyprian, as "an incomparable man, the glory of whose death corresponded with the holiness of his life." He was buried in the catacombs of Saint Callistus; later, some of his relics were taken to the Basilica of Saint Sebastian. The original slab that covered his first tomb, which says clearly in Greek, "Fabian, bishop, martyr," survives. Some of his relics were taken to the Basilica of Saint Sebastian; thereafter the two martyrs were honored with one feast. Fabian's body was rediscovered in 1915 (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Delaney, Farmer, Husenbeth, White).

Several examples of his writing can be found on the New Advent homepage. Click here for Decrees, First Epistle, Second Epistle, and Third Epistle He is shown in art with a dove by his side; or a tiara and a dove; or a sword or club; or kneeling at a block (to be beheaded) (Roeder, White). Sometimes he is shown (1) with Saint Sebastian because he was martyred on his feast day or (2) with a palm and cross (Roeder). An image of Saint Fabian is included in a painting attributed to Diamante (c. 1430- 1498), which is in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome (Coulson).

Pope Saint Fabian is the patron of lead-founders and potters (of whom Saint Sebastian is also patron) (Roeder).


Fechin of Fobhar (Fore), Abbot (AC)
(also known as Vigean, Virgin)

Born at Bile Fechin (Connaught), Ireland; died c. 665. Fechin, the abbot-founder of several Irish monasteries, was trained by Saint Nathy at Achonry, County Sligo. After a life of sanctity, he died during the great pestilence which felled four Irish kings and nearly two-thirds of the populace. Fechin's name is particularly connected with that of Fobhar (Fore or Foure) in Westmeath, which was his first monastic foundation, and an important one for its manuscripts. Here he eventually governed over 300 monks. The monastery became famous because of the water mill that he is reputed to have miraculously created out of a rock with his own hands. Even in the 12th century, this mill was much revered, as were the churches dedicated to him. Out of respect for the saint, women were never allowed into the mill.

The monastery he founded in Cong is renowned because of the Cross of Cong, one of the great treasures of Ireland, which had been hidden in an old oaken chest in the village, now resides in the National Museum in Dublin. Both the church and monastery at Cong were sumptuously rebuilt in the 12th century for the Augustinians by Turlough O'Connor, who gave them the bejewelled processional cross he had made to enshrine a particle of the True Cross. Cong Abbey also sered as the refuge for the last high king of Ireland, Roderick O'Connor.

His other foundations include those at Ballysadare (his birthplace?), Imaid Island, Omey and Ard Oilean, from which came the oldest manuscript about his life. All of these are now in ruins. His memory, however, is also perpetuated at Ecclefechan and Saint Vigean's (the name under which he is invoked in the Dunkeld Litany), near Arbroath in Scotland, where a fair was held on his feast day. The Bollandists in Belgium have preserved an ancient saint in honor of Saint Fechin (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, D'Arcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Moran, Muirhead, Neeson, Stokes).


Maurus of Cesena, OSB B (RM)
Died 946. Roman Saint Maurus, nephew of Pope John IX, was ordained a priest, then joined the monks of Classe at Ravenna in 926, where he became abbot. In 934, he was consecrated bishop of Cesena. He built a cell on the hill overlooking the city, where he would spend part of his time in prayer. After his death, the cell grew into the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria del Monte (Benedictines).


Molagga of Fermoy, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Laicin, Molacca)

Died c. 664. The Irish Molagga was raised in Wales under Saint David (Dewi). He founded a monastery at Fulachmhin (Fermoy), and is much venerated in northern Cork nearby. He is also associated with Balbriggan in Dublin (Benedictines, Montague).


Neophytus of Nicaea M (RM)
Died 310. Saint Neophytus was a youth, less than 15 years old, who was martyred at Nicaea under Galerius (Benedictines).


Sebastian M (RM)
Born in Narbonne, Gaul (France); died in Rome, 288-300; feast day in the East is December 18.

No matter what our occupation in life, God can use us for His purpose if we will simply pray for the eyes to see the opportunities before us. Sebastian, a Roman soldier, had such a faith. He had joined the army in 283 in order to help his fellow Christians by rescuing them from persecution and/or giving them comfort. He entered the lists against the powers of evil, knowing that not all the battles are visible to human eyes.

Those who faltered, like Marcus and Marcellian, he encouraged; those pagans who had fiercely objected to the death of relatives and children, like their mother Zoë (a deaf mute whom he cured with the Sign of the Cross on her lips) and her husband Nicostratus (who was in charge of prisoners and cured of gout by Sebastian), he converted; for those who were martyred, he helped to make arrangements for burial and veneration of their bodies.

So successful was he as a soldier that he gained favor with the emperor Diocletian, who made him captain of the Praetorian Guard. He retained that position under Emperor Maximian when Diocletian left him in charge at Rome. Thus by his high rank and office he helped to relieve many who were imprisoned for Christ, though by so doing he placed himself in great peril.

Among the thrilling incidents of early Christian history is that of his bold deliverance of two brothers who had been condemned. He went openly to the house of he magistrate, where they were detained along with 16 heathen prisoners, and before them all spoke of the love of Christ to such effect that those who heard him, including the magistrate and the jailer, were converted. In the place where he spoke the only window was a hole in the roof, and as he stood directly under it the light shone down upon his rich tribune's armor, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. Who could be sure that among so many there might not be one there who would betray him?

Afterwards, Claudius, the jailer, came with anxiety to the magistrate and reported: "The prefect is much disturbed at my having allowed the prisoners to be in your house; and therefore he requires you to appear before him and explain the reason." Upon this, the magistrate went at once to the prefect and so impressed him with his account of what had happened, that he, too, was baptized, and after him 68 others, as a direct result of Sebastian's intervention.

One version of the legend says that Tiburtius, the son of the prefect of Rome, and Chromatius, the prefect himself were converted because Sebastian cured him, too, of the painful gout with which he was afflicted. Thereafter, the prefect set many godly prisoners free, freed his slaves, and resigned as prefect. He retired to his estate in Campania, and took many of Sebastian's converts with him to this place of relative safety.

Such activities could not long remain secret. Soon many of Sebastian's converts were tortured and killed. First Nicostratus's wife Zoë was discovered to be a Christian. Hung by her heels over a fire, she died of smoke inhalation. Nicostratus and the converted prefect were captured, tortured, and killed.

Finally, Sebastian was denounced to the emperor, who reproached him with ingratitude and accused him of conspiracy. Sebastian protested in vain that though he was a Christian he had never neglected his military duties. "I pray daily," he said, "for thy safety and the prosperity of the State." But Diocletian, who had returned, refused to listen, and ordered him to be shot to death with arrows.

By a strange providence, however, although his body was riddled with arrows and the archers thought he was dead, he recovered in the field where they had left him and was rescued by a friend, the widow of Saint Castulus named Saint Irene, who took him to her apartment near by in the imperial palace--and nursed him to recovery. The widow Irene then urged him to escape, but, casting aside discretion, he placed himself deliberately in the path of the emperor and called boldly for the relief of the Christians, who, he declared, were among the most loyal of his subjects.

The emperor, thinking he was dead, was startled as if he had seen a ghost. "You will have no peace," cried Sebastian, "until you cease from shedding innocent blood." The emperor angrily sentenced him to be cudgelled to death and his body to be thrown into the sewer, from which it was afterwards removed by a Christian woman called Lucina, who buried it in her own garden along the Appian Way.

In 367, Pope Saint Damasus built a basilica of San Sebastiano over his tomb, which was one of the seven stationary churches of Rome. Sebastian's cultus dates from the 4th century; his name is found in the Depositio Martyrum, dated 354. That Sebastian was a martyr buried in a cemetery on the Appian Way is fact; all else is pious fiction dating no earlier than the 5th century. Some wrongly attribute these acta to Saint Ambrose.

Several writers testify that the relics of Saint Sebastian were given to Hilduin, abbot of Saint-Denys, by Pope Eugenius II and deposited in Saint Medard's at Soissons on December 9, 826, together with some of the relics of Saint Gregory the Great. These shrines were plundered by the Hugenots in 1564, and the sacred bones thrown into a ditch in which there was water. They were later found and re-enshrined in 1578, though the bones were then intermixed. Sebastian's head was given to Saint Willibrord by Pope Sergius and is now kept at Echternach, Luxembourg. Other portions of his relics are widely dispersed.

It should be noted that Saint Ambrose says that Sebastian was born in Milan, Italy, where he was venerated as early as the 4th century (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Butler, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth, White).

Arrows, representing pestilence as well as the instrument of his martyrdom, are Saint Sebastian's emblem in art (Tabor). Generally he is portrayed as a young, nude man tied to a tree and shot through by bowmen. At times he may be shown (1) nude, pierced by or holding arrows; (2) richly dressed with bow and arrows; (3) as a young warrior with an arrow; (4) with sword and arrow; or (5) as the arrows are being removed by Saint Irene in the habit of a Benedictine nun. He should not be confused with the king Saint Edmund of England, who is always bearded and crowned (Roeder). There is a notable image of him in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence painted by Sodoma (Tabor).

The earliest representations of Sebastian, as in mosaics in Ravenna and at the church of Saint Peter in Chains in Rome (late 7th century) or in the frescoes of Saint Saba's church (Rome; early 8th century), depict him as an elderly, bearded man holding a crown. Some later images also show Sebastian in this manner. The more popular image as a young man appeared in the late Middle Ages (Farmer).

As one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages (one of the 14 Holy Helpers), Saint Sebastian is patron of many: archers, armorers, athletes, bookbinders, burial societies, arrowsmiths, corn-chandlers, gardeners, ironmongers, lead-founders, municipal police, needle-makers, neighborhood watch operations, physicians, potters, racquet-makers, soldiers, and stone masons. He is invoked against cattlepest, epilepsy, enemies of religion, the plague, and by the dying (Delaney, Roeder, White).

(Dedicated to dear Father Sebastian, born and baptized on this day, who taught me what it means to really trust in God's providence-- and more than I ever wanted to know about Augustine, Aquinas, and Maritain. May God bless you abundantly, my joyful friend!)



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.