January 20, 2018: POPE ST. FABIAN (Part I)
January 20, 2018: SS. FABIAN, POPE AND SEBASTIAN, MARTYRS
(Part I - St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr)
Thou didst live out the long tempestuous days of thy Pontificate, O Fabian! But thou hadst the presentiment of the peaceful future reserved by God for his Church, and thou didst zealously labour to hand down to the coming generations the great examples of the Martyrs.
Have regard , O Lord, we beseech thee, to our weakness, and as we sink under the weight of our own evils, may the glorious intercession of thy blessed Martyrs Fabian and Sebastian protect us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Two great Martyrs divide between them the honours of this twentieth day of January:—one, a Pontiff of the Church of Rome; the other, a member of that Mother-Church. Fabian received the crown of martyrdom, in the year 250, under the persecution of Decius; the persecution of Dioclesian crowned Sebastian, in the year 288. We will consider the merits of these two champions of Christ separately.
St. Fabian, like St. Clement and St. Antheros, two of his predecessors, was extremely zealous in seeing that the Acts of the Martyrs were carefully drawn up. This zeal was no doubt exercised by the clergy in the case of our holy Pontiff himself, and his sufferings and martyrdom were carefully registered; but all these interesting particulars have been lost, in common with an immense number of other precious Acts, which were condemned to the flames, by the Imperial Edicts, during the persecution under Dioclesian. Nothing is now known of the life of St. Fabian, save a few of his actions as Pope; but we may have some idea of his virtues, by the praise given him by St. Cyprian, who, in a letter written to St. Cornelius, the immediate successor of St. Fabian, calls him an incomparable man. The Bishop of Carthage [St. Cyprian] extols the purity and holiness of life of the holy Pontiff, who so peaceably governed the Church amidst all the storms which then assailed her. There is an interesting circumstance related of him by Eusebius. After the death of St. Antheros, the people and clergy of Rome assembled together, for the election of the new Pontiff. Heaven marked out the successor of St. Peter: a dove was seen to rest on the venerable head of Fabian, and he was unanimously chosen. This reminds us of the event in our Lord's Life, which we celebrated a few days back, when standing in the river Jordan, the Dove came down from heaven, and showed him to the people as the Son of God. Fabian was the depository of the power of regeneration, which Jesus, by his Baptism, gave to the element of water; he zealously propagated the Faith of his Divine Master, and, among the Bishops he consecrated for divers places, one or more were sent by him into these western parts of Europe.
We give, at once, the short account of the Acts of St. Fabian, as recorded in the Liturgy.
Fabian, a Roman by birth, governed the Church from the reign of Maximin to that of Decius. He divided the City into seven parts, which he consigned to as many Deacons, and to them he gave the charge of looking after the poor. He created also a like number of Subdeacons, who were to collect the Acts of the Martyrs, written by seven Notaries. It was he decreed, that, every year, on the fifth Feria, our Lord's Supper, the Chrism should be renewed, and the old should be burnt. At length, on the thirteenth of the Calends of February (January 20), he was crowned with martyrdom, in the persecution of Decius, and was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way, after reigning fifteen years and four days. He held five ordinations, in the month of December, in which ordinations, he made two and twenty Priests, seven Deacons, and eleven Bishops for divers places.
The dove, which marked thee out as the one chosen by heaven, showed thee to men as the visible Christ on earth; it told thee that thou wert destined for heavy responsibilities and martyrdom; it was a warning to the Church, that she should recognise and hear thee as her guide and teacher. Honoured thus with a resemblance to Jesus in the mystery of his Epiphany, pray to him for us, that he mercifully manifest himself to our mind and heart.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Related links: Part II - January 20, 2018: St. Sebastian, Martyr.
Ss. Fabian and Sebastian, pray for us.