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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2523

Saint Sebastian venerated for intervention in epidemics

By Quintus Perera - Asian Tribune

Colombo, 21 January, ( Most Catholics in Sri Lanka are pilgrims and the purpose of visiting various shrines are to take their troubles and difficulties to God and implore mitigation of their woes. They also seek the intervention of various saints through whom the Catholics believe that these saints would become the mediators in carrying these messages to God.

Among these saints there are some favorites these Catholics believe are more powerful and have proved to bring results than others. Some of the most favored are: St Mary, St Sebastian, St Anthony and St Jude.

One of these favored saints, the feast of St Sebastian is celebrated in the Month of January and there are large number of churches in Sri Lanka are dedicated to St Sebastian. Some of these churches dedicated to St Sebastian, celebrates the feast on 20th January the scheduled feast day and other churches celebrate it on Sunday following the scheduled feast day.

Among the large number, some of the churches dedicated to St Sebastian are, Kandana, Moratuwa, Katuwapitiya(Negombo), and Enderamulla (Wattala).

St Sebastian is regarded as one of the most powerful martyrs in the Catholic Church history and, more and more join seeking his intervention, as there has been enormous number of instances where the intervention of St Sebastian has proved successful. Some Catholics call them as 'miracles'. 'Life is a miracle, when there is unshakable belief in God'.

Church history indicates that St Sebastian began his life in Narbonne, Gaul. Catholics believe he was educated in Milan and became a soldier at Rome in 283 A. D. In Rome he was named a captain in the Praetorian guards by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and loved by the ruler. While the emperor was anti-Christian, the emperor did not know that St Sebastian has become a Christian.

Catholic tradition holds that he converted other soldiers and a governor, and bolstered the sagging spirits of at least two Christian captives who were awaiting their own martyrdom, in the time that he served as a soldier in Rome.

When the Emperor heard of the faith in Jesus in St Sebastian was tied to a post and slain by arrows. He was left for dead, his body pierced and bleeding, but by virtue of his physical stamina and God's will, he did not die. History says that a widow, whom Catholics call St Irene, found St Sebastian's body and nursed him until he was well.

St Sebastian used his recovery to publicly rebuke the Emperor for his cruel treatment of Christians and the emperor in turn got the soldiers to stone St. Sebastian to death on January 20, 287 A.D., which is now his feast day. St. Sebastian's body was buried on the Apian way, and in 367 A.D. a basilica was constructed over his grave. The building was refurbished in 1610.

It is also said that Pope Damascus built a church in 397 AD. which was one of the seven ancient churches in Rome.

After he was ordered to be stoned to death, Emperor commanded the soldiers to throw the body to a sewer. But a pious lady by the name of Luciana got the body removed and buried it in a catacomb.

It was said that St Sebastian's story was first told by St. Ambrose who died in the late 4th century A.D. St Sebastian was venerated in Milan at the time. The first painting St. Sebastian dates from the mid-sixth century and an author named Paul the Deacon composed the prayer to St Sebastian. Prayer to St Sebastian had freed Rome from pestilence in 680 AD.

This miracle led Christians to pray to St Sebastian to be saved from the plague. He was the choice for deliverance through prayer from the dreaded Black Plague. Saint Sebastian's popularity continued and his arrow-pierced body was a frequently chosen subject of paintings. Such artists like Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Perugino, Bernini and El Greco have painted him.

He is venerated as the patron saint of athletes, soldiers and police, but he is also the patron saint of archers, diseased cattle, dying people, enemies of religion, fletchers, gardeners, gunsmiths, iron mongers, lace-makers, masons, lead workers, plague, racquet makers and the Pope's Swiss Guards.

People look up to St Sebastian in prayer to attain strength and endurance and the pleadings are imbibed in prayers. Catholics look up to him in hopes of sharing in the vitality that made him steadfast in life and faith.

A plague that afflicted Lombard was cleared when an alter was erected in the Church of St Peter in the province of Paiva. In 680 Rome was freed from a pestilence by the intercession of St Sebastian. Lisbon in 1575 and some other places in 1599 too were cleared of such calamities by praying to St Sebastian. Thus St Sebastian was strongly venerated for intervention in freeing from epidemics.

- Asian Tribune -

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