Monday, May 15, 2006
Who was he anyway?
Is it true what some people say?
The dates of St. Sebastian's martyrdom are not known. In fact very little is actually known about him save that he was a Roman soldier martyed under Diocletian and he was buried on the Appian Way where his catacombs exist today. (St. Philip Neri used to pass his nights there in prayer.) Sebastian's feast day is January 20. St. Ambrose claims Sebastian was born in Milan, others claim Gaul as his birthplace.
The classic story is that St. Sebastian was an officer in the Roman army and arrested for being a Christian. He was sentenced to death to be shot with arrows. Bound to a column or a tree, the archers left him for dead. St. Irene, the widow of another martyr discovered he was still alive when she went to collect his body for burial. She nursed him back to health and it is said that Sebastian continued to witness and evangelize his fellow troops. (In the ancient hagiographies there is a lengthy exortation to martyrdom supposedly spoken by Sebastian. It's a beautiful treatise and may be found in an Orthodox book called, "The Arena" by Archbishop Brianchinov.) Eventually the Emperor learned of Sebastian's recovery and had him arrested once again and ordered him to be battered to death with cudgels, which finally killed him.
Sebastian has been venerated since the earliest ceturies but it was in the Renaissance that his cult became widespread in the West, due mainly to the many painters who chose to depict his dramatic martyrdom. He is most always depicted as a young, robust, athletic, and handsome man - nearly naked and bound to a tree, shot through with arrows. For centuries he has been the patron of athletes and soldiers and because of his faith and courage he became popular as a role model for boys and men.
I do not know how long ago homosexuals decided St. Sebastian was their special patron, but somewhere along the line they did. There is absolutely no historical foundation for this claim. Anyone may claim a saint to be their personal patron but it is not morally permissable to claim a saint as a patron for a sinful way of life. How did this distortion arise?
To be sure it is the celebration of the male physique when painters depicted him half naked. Homosexuality is much about physical attraction and narcissism, hence the attraction to a naked saint. His being tied to a tree may appeal to the more base behaviors some homosexuals engage in, known as bondage and discipline. I would wager the entire myth is based upon wishful (if not lustful) thinking. There exist fictional stories of his life that claim he was a homosexual officer attached to the Roman Imperial Court. The only tale that could possibly be tolerated is the one that says he was martyred because when he became a Christian he renounced and condemned homosexual activity and therefore was put to death. Naturally active homosexuals reject that story, nevertheless it too is fabricated.
Those who wish to promote the homosexual agenda will claim anybody and everybody as being gay, it's a gradiose lie. As a martyr however, Sebastian's intercession is powerful with God, and since he was a "whole" and uncorrupted man, he would indeed be a good patron for anyone struggling with same-sex attraction - especially men. (At another date I'll dispel the myth about the saint lesbians claim as their own.)