Friday, January 20, 2012

Exposing the real St. Sebastian - redux.

Because it bears repeating.  (I know!  I said 'bears'!)*

Look - everyone needs their patron saints, but it might not be so wise to try and remold them into our own image and make up things about them.  Take St. Sebastian, whose feast we celebrate today...

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 martyred under Diocletian and he was buried on the Appian Way where the catacombs (his tomb) 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 exhortation 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 centuries 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 the homosexual community 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 permissible 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 depict him half naked - it is also probably the reality of the circumstances surrounding the execution. However, 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 accounts of his life which claim he was a homosexual officer attached to the Roman Imperial Court. The only tale that could possibly be accepted, for those prone to flights of fancy, is the one which claims he was martyred because he renounced and condemned homosexuality (for the modern mind: homosexual acts) in and through his conversion to Christianity, which resulted in his death. Naturally active homosexuals reject that story, which in turn happens to be another novel fabrication anyway.  I think it was just a crime to be Christian that got him martyred, but I digress.

Those who wish to promote homosexuality sometimes attempt to out anybody and everybody as being gay, I regard it as simple conjecture by guilty bystanders at best, although sometimes it is a deliberate, grandiose lie. (Everyone knows Liberace was straight.  What?) 

However, as a martyr, St. Sebastian's intercession is powerful with God, and since by his baptism he became a "whole" and uncorrupted man, he would indeed be a good patron for anyone struggling with un-chastity and or same-sex attraction - especially men - or lesbian weight lifters.  What? 

Likewise, I'm not sure there is anything to worry about for those few who erroneously believe Sebastian was a 'gay' saint. I'm convinced the Saint's charity would compel him to pray for their conversion, regardless of their misunderstanding, and if they keep praying, even though they see things in a different way than the Church, perhaps, since the door of their heart is already open, the Holy Spirit will help them accept the truth and see things another way.

*'bears' - 'bares'.  get it?  Sebastian is sometimes shown bare-naked.

Art:  I have often painted St. Sebastian, the martyr shot with arrows, left to die, only to be revived and submit himself for martyrdom again. In a sense, for me, he became an allegory for what happens to a person who has been sexually abused in childhood. The image shown here by Rotella, is particularly poignant since the saint is visible only as an outline, his body simply a shell, his identity obscured.


  1. "I would wager the entire myth is based upon wishful (if not lustful) thinking."

    I concur.

    Of course everyone knows homosexuality is a pure fabrication. I'm a heterosexual man with a homosexual problem.

  2. Doughboy, you Uncle Tom, you!


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  4. Geez, Ter, let 'em have someone to venerate besides David and Jonathan...


  5. There is someone else to venerate Larr--St. Aelred of Rievaulx! Oh, and Ss. Sergius and Bacchus too.

  6. Ack! David and Jonathan . . . Reminds me of when I had just exiled myself from a religious order and was alone and lonely in St. Paul and trying to figure out which end was up in a crazy-ass world. I befriended an order priest in Minneapolis and we went to the State Fair together. Everything was fine until he started to talk about David and Jonathan. And just like that, the overwhelming urge to flee came upon me once again.


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