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ST. SEBASTIAN: PROTECTOR OF THE FAITHFUL AGAINST PESTILENCE 

In the Sanctoral Calendar for the Time after Epiphany we celebrate the feast of the holy martyrs Saints Fabian and Sebastian who share the honors on January 20th. Pope St. Fabian was martyred during the persecution of Decius in the mid-Third Century; St. Sebastian the Roman soldier was martyred during the persecution of Diocletian at the end of the Third Century. 

A valiant and trusted soldier Sebastian was privately a Christian and he used his rank and privilege to gain access to the Christians imprisoned in Rome in order to encourage them not to weaken. When at last this was discovered the Emperor Diocletian considered it a personal treachery and devised a horrible death for Sebastian: he was stripped, tied to a post, and Mauritanian archers emptied their quivers into him. Left for dead, but miraculously preserved, he was rescued by a Christian woman and nursed back to health. Then he appeared to Diocletian like a man back from the dead to upbraid him for his cruelties to the Christians. This time the Emperor had him clubbed to death and his body thrown into a sewer. Thus St. Sebastian is credited with two martyrdoms in his heavenly crown. 

In a later development, St. Sebastian came to be invoked as a patron saint against pestilence. As once he aided imprisoned Christians against the contagion of heathenism, so now he intercedes for afflicted Christians in time of contagious disease. The iconography of Sebastian shot through with arrows is interpreted according to the following analogy: pestilence is like arrows striking humanity out of the air. The Saint, through his prayers, draws the arrows away from us by the merits of his own martyrdom.

The popularity of St. Sebastian’s intercession against pestilence greatly increased after the time of the Black Death in 1348. As we continue to endure this time of pandemic, let us not be too proud to make invocation to St. Sebastian to obtain our deliverance from contagion. 

Fr. Higgins

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
- St. Therese of Lisieux (+1897)

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