Shot full of arrows

St Sebastian was born in Narbonne, southern France, to Milanese parents. Little is known about his early life. He had a natural aversion to combat, but in AD 283 he elected to go to Rome and join the army in order to assist confessors and martyrs who were being persecuted by the Romans. He was promoted to serve in the Praetorian Guard to protect Emperor Diocletian.

Twins Marcus and Marcellian were imprisoned for refusing to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. Their parents visited them in prison and pleaded with them to renounce their faith, but St Sebastian persuaded them to embrace Christianity.

Sebastian was discovered and reported to Emperor Diocletian for being a Christian. The emperor ordered Sebastian to be executed by having him tied to a stake and used as target practice for archers. They shot him “full of arrows as an urchin” and left, believing that he was dead.

Nursed back to health

Irene of Rome, whose husband was a servant of Diocletian and was also martyred for his Christian faith, took Sebastian into her care. She hid the wounded saint and nursed him back to health.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection