continued: Sebastian, the Soldier Saint

Soldiers Saints, Givers of Strength

The earliest stories about St. Sebastian praise him for his support of Christian martyrs. Pope Cajus, his contemporary, called him the Protector of the Church, because Sebastian used his strength to strengthen others. right: Greco's face of Sebastian

Is this what ancient soldier saints like Sebastian teach us? To use our strength for others? It may be his message for society today.

Our society exults in strong bodies, strong minds and strong personalities. In fact, we make gods of the strong. Strength is a favored tool of personal development as people throw themselves into sports and programs that build minds and bodies. Seldom do we ask: Is strength being put to good use, is it helping others?

The soldier saints were celebrated in the early church because, at great risk to themselves, they committed their strength to others, especially people in danger. It was their shining virtue. Unfortunately, they are not well received in the world of modern Christian spirituality, which hardly mentions them at all. Better to honor mystics, founders of religious families, those who care for the poor, than those who fight battles.

But soldier saints recall a kind of holiness we may have forgotten. They remind us that it is a holy task to stand in harm's way in unpopular wars or on dangerous city streets, which soldiers and law enforcement officers do today. It is also holy -- and dangerous -- to speak against corruption and side with the weak.

In recent months, a new commissioner of police in Philadelphia made a strong appeal to his officers to reach out and serve the poor and vulnerable in their communities.

He was calling them to be soldier saints.

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The first Christian martyrs Cecilia, an early saint Lawrence, the deacon
Sebastian, the soldier saintact with Compassionfront page

Sign of the Passion

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