January 19, 2018

Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr

Optional Memorial - January 20th 

Openness to the Holy Spirit is integral to the selection of the supreme pontiff. The Third Person of the Trinity guides the solemn proceedings. Indeed, the Mass that opens a papal conclave is meant, not merely to mark the start of a momentous decision and most serious process, but to prepare the hearts and minds of the participants to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit in selecting the new pope.

So imagine a conclave in which a dove literally lands upon the head of someone—and a layperson at that—who has journeyed to Rome to see who will become the next pope. Such was the case in 236 A.D. when a simple farmer named Fabian was unanimously chosen to be pontiff because everyone present took the actions of the dove to be a sign from God.

The dove is also the symbol of peace, and the first part of Fabian’s papacy was in fact marked by peace. Under Emperor Philip, Fabian was able to expand the Church of Rome without fear of persecution.

All that ended, however, when Philip died and Emperor Decius assumed the throne. Decius was intent on Christian persecution and, as a result, Pope Fabian was martyred in the year 250 A.D. Known for his courage, holiness and personal piety, St. Fabian was widely venerated by the early Church.

O God, glory of your Priests, grant we pray, that, helped by the intercession of your Martyr Saint Fabian, we may make progress by communion in the faith and by worthy service. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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