Born in Narbonne, Gaul (a region in present day France) St. Sebastian was the son of a wealthy and influential Roman noble. He was educated in Milan, Italy; where his family hailed from and he grew up as a fervent and obedient servant of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He was inducted into the Roman Imperial Army, after which he was later promoted as the captain of the Praetorian Guard (the personal bodyguards of the Roman emperor) Emperor Diocletian, at the time of St. Sebastian’s selection into the Praetorian Guards, did not know that he was a Christian.
During the Christian persecution of Rome under the reign of Emperor Diocletian, St. Sebastian helped the faithful and converted many of his fellow soldiers as well as many citizens of Rome. It is said that he once cured a soldier’s wife who was mute for 6 years, by making the sign of the cross over her mouth. This was witnessed by many and all of them later converted to Christianity. St. Sebastian was known to have helped many Christians flee from persecution, convert many of the pagans to Christianity, strengthened the faith of the persecuted Christians, helped in freeing the slaves of Roman officials, working miracles and curing diseases during the Diocletian reign.
News of St. Sebastian’s activities reached the Emperor Diocletian, who in a fit of rage, ordered the saint to be bound to a tree and shot to death by arrows. The Legenda Aurea (a book about the lives of saints in the medieval times) says "And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin…" and yet, St. Sebastian miraculously survived. He was left for dead by the soldiers but St. Irene of Rome, who was sent to collect the body, found him alive and tended to his wounds. After recovering from his near-fatal wounds, St. Sebastian refused to flee the city. Instead, he boldly approached Emperor Diocletian and preached to him, rebuking his vile ways and urging him to stop his cruelty to Christians. The stunned emperor, after recovering from his stupor, became enraged and ordered the saint to be beaten to death and his corpse was to be thrown in the sewers.
As he was ordered to death twice, St. Sebastian in often known as “the saint who was martyred twice” His body was recovered and cleaned and buried in the catacombs by the faithful of Our Lord and later a church was erected over it with St. Sebastian’s relics in it. The church was one of the seven ancient stationary churches of Rome. Today, this church is called San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Saint Sebastian outside the walls), or San Sebastiano ad Catacumbas (Saint Sebastian at the Catacombs)
Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be a soldier of Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings---for which you were condemned to die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely weak. So another means to kill you was chosen and you gave your life to the Lord. May athletes be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been.
O Lord, grant us a spirit of strength. Taught by the glorious example of Your martyr, Saint Sebastian, may we learn to obey You rather than men.