Sebastian was the son a nobleman who was a Christian. He joined the Roman army in the year 283 and kept his Christian beliefs secret so he could be a spy in the army.
Some Christians who knew the truth about Sebastian brought a woman named Zoe to him. She had lost the power of speech. Sebastian prayed with her and she quickly recovered. As a result, many people who knew her became Christians.
Around the same time, Emperor Diocletian promoted Sebastian to be guard of the Praetorian Guard, a regimen that acted as the emperor’s own bodyguard. Diocletian hated all Christians and had no idea someone in his trusted office was leading a double life.
Some time later, the authorities discovered Zoe and some of her friends were Christians. They were arrested and sentenced to death. It was too much for Sebastian. He went to see the emperor and announced he was a Christian too. Diocletian was furious. He ordered that Sebastian be put to death in a terrible way.
Sebastian was stripped and tied to a tree. His fellow officers used him as a target for archery practice, and arrow after and arrow were shot into him. A Christian woman named Irene came to rescue his body and was amazed to discover that Sebastian was still alive. She cared for his many wounds and nursed him back to health.
As soon as he recovered, Sebastian went and hid in a passageway and approached Diocletian as he walked by. Sebastian told him what he thought of his cruelty.
Diocletian was shocked to see him alive and said nothing. But as soon as he recovered, he ordered Sebastian to be put to death. This time Sebastian was beaten to death with heavy clubs and his body was thrown into one of the city’s sewers.
Image credit: St. Sebastian and Mary with Saints by Il Sodoma, 1525. Public Domain via Wikimedia.