When we think of popes, we think of men of authority and prestige that live surrounded by beauty and whose words are broadcast and studied throughout the world.
Today we remember a third century pope who was hunted down and brutally killed. Fabian’s acceptance of Peter’s Chair during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Decius, meant that he was called to shepherd his flock through one of the most intense times of persecution in its early life.
Decius believed that the gods of Rome no longer favored the empire, in part because of the heretical new religion, Christianity. He became a determined foe of the Christians. He believed that Rome’s survival depended on turning back to the old ways, chief among them, sacrifice to the gods.
Decius required Christians to surrender their holy books and to offer public sacrifice to the gods. Those who did so were issued, and made to sign, an official document declaring themselves worshippers of the gods of Rome. Those who refused were sentenced to death in the arena, where they would be mauled and eaten by lions. Pope Fabian, the shepherd leading his sheep, was one of the first of the martyrs to die in the Decian persecution.
In honor of St. Pope Fabian, pray for all priests and bishops, that they be courageous, steadfast and humble shepherds.