Hebrews 8.6-13; Psalm 84; Mark 3.13-19
Sebastian (c256-288) was a soldier who came from Milan to enlist at Rome around the year 283. The Emperor Diocletian, who did not know that Sebastian was a Christian, made him a Captain of the Praetorian guards. In 286 his Christian faith was revealed. Diocletian commanded him to be bound to a stake in the middle of a field where Mauritanian archers would shoot arrows at him. Miraculously, though pierced with a large number of arrows and abandoned for dead, he survived and was nursed back to health by St Irene of Rome.
He positioned himself on a stairway by which Diocletian was going to pass and harangued the Emperor for his cruelties against Christians. Diocletian ordered him to be seized and cudgelled to death. His body was thrown into a sewer, but was removed by Christians and buried in the Catacombs of Calixtus. His tomb was frequently visited by pilgrims.
In the Middle Ages Sebastian was regarded as a saint with a special ability to intercede for victims of plague, and devotion to him markedly increased during plague times. He is the patron of doctors and of policemen.