August 5, 2017

Holy Hieromartyr Fabian I, Pope of Rome (+ 250)

St. Fabian of Rome (Feast Day - August 5)


Fabian the sacrificer of Christ lies dead,
Brought before Christ as a new sacrifice by the sword.

Eusebius of Caeasarea writes the following concerning the election of Fabian, also known as Fabianus, as Bishop of Rome (Church History, 6, 29):

"Gordianus succeeded Maximinus as Roman emperor; and Pontianus, who had been bishop of the church at Rome for six years, was succeeded by Anteros. After he had held the office for a month, Fabianus succeeded him.

They say that Fabianus having come, after the death of Anteros, with others from the country, was staying at Rome, and that while there he was chosen to the office through a most wonderful manifestation of divine and heavenly grace.

For when all the brethren had assembled to select by vote him who should succeed to the episcopate of the church, several renowned and honorable men were in the minds of many, but Fabianus, although present, was in the mind of none. But they relate that suddenly a dove flying down lighted on his head, resembling the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Savior in the form of a dove.

Thereupon all the people, as if moved by one Divine Spirit, with all eagerness and unanimity cried out that he was worthy, and without delay they took him and placed him upon the episcopal seat."

Fabian was the Bishop of Rome from 10 January 236 to his death in 250.

During Fabian's reign of fourteen years, there was a lull in the storm of persecution which had resulted in the exile of both Anterus' predecessor Pontian and the antipope (and later saint) Hippolytus. Fabian had enough influence at court to effect the return of the bodies of both of these martyrs from Sardinia, where they had died at hard labor in the mines. The report that he baptized the emperor Philip the Arab and his son, however, is probably a legend, although he did seem to enjoy some connections at court, since the bodies of Pontian and Hippolytus could not have been exhumed without the emperor's approval.

According to the sixth-century historian Gregory of Tours, Fabian sent out the "apostles to the Gauls" to Christianise Gaul in 245. Fabian sent seven bishops from Rome to Gaul to preach the Gospel: Gatianus of Tours to Tours, Trophimus of Arles to Arles, Paul of Narbonne to Narbonne, Saturnin to Toulouse, Denis to Paris, Austromoine to Clermont, and Saint Martial to Limoges. He also condemned Privatus, the originator of a new heresy in Africa.

The Liber Pontificalis says that Fabian divided the Christian communities of Rome into seven districts, each supervised by a deacon. He adds that he appointed seven subdeacons to help collect the acta of the martyrs — the reports of the court proceedings on the occasion of their trials. His deeds are thus described in the Liber Pontificalis: "He divided the regiones into deaconships and made seven sub-deaconships which seven secretaries oversaw, so that they brought together the deeds of the martyrs faithfully made whole, and he brought forth many works in the cemeteries."

The Liberian Catalogue of the popes also reports that Fabian initiated considerable work on the catacombs, where honored Christians were buried, and where he also caused the body of Pope Pontian to be entombed at the catacomb of Saint Callixtus.

With the advent of Emperor Decius, the Roman government's tolerant policy toward Christianity temporarily ended. Decius ordered leading Christians to demonstrate their loyalty to Rome by offering incense to the cult images of deities which represented the Roman state. This was unacceptable to many Christians, who took the commandment against idolatry with deadly seriousness. Fabian was thus one of the earliest victims of Decius, dying as a martyr on 20 January 250, either while in prison or by the sword.

Fabian was buried in the catacomb of Callixtus in Rome. The Greek inscription on his tomb has survived, and bears the words:

“Fabian, Bishop, Martyr.”

His remains were later reinterred at the Basilica of Saint Sebastian in Rome by Pope Clement XI where the Albani Chapel is dedicated in his honor.