St. Sebastian was one of the first Christian martyrs. He was born in Gallia, Narbonne in a wealthy Roman family. After finishing his studies he joined the Imperial Army. St. Sebastian showed great professional skill and quickly was promoted to be the Captain of the Praetorian Guard by the emperor Diocletian.
St. Sebastian from a very young age had an immeasurable love for his neighbors and a great faith in Jesus Christ. He was a pious man who expressed an inclination well marked for those who suffered persecution. When the Emperor Diocletian, under the influence of Galerius, began persecuting Christians in the year 303, St. Sebastian visited them in the prison and secretly brought them food and comfort. He did many acts of charity and love. The tradition tells that he healed the wife of a soldier with just making the sign of the cross. He also healed many others and a governor.
When St. Sebastian was finally discovered that he was a Christian, the Roman soldiers turned him over to the Mauritanian archers, who tied him to a tree and shot arrows to his body. Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him. St. Sebastian survived the wounds of this torture and was healed by the widow St. Irene. Then, he returned to preach the gospel and to defend the Christians from Diocletian, who finally had him beaten to death and his body thrown in a privy. His followers rescued his body and gave him sacred burial at the Catacombs on the Via Apia in Rome. These Catacombs are now called the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, where a basilica was built over his tomb in the year 367. Then in the year 826, the relics of St. Sebastian were transferred to St. Medard Soissons, where a temple was built in his honor. Finally the current church of St. Sebastian was completed in 1611 by Cardinal Scipio Borghese.
The infections produced by the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the fourteenth century, made people compare the "random attacks" of this plague with attacks by arrows. In their despair these people searched for the intersection of a saint, who was martyred by arrows. Sebastian was accounted a defense against the plague. Legenda Aurea transmits the episode of a great plague that afflicted the Lombards in the time of King "Gumburt" and was stopped by the erection of an altar to Saint Sebastian in the church of Saint Peter, Pavia. Since that date, St. Sebastian is considered the patron saint against deadly disease. Answers to prayers for protection against the epidemic, were proved in Rome in 860, Milan in 1575 and in Lisbon in 1599.
The oldest mosaic of San Sebastian probably belongs to the year 682. It shows a bearded man with court dress, but it did not present any characterization of arrows. It was during the Renaissance period that he was first portrayed as a young man punched by the arrows. The feast of Saint Sebastian is on 20th January.
St. Sebastian in Diriamba
The Spanish Bishop, Augustine Morel of Santa Cruz, came to Diriamba in 1752 to conduct an inventory of the cities of Nicaragua mandated by King Ferdinand VII.The bishop noted in his report that he found in the small church of Diriamba, a wooden image of St. Sebastian, who had an incredible human expression in his face, and that the inhabitants considered him a saint that performed great miracles. By the time this Bishop arrived in Diriamba, the city had been celebrated the feast of this Saint for many years on January the 20th.
The people of Diriamba told the Bishop Morel the following history:
According to the tradition, around the year 1700, a Spanish vessel, which was sailing off the coast of Nicaraguan to a route to Peru, found a rough sea lifting large waves. The captain, seeing that there was a real danger of sinking, ordered that the heavy-lift were launch to the turbulent ocean. The crew launched out of the ship, among other things, two large boxes. When these boxes made contact with the water, the sea calmed down immediately. The ship continued its voyage safely, while the crew watched the amazed miracle. The two boxes were floating gently as driven by "Angels" to the coast of Nicaragua.
Some fishermen from the beach what is now known as La Boquita Beach, rescued the heavy boxes, opened them and found inside two beautiful image of two saints; St. Sebastian and Santiago. The authorities of the place ordered the fishermen to bring the image of St. Sebastian to the town of Jinotepe and the image of Santiago to the town of Diriamba. However, the next day the images appeared in different places, St. Sebastian in the church of Diriamba and Santiago in the church of Jinotepe. Because of this “miracle” the image of St. Sebastian would remain forever in the church of Diriamba and the image of Santiago in Jinotepe
For more than 300 years, the people of Nicaragua have considered St. Sebastian a noble Saint that God uses to performed great miracles. He is the Patron of the city of Diriamba. The catholic church celebrates, on January the 20th, the solemnity of his day, remembering all the good things this saint did while he walked on earth. The celebration honors the meaning of its name, as Sebastian means “worthy of respect and venerable”.
The popular and traditional culture of Diriamba is proclaimed by the religious spirit of its people during the celebration of the feast of San Sebastian. During his feast, St. Sebastian is visited by thousands of people from all the cities of Nicaragua. Among them, there are dozens of people who come Diriamba to pay their "promises" for a miracle received by the intersection of the Saint. The more common promise is to walk on knees several blocks during the procession of the saint.
Prayer to St. Sebastian
Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be also 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 the people of Diriamba be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been. Amen.
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