Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: January 20
Eusebius, born just a few years after Fabian's death, tells us how
Fabian came to Rome after Pope Anteros died in 236. A layperson, and not
a very important one, he may have come for the same reason many still
come to Rome today during a papal election. He had concern for the
future of the faith, curiosity about the new pope, and a desire to
grieve for the pope who had passed. Seeing all the important people
gathered to make this momentous decision must have been overwhelming.
Which one would be the new pope? Someone known for power? Someone known
for eloquence? Someone known for courage?
Suddenly during the discussion, a dove descended from the ceiling. But
it didn't settle on "someone known" for anything at all. The dove,
according to Eusebius, "settled on Fabian's head as clear imitation of
the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon the Savior."
There must have been something of the Holy Spirit working because
everyone suddenly proclaimed Fabian as "worthy" to be pope and this
stranger was elected.
To us the dove signifies peace, and this dove was prophetic. Starting
close to Fabian's election, the suffering and persecuted Church began a
time of peace. The emperor, Philip, was friendly to Christians and not
only was the persecution stopped but Christians experienced acceptance.
In this era of peace, Fabian was able to build up the structure of the
Church of Rome, appointing seven deacons and helping to collect the acts
of the martyrs.
But, in a timeless story, the people who had always been in power were
not happy to see the newcomers growing and thriving. There were many
incidents of pagans attacking Christians and killing them even though it
was a time of peace. The new emperor, Decius, ordered all Christians to
deny Christ by offering incense to idols or through some other pagan
ritual. In the few years of peace, the Church had grown soft. Many
didn't have the courage to stand up to martyrdom. But Fabian, singled
out by symbol of peace, stood as a courageous example for everyone in
his flock. He died a martyr in 250 and is buried in the Cemetery of
Calixtus that he helped rebuild and beautify. A stone slab with his name
can still be found there.