One of only two films ever made in Latin is ostensibly about the saint we celebrate on Wednesday, Sebastian. The film is a flight of fancy, but so similarly are the plethora of pictures and statues we have of the saint because we know little beyond the fact that he was martyred and buried on the Appian Way in Rome. Sebastian is depicted in art shot through with arrows, and perhaps it is this legend that made him a popular subject for artists. What we can be sure of is that Sebastian died for his Christian faith because his cult is found early on in the history of the Roman Church.
A Christian martyr like Sebastian is a witness not to death but to life. The martyrs were and are able to sacrifice their lives because they were and are convinced on the resurrection of Christ. They know that he is the way, the truth and the life, and so are able to lay down their lives. At the heart of Catholic worship is the Mass. There we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. The martyrs, through their celebration of this mystery were and are able to imitate Christ. We are called to do so as well, not so much by laying down our lives but by opening them up more fully to the life that Jesus brings. P.D.