St. Sebastian – Pray for Us!

18 Jan

If you have (or ever have had) children in Catholic schools around here, chances are good that they played sports at some point. And if that’s the case, then the chances are even better that you know the Inter-City Catholic League (ICCL) Athlete’s Prayer by heart. It’s recited before every Catholic school match-up, and it ends with this enthusiastic invocation: “Saint Sebastian, pray for us!”

Why St. Sebastian? If you didn’t already know, your student-athletes would’ve filled you in long ago: Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes, of course!

We know very little about the real St. Sebastian except that he was a martyr and that he was buried in the Roman catacombs. St. Ambrose, the 4th- century bishop of Milan, confidently wrote that Sebastian originally hailed from his city and that he perished under Emperor Diocletian, but all other stories about Sebastian date from the 5th century, and, while edifying, are entirely fictitious. Fictitious as well are the many depictions of a muscular St. Sebastian riddled with arrows – a popular Renaissance artistic theme.

What’s not fictitious is the value of St. Sebastian’s intercession – for safety, for sportsmanlike conduct, for maximum effort. Plus, as a martyr, Sebastian is certainly an excellent role model for our student-athletes (and all of us), regardless of the actual details of his story. “Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ,” Pope St. John Paul II observed, “that is, a faithful and courageous witness to his Gospel” – just like the real St. Sebastian. And Pope John Paul, himself no stranger to athletics, followed up his observation with some advice: “To succeed in this, he must persevere in prayer, be trained in virtue and follow the divine Master in everything.”

Those are the rules of the Christian game, according to the Holy Father. Moreover, as St. Paul insisted, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim 2.5).

This is the first weekend of Ordinary Time, and it coincides with the feast of St. Sebastian (January 20). He’s an ideal companion for us in our ordinary routines, day in and day out, as we follow the rules, strive for holiness, and seek the crown of heavenly glory.

Game on.

This meditation originally appeared in the Sunday bulletin of St. Joseph Parish, Mishawaka, Indiana.

One Response to “St. Sebastian – Pray for Us!”


  1. St. Sebastian – Pray for Us! | One Thousand Words a Week -

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