Tuesday, January 19, 2010


“St. Fabian”
by Giovanni di Paolo, 1650’s


Biographical Information about St. Fabian[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Fabian

Readings and Commentary:

1 Peter 5:1-4

I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing it not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the Hock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Commentary on
1 Pt 5:1-4

St. Peter, first among the Apostles, concludes his first letter writing specifically to those who have been appointed to lead local Christian communities. These individuals would have been appointed by the Apostles as they traveled on their missionary journeys.  He provides a view of leadership consistent with Christ’s teaching and contradicting the Jewish leadership style which was authoritarian. He exhorts the Presbyters or Elders to offer their service as a gift to God and provide leadership through their example of humility.

"St Gregory the Great teaches that the pastor of souls "should always give the lead, to show by his example the way to life, so that his flock (who follow the voice and the actions of the pastor) are guided more by example than by words; his position obliges him to speak of elevated things, and also to manifest them personally; the word more easily gains access to the hearts of hearers when it carries with it the endorsement of the life of him who when giving instructions assists in their fulfillment by his own example" ("Regulae Pastoralis Liber", 2, 3)."[3]

CCC: 1 Pt 5:3 893, 1551; 1 Pt 5:4 754
Psalm 40:2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
R. Here I am. Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Commentary on
Ps 40:2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

Psalm 40 is a song of thanksgiving. Emphasis is placed on the call by God and response by the psalmist. Salvation is for those whose hearts and actions proclaim their faithfulness, not those who only offer sacrifice without atonement. The initial waiting is satisfied by favor shown by God to one who is faithful in service to Him. Praise and thanksgiving are given to God whose justice is applied to all.

CCC: Ps 40:2 2657; Ps 40:7-9 LXX 462; Ps 40:7 2824
John 21:15-17

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and
eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
"Do you love me?" and he said to him,
"Lord, you know everything; you know that 1 love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
Commentary on
Jn 21:15-17

Following the third revelation to the disciples as they were fishing at the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus now focuses on Peter, making sure he understands his role in the foundation of the Church. The triple confession of Peter reverses his earlier denial of the Lord the night of the Passion (Matthew 26:69ff; Mark 14:29-31, 66-72; John 13:36-38, 18:15-18, 18:25-27). This is also a key passage, identified by the Church as Christ’s post-resurrection assignment of Peter to be the shepherd of the Church – essentially establishing the beginning of Apostolic Succession.

CCC: Jn 21:13-15 645; Jn 21:15-17 553, 881, 1429, 1551

St. Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day. This happened just as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of the saint. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in 250 A.D. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered St. Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

We ask ourselves on this, St. Fabian’s Memorial: do we hear the call of the Lord to “Feed my lambs” as he did?  In many ways St. Fabian was like us. He was not a person of prominence. He was not a “Prince of the Church” who ascended to primacy. He was, by all accounts, a farmer. Yet when called to serve as Bishop of Rome in the turbulent and dangerous first centuries of Holy Mother Church, he accepted the heavy mantle. Further, he served selflessly for 14 years, putting in place an infrastructure that would serve as a framework upon which the Church could grow with strong roots. Indeed St. Fabian fed the flock the Lord had commended to his care.

We pray for his intercession on this day, asking that his prayers strengthen us as we seek to find the path the Lord has asked us to walk. We hope always to feed the lambs, as first St. Peter did, as St. Fabian did, and all his successors have done since having been called to do so.


[1] The picture is “St. Fabian” by Giovanni di Paolo, 1650’s
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

[3] The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp. 346

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