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: concern for the future of the faith, curiosity about the new
pope, 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
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 when Philip died so died the 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.
Pray for all places where the Church suffers
persecution and for all who face death, danger, or isolation for their faith. But pray especially
for all who live where the Church is accepted and thrives in peace that this peace will not make
their faith flabby and weak.
Pope Saint Fabian, it's so easy to believe that peace means a life
without conflict or suffering. Help us to see that the only true peace is the peace Christ brings.
Never let us as a Church or as individual Christians choose to deny our beliefs simply to avoid an
unpleasant situation. Amen