News from San Antonio Church – January 14, 2024

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Weekly Bulletin January 14, 2024

by Terrie Evans

On this 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time and during the next week, we celebrate the feast days of St. Anthony Abbot, St. Fabian, St. Sebastian and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that runs from January 18-25.  St. Anthony Abbot is known as the Father of Monasticism, for the form of life followed by those who withdraw from society in order to devote themselves totally to God through prayer, penance, and solitude. He is also known as a Father of All Monks and for his importance among the Desert Fathers who were small communities that began as Christian Monasteries.  They lived as hermits while spending time in the Egyptian Desert with a strict regime of Discipline, Obedience, Manuel Labor, Silence, Fasting, and spending long periods in Prayer.    He was born in Egypt in 251 and died in 356 with his feast day also celebrated among Eastern Orthodox Churches who went on to found monasteries for his many disciples.  He is credited with being invoked in a number of miraculous   healings particularly skin diseases such as ergotism, erysipelas and shingles which were referred to as St. Anthony’s Fire.  Anthony the Great was credited with assisting two local noblemen recover from the disease and for their cure, they founded the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony in his honor to specialize in skin diseases.  A center of veneration and pilgrimage known as Saint-Antoine-Abbaye in Isere, France was erected in 1297 to house is remains.  There are many depictions of St. Anthony such as the Torment of St. Anthony by Michaelangelo and the Four Tales of St. Anthony the Great by Vitale de Bologna.  A Prayer to St. Anthony the Abbot: “St. Anthony, you spoke of the importance of preserving in our faiths and our practice.  Help us to wake up each day with new zeal for the Christian life and a desire to take the next challenge instead of just sitting still.  Amen.” 

On Thursday, January 18th we welcome the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity an annual event between Ascension day and Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere and between January 18-25 in the Northern Hemisphere.  Established in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity, lasting 8 days to focus on prayer for church unity.  Father Paul Wattson from the Graymoor Franciscan Fathers proposed the week beginning on the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter and ending with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.  In the 1920’s, Protestant leaders proposed an annual Octave of prayer for unity among Christians leading up to Pentecost, on the traditional commemoration of the establishment of the Church.  In 1935, “The father of spiritual ecumenism”, Abbe Paul Couturier of Lyons, France proposed naming the observance “Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” and by 1948, this week became recognized by different churches throughout the world.  By 1968, the Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity which represents the entire Catholic Church, came together to prepare materials for the Week of Prayer.   In 2008, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrated its Centennial creating a theme for every year.  The theme for 2024, is “You shall love the Lord your God”.

On January 20th, the Catholic Church honors Pope Fabian, the Bishop of Rome during the years 236-250.  It is said he was chosen by the Holy Spirit to be the next Pope when a dove descended upon his head, marking him as the next Holy Father.  When this happened, it made many recall the Gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at the time of His Baptism by John The Baptist.  The whole congregation assumed the dove was a sign and with that, Fabian was then proclaimed the Bishop of Rome, the next Pope.  During the 14 years Pope Fabian reigned, there was a lull in the persecutions that resulted in many being exiled.  He divided the Christian communities of Rome into 7 districts with each one being supervised by a deacon.  Pope Fabian sent out the 7 Bishops of Rome to preach the Gospel to Gaul naming them “Apostles to the Gauls”.  Pope Fabian cataloged the deeds of the martyrs and did considerable research on the catacombs where some honored Christians were interred.  When Pope Fabian died on January 20, 250, he was interred in the catacomb of Callixtus in Rome at the entrance of the Apian Way, the first great highway of the Roman World linking Rome to the Port of Brindisi.  All Roman catacombs were located outside the city walls as it was illegal to bury the dead in the city.  Pope Fabian was buried among scores of martyrs with the inscription on his tomb: “Fabian, Bishop, Martyr”.  His remains were later reinterred by Pope Clement XI at San Sebastiano fuori le mura where the Albani Chapel is dedicated to him.  In 1936, the Church of Santi Fabiano e Venanzio a Villa Fiorelli was named in his honor.

January 20th is also the feast of St. Sebastian, born in the Roman Empire in 255 to a wealthy family.  Sebastain went on to become a Captain of the Soldiers who guarded the Roman Emperor who was not accepting of the Christian population.  He kept his views secret during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian fearing for those who would be martyred for their faith.  The Emperor finally found out about Sebastian and was disappointed that a soldier so close to him had been a believer in God.  Sebastian suffered cruelly being shot with arrows. A sentence from the Emperor.  He survived and appeared publicly to call on the cruelty of the Emperor to Christians.  Diocletian then sentenced Sebastian to death by clubbing.  His body was cast in a sewer until Christians buried his body on the Apian Way among other Christian Martyrs and 16 Popes are buried.  The Catacombe di San Sebastiano extend beneath the 4th Century Basilica of the same name.  He is celebrated among the Catholic Community in India and in Manila, Philippines, the San Sebastian College is located next to the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian.  He is the Patron of the Knights of Columbus Council #4926 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose California, and the St. Sebastian River in Florida is named in his honor. Due to his physical strength, St. Sebastain is the Patron of Athletes and is intercession his sought for cures against many afflictions and was formerly one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers who was a protector from the bubonic plague.  King Sebastian I of Portugal was born on the saint’s feast day and was named after him.

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