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Pope St. Fabian, stained glass window from the choir loft of St. Gratien church, Haussaire, Val d’ouse, Ile de France, France, artist unknown.

Today is the feast day of Pope Saint Fabian who was chosen as the 20th pope in 236 A.D., and who died as a martyr in 250 A.D.

St. Fabian’s story is an interesting one. Fabian was a layman farmer who happened to travel into Rome on the day a new pope was being elected to replace Pope Saint Anterus, who, after serving 40 days in his office, had been martyred.  Fabian wandered into the crowd which had assembled to select a new pope and suddenly a dove flew in, descended, and landed on Fabian’s head.  The gathered clergy and laity saw this, considered it a sign that the Holy Spirit was anointing Fabian, and unanimously chose him to be Pope by acclamation.  As Pope, Fabian helped bring Christianity to unconverted areas of Europe, fought heresies, worked to extend aid to the poor, and promoted and kept the faith in spite of certain persecution.

Think about that for a moment.  What would you have done had you been Fabian?  Run and hide?  Refuse the appointment?  To whom would your refusal be addressed, those gathered or the Holy Spirit?  Considering that the person before you had been killed because of his faith – would you have been afraid that, as leader of all Christians, you would meet the same fate?

Or would you have trusted in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit that you were being called to serve Him to lead His people?  Certainly, Fabian, as a layman farmer, had no outstanding qualifications as a clergyman to justify his calling.  But, God knew he was the right man at the right time.  I’m sure the phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those whom he calls” had yet to be coined.  Fabian’s faith must have been strong, taking to heart Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid”, as he placed his trust in God to lead him to do His will, each and every day, to the best of his ability.

Our culture may have evolved to where we don’t look at signs such as a dove landing on one’s head quite the same way.  Maybe that was the Holy Spirit’s way of catching people’s attention back then.  Today, most of us are literate and can read and, as such, we can receive the Holy Spirit through the sacred scripture of the Bible, God’s written Word, if we ask Him for it.  Through His Word, God is speaking to us, each individually, meeting us where we are at that moment, and giving us an idea of how He would like for us to be, or what we should do, to grow closer to Him that day.

These days we don’t have to fear for our lives quite like Fabian and other Christians did in the third century.  No, most of our fears revolve around losing worldly things to which we’ve become accustomed:  comfort, money and material possessions, power, status, social inclusion, deeply rooted vices, etc.  But, when we call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us each day as we hear the Word of God, we are often called to sacrifice one of those things that we hold near and dear so that we can grow in virtue, in holiness, and closer to Him.

Today, read or listen to the Word of God.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart so that you can hear what God is asking of you today.  If His will for you is to lose a bad habit or make a change in behavior, ask Him for the strength and courage to make the change. Maybe He’s asking you to love someone more.  Trust that He is asking these things of you because He wants you to be closer to Him, that He wants you to find joy and happiness which you can only find in Him.  Then, resolve to carry out His will.

Be like Pope Saint Fabian.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the desire to spend time with You in silence and solitude each day, to read Your Word, and to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and for the grace to do Your will with courage and trust.  Amen.”

(Be Like Pope Saint Fabian was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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