Is Sablayan’s patron saint also the patron saint of homosexuals? Is Saint Sebastian really a gay icon? Some secular authors, mostly gay men, believe he is. Well, to begin with, Sebastian was an early Christian martyr killed in 288 on orders from the Roman emperor Diocletian. Through the years, he is the subject of countless artworks that show him being shot with arrows. We people living in Sablayan are familiar with that very scene embodied in a statue we find at the gate of our parish church. Sebastian’s feast day, as we all know, falls every January 20. The Colegio de San Sebastian or CDSS here was also named after him.
Yes, many Catholics abroad, especially those who are gays believe that Saint Sebastian is indeed the “Patron Saint of Homosexuals”. But is he officially really? The gay community all over the world portrayed the saint in various ways as gay but I will not describe them here because personally for me they are all extremely unacceptable if not sacrilegious like Ted Fusby’s 2001 painting called “St. Sebastian”. Besides, there is no solid historical evidence to back up such claim. I am not a homophobic and my gay and lesbian friends know that. I really respect respectable (repeat, R-E-S-P-E-C-T-A-B-L-E) people who belong even to the LGBT circle. Those who wear cassocks or soldier uniforms included.
Catholic apologists are firm in saying that the men and women who created the gay icons saw the baroque paintings of Sebastian which depicted him tied to a tree, half naked, with a muscular body, and young facial features. They are the Renaissance and baroque artists whose works inspired an explicitly homosexual cult of Saint Sebastian in the 19th century. They, according to the Catholic writers, then decided to pervert his image and turn it into pornography like that of Fusby. St. Sebastian also made it to the popular culture. Tennessee Williams for one named his martyred gay character Sebastian in “Suddenly, Last Summer”. In Frederick Rolfe's novel, “The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole” published in 1934 features a hero with a character named Sebastian Archer. For me, it matters not if St. Sebastian was gay or not. I’m judging Sebastian, or any individual for that matter, on his/her faith, manners and deeds and not on his/her sexual preference.
Sebastian was a soldier, a Christian who was raised and schooled in Milan and a captain of the Praetorian Guard, a band of elite of archers who were well trained in combat. Since the Roman Empire hated the Christians, Sebastian did a lot of clandestine or underground works, so to speak, to avoid persecution. He protected those who are being tortured and murdered for their faith. It was said that when he was finally discovered to be a Christian, in 286, he was handed over to the Mauretanian archers who pierced him with arrows. He was healed, however, by St. Irene. He was finally killed by the blows of a club. But Sebastian, like the early settlers of Sablayan, never abandoned their faith and their trust in God especially during times of crises, be it man made or natural, the Moro pirates’ attacks or tidal waves or both. St. Sebastian's appeal is universal. In a world that often overwhelms us, we Catholics look to him in hopes of sharing in the vitality that made him steadfast in life and in faith like the early residents of Dongon, Sablayan’s first community or settlement area. These are the traits of our forebears that we should inherit and keep alive.
Officially, Saint Sebastian is the Patron Saint of Athletes because he was a centurion and extremely fit and able to withstand long physical endurance, but certainly not of homosexuals, even though there are many homosexuals who are also extremely fit and able to withstand long physical endurance. But I have no qualms if gay people pray to him and become their role model and example. Especially the gay people who are also somewhat “tied to a tree” by people and powerful institutions, especially those faith-based, of power and shot with “arrows” of prejudices, typecasting and unfair treatment.
Viva San Sebastian! Advance fiesta greetings to all and through the years, may we all be gay, I mean, happy.....
(Photo : saintssqpn)