Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turn Him Loose

We interrupt this liturgy discussion for an interesting side note.

Today is the feast of St. Fabian.

No, not that guy. This guy:

He was the bishop of Rome in the middle of the 3rd century. (Today they say he was the pope, but it was still a little while before the bishop of Rome was accepted as the Church's international head honcho. As bishop of Rome, though, he had a huge job.) He was apparently a very good man, and martyred after 14 years in office.

And -- he was a lay man. That's right, before becoming the pope he was not a bishop, priest or deacon. In fact, as the story goes he was just some farmer that visited Rome after the death of the prior pope, like people do today, to pay their respects and see who's elected.

The electors in their meeting -- clergy and lay people of Rome -- prayed that God would send them a sign as to who they should elect. And supposedly a dove landed on this man's head.

And so they unanimously elected him their bishop.

Now the circumstances are clearly bizarre. That sort of blind faith (and miraculous sign) is not something we see much today, or would accept as necessarily a wise hiring strategy, for that matter.

But it worked. According to his contemporary Cyprian, who himself was made a saint later, Fabian led his community very well.

One of the great things about daily liturgy is that over the course of the year you get to meet all these interesting people that are part of our history. It's like during the holidays when grandma starts telling stories. Your sense of the church, what it values and who it is, what it means to be in the family, as it were, gets a lot bigger. And you can discover great sources of inspiration and encouragement for your own life, as well.

Next time someone starts intoning about the the "place" of the "lay state", remember our brother and friend, St. Fabian.

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