Making Catholic Memories: The Farmer who became Pope
Have you ever wanted to interview a saint? If you could, who would you choose? And how do you imagine the conversation? Would the saint be witty and sarcastic? Would he be quiet and serious? Would she hit you with so much conviction that you would change your life forever? What if you could only ask that saint one question? To our featured saint, I’d ask, “St. Fabian, what was going through your head at that moment?”
There is actually not a great deal written about St. Fabian. He was the twentieth pope and lived from about 200 to 250 AD. In 236 AD the Church was electing a new pope. The deliberations went on for days. A devout and hardworking farmer ventured into the city to watch the discussion when a dove miraculously descended from the sky and landed on his head. Everyone took it as a sign that God Himself chose Peter’s 19th successor. He was elected Pope and took the name Fabian.
Pope Fabian led the Church for 14 years. The symbol of peace that brought him to the Chair of St. Peter became his papacy’s character. He maintained good relationships with the Roman Empire, established a new structure for the Church in Rome, and assigned secretaries to document the acts of martyrs.
In his last year as pope a new Roman emperor, Decius, came to power and demanded that all Christians worship the Roman gods. St. Fabian set the supreme example for his flock by accepting death rather than denying his faith. He died a martyr, which saved the faith of many Christians after him.
What was going through St. Fabian’s mind when he realized that he was not only chosen for a bird’s roost, but as the next man to lead the entire Catholic Church? I imagine his first reaction was to run, hide or simply say, “You’ve got the wrong guy!” But it’s clear from his story that Pope St. Fabian was filled with faith and a deep trust in God’s divine providence. He knew that, no matter how crazy the situation, the Lord’s grace is sufficient. May we all be blessed with such bold confidence!