Fabian of Rome
Fabian, whose feast we keep today, is probably not someone many of us spend time thinking about. Somewhat obscure, at least to our mind, he’s none the less a fascinating character, who intrigues me.
Born about the year 200, probably outside Rome, he became Bishop of Rome in the year 236 as a result of a series of accidents. Eusebius of Caesarea gives an account of his election.
Fabian, we are told, was visiting Rome the day the Roman Church was gathered to elect a new bishop. Curious, Fabian joined the crowd. Eusebius goes on to say: a large number of eminent and distinguished men were in the thoughts of many, Fabian, who was present, came to no one’s mind. But suddenly, it is said, a dove fluttered down from above and settled upon his head, plainly following the example of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Saviour in the form of a dove. At this, as if moved by one divine inspiration, with the utmost enthusiasm all the people with one soul cried out “he is worthy”, and then and there they took him and set him upon the bishop’s throne.
Fabian went on to become an effective bishop for Rome and was martyred in the year 250 during the general persecution of Christians under the emperor Decian.
Curiously however, at the time of his election as bishop, Fabian was a stranger to Rome; was not one of the eminent or distinguished men being considered; was certainly not a priest or deacon; and was perhaps not even baptized. His election was thus either an accident, or an act of grace. Whatever it was, it was totally unexpected.
And that is what I find fascinating about Fabian, and perhaps most intriguing about God, for God often works in unexpected ways: a king born in a stable; a criminal raised from the dead; a sip of wine and a small piece of bread that nourishes the soul; women and men given the courage to face persecution and even death; the discovery of my own worth and value, no matter what has gone before. Over and again God works in surprising and unexpected, almost accidental ways. Yet the accident of faith is no accident. It is grace. It is grace and not accident that is found in the manger. It is grace and not accident that raised Jesus from the dead. It is grace and not accident that bread and wine become Body and Blood and nourish our souls. It is grace and not accident that gives martyrs the courage to face their death. It is grace and not accident that reveals to us our worth in the eyes of God. It was grace and not accident that Fabian was chosen bishop.
Many, perhaps you, reflect on the accidents of your life. Fabian, however, invites us to reflect, not on the accidents of our life, but on the grace of it.
 Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, 6, 29: Loeb ii, 80 – 83
 See Matthew 10: 29 – 30
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