01/22/2020, 13.25
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Buddhist prays to Saint Sebastian and thanks him for blessings received

by Melani Manel Perera

Prabahath Gamage, 62, came close to losing his life as a child. He was healed by invoking the forgiveness of the Christian martyr, whom he had offended in a gesture he took lightly.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Prabahath Gamage is a Sinhalese Buddhist with deep devotion to a Christian martyr, who healed him from incurable pain, which even the doctors could not treat.

“I pray to Saint Sebastian and thank him from the bottom of my heart for all the gifts I have received,” he said. “From the day I recovered I pray to Saint Sebastian wherever I go, in every church, and I pay him homage on his feast day.”

Monday, 20 January marked the saint’s memorial. Sebastian was a senior officer in the army of Imperial Rome at the time of Emperor Diocletian (244-313 AD).

Thanks to his position, he helped imprisoned Christians, buried the martyrs and spread Christianity among officers and soldiers and at court.

The emperor sentenced him to death twice: the first time he was pierced by arrows shot by fellow soldiers but survived; the second time he was clubbed to death.

Prabahath, 62, is now retired after working in healthcare. He lives in the Moratuwa area, is married and has a daughter. His wife works in Colombo’s main library whilst his daughter is studying software engineering.

“Every year,” he said, “on the feast day I go to church, attend the liturgical service, light a candle and kiss the feet of the statue of Saint Sebastian. I extend my thanks and honour to him.”

Today he is in good health but as a boy he risked losing his life. “It all started when I was a teenager. Many Catholics and other Christians live in the Moratuwa area. I was on good terms with them and had many trusted friends. On Wednesdays I went to church to attend the novena; the other days I went to the temple and followed my Buddhist religion.”

One evening, on the eve of the saint's feast, “I was with friends who were decorating the pandol[i] (marquee) and the procession for the next day. There was a small statue of Saint Sebastian, I took it and started dancing. A friend's grandmother scolded me for that offensive gesture.

“I didn't pay attention to it and went home. As soon as I arrived, I had severe stomach pain. It was an unbearable pain; I was screaming endlessly. Then the pain turned into loss of movement.”

Prabahath remembers “thinking about dying. No drugs eased the pain. I realised that I was sick from what I had done to the statue of San Sebastian. I had offended him. At that point I invoked his forgiveness and implored: 'Please heal me from this suffering, I promise that I will never do it again. Tonight, I will go to decorate the pandol.”

As soon as he said the last word, “the pain disappeared. At that point my mother told me to go to church and ask for forgiveness for my insult. I witnessed his power and can bear witness to his love with honesty.

“I started praying to Saint Sebastian from that moment any time I needed strength, a blessing and guidance. His love is powerful. When my daughter caught dengue fever, I prayed and begged for her to be healed. And so it was. All the time I ask for forgiveness for my weaknesses as a boy.”

“We are all human beings and we must live together as brothers and sisters, even if we profess different religions. Separation brings nothing good. We must respect all religions and their leaders.”

[i] A structure erected for festivals, usually religiously-themed, also known as pandal.

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