St. Onesimus
February 15, Saint

Source: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Saints by Alban Butler


Roman Martyrology: The commemoration of blessed Onesimus, whom Saint Paul the Apostle rescued as a fugitive slave, and whom he begot as a son in Christ while in chains, as Paul himself wrote to Philemon, the master of Onesimus.

Etymology: Helpful; profitable.


He was a Phrygian by birth, slave to Philemon, a person of note of the city of Colossæ, converted to the faith by St. Paul. Having robbed his master, and being obliged to fly, he providentially met with St. Paul, then a prisoner for the faith at Rome, who there converted and baptized him, and sent him with his canonical letter of recommendation to Philemon, by whom he was pardoned, set at liberty, and sent back to his spiritual father, whom he afterwards faithfully served. That apostle made him, with Tychicus, the bearer of his epistle to the Colossians, and afterwards, as St. Jerom, and other fathers witness, a preacher of the gospel, and a bishop. The Greeks say he was crowned with martyrdom under Domitian, in the year 95, and {419} keep his festival on the 15th. Bede, Ado, Usuard, the Roman and other Latin martyrologists mention him on the 16th of February.

Baronius and some others confound him with St. Onesimus, the third bishop of Ephesus, after St. Timothy, who was succeeded first by John, then by Caius. This Onesimus showed great respect and charity to St. Ignatius, when on his journey to Rome, in 107, and is highly commended by him.

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