Saint of the Day ~ February 16

SAINT ONESIMUS (1st century), disciple of Saint Paul

Today, the Church honors Saint Onesimus, a faithful disciple of Saint Paul and about whom we read in Paul’s Letters to Philemon and the Colossians.

Onesimus was a Phrygian by birth (a native of what is now modern-day Turkey) and a slave to Philemon, a person of influence who had been converted to the faith by Saint Paul, probably while both were in the city of Ephesus. Having offended his master and been obliged to flee, Onesimus sought out Saint Paul, who was then being held a prisoner under house arrest in Rome.

The Apostle baptized him and came to consider Onesimus as his own spiritual son. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with the beautiful but brief Letter of only one chapter which we find in the New Testament and known as the Epistle to Philemon, asking Philemon to accept him “…no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me” (Philemon 16-18).

Paul suggests further that he would like to have Onesimus work with him for the ministry of the Gospel (see Philemon 13), for we hear Onesimus mentioned in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, as accompanying Tychicus in ministry to the Church at Colossae as “…a trustworthy and beloved brother, who is one of you” (Colossians 4:9b).

It is not certain whatever became of Onesimus or how he died. There are some Biblical scholars who believe this Onesimus is also the one mentioned in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and is the one who was the bishop of Ephesus and died as a martyr by being stoned to death in Rome around the year 95. Whether the Onesimus we read about in the Bible is the same as the one who was martyred for his faith, there is little actual evidence connecting this Onesimus with the bishop of the same name.

We do know that the Onesimus, whose memory we celebrate today, was a faithful disciple of Saint Paul and a true believer in Jesus Christ.

We commemorate his feastday on February 16.

(From,,,, and The Holy Bible)



(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Men)

“All-powerful God, help us who celebrate the memory of Saint Onesimus to imitate his way of life. May the example of Your saints be our challenge to live holier lives.

“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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