Fabiola, by Cardinal Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, sweeps the reader to the early persecutions of 302 A.D. with pagans thirsty for Christian blood. This 616 page book, published by Lepanto Press, copyright 1997, takes place in Rome when oppression is at its summit.

The character focus is on Fabiola, a young haughty Roman noblewoman. Martyrs shed their blood for the prosperity of the Church and for the conversion of sinners. Their examples are outstanding and though they do not know it, the conversion of the proud Fabiola will someday be the fruit of their sufferings.

The persecution of Rome, 302 A.D. is just getting off the ground with many rumors being spread about “these dangerous Christians.”

Followers of Christ are thrown into prisons to await their cruel tortures and crueler deaths. The Christians live a risky life but all bravely face death for the sake of Christ and His Church.

The reader gets a glimpse of the pagan lifestyle, too. Amid the wealth and parties, Fabiola notices that worldly pleasures lack sufficient happiness.

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The Haughty Fabiola

There are many characters in this historical drama. Some lead good and holy lives like Sebastian, while others are wicked and cruel like Fulvius. The main character is the young Roman Fabiola.

Fabiola considers herself very smart and invincible. Yet she feels like she is missing something. As the story unfolds she discovers that she is missing the One true Church of the “hated” Christians.

At first she is blind to this knowledge because she believes what the rest of Rome believes: Christians are dangerous. Because of her ignorance she will struggle to find truth.

The Innocent Agnes

None other than the devout St. Agnes is the cousin of the main character, Fabiola. The saintly Agnes is turned over the the Tribune after refusing the pagan Fulvius' suit as she has taken a vow of virginity. The day before her martyrdom, Agnes begs Fabiola to apply herself to the doctrines of Christianity. The door is thus opened to Fabiola, who admires Agnes' virtues but never assuming that they were credited to her Christian Faith. 

The Valiant Sebastian

St. Sebastian also has an important part to play in the yarn of the conversion of pagan Rome. He is "a perfect specimen of a noble-hearted youth, full of honor and generous thoughts; strong and brave, without a particle of pride or display in him.

He is also a fine example of true patriotism. When he defends that his Faith does not intervene with his loyalty to his emperor he tells the horrible Maximian, "If you want a body-guard around you of men who will spill their last drop of life's blood for you, go to the prison and take the Christians from the stocks...You have taken half their blood from them and they will give you willingly the other half." 

The death of St. Sebastian and many other martyrs won the conversion of many of the pagans who's lives are also threaded through the story.

Fabiola Novel Bottom Line:

The example of Our Lord made the martyrs; and the example of the martyrs leads us upward to Him. Their blood softens our hearts; His alone cleanses our souls. Theirs pleads for mercy; His bestows it. May the Church, in her days of peace and of victories, never forget what she owes to the age of her martyrs...we are indebted to it for our spiritual lives.


The Fabiola novel also teaches the reader many good lessons. Two that stuck out are:

  1. Fabiola herself realizes not only do the greedy end up penniless and the wise foolish, but the humble and the poor traits are attractive.
  2. You can not learn how to be smart and have a fortune, but you can teach yourself how to be poor and humble. Then can you be truly invincible and affluent.

Although the beginning of the book is slow, the story is excellent.

It is long but I would not remove a thing. When the story gets to the climax you can not put the book down! This true-to-life Fabiola novel gets the reader so wrapped up all will excuse the slow beginning.

I really liked the sudden surprises at the end: things happened that I never would have expected. I would recommend this story to dedicated readers as powering through is well worth it in the end.

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