Saint Onesimus, Martyr
Onesimus was a slave of Philemon, a person of note of the city of Colossae in Phrygia who had been converted to the faith by St. Paul. Having robbed his master, and being obliged to fly, he met with St. Paul, then a prisoner for the faith at Rome, who converted and baptized him, and entrusted him with his canonical letter of recommendation to Philemon. By him, it seems, Onesimus was pardoned, set at liberty and sent back to his spiritual father, whom he afterwards faithfully served, for apparently St. Paul made him, with Tychicus, the bearer of his epistle to the Colossians, and afterwards, as St. Jerome and other fathers witness, a prescher of the gospel and a bishop. Baronius and others confound him with St. Onesimus, the bishop of Ephesus some time after St. Timothy, who showed great respect and charity to St. Ignatius when on his journey to Rome in 107, and is highly commended by him.
The Roman Martyrology devotes a notice to Onesimus, identifying him with this bishop of Ephesus, consecrated to that see by St. Paul (!) after the episcopate of St. Timothy, and stating further that he was brought in chains to Rome, was there stoned to death, and that his remains were afterwards taken beck to Ephesus. The so-called "Apostolic Constitutions", an apocryphal document of the end of the fourth century (bk vii, c. 46), describes Onesimus as bishop of Beroea in Macedonia, and affirms at the same time that his former master Philemon became bishop of Colossae. Nothing of this clearly is any more worthy of credit than the fantastic story which represents him as being the companion in Spain of the supposed martyrs Xanthippe and Polyxena and as being the compiler of the "acts" of their martyrdom. The fact is that Onesimus was a very common name, espically for those of servile condition, and that anyone bearing such a name who became prominent was likely to be identified with the Onesimus of the New Testament.
Nothing is known of Onesimus except what can be gleaned from the Epistle to Philemon and the possible reference in Colossians iv 7-9.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII