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Before praying the midday Angelus on this feast of St. Stephen, Pope Francis invited the faithful to reflect about our prayer for our brothers and sisters who suffer persecution.
Stephen, the Pope said, noting the account as told in Acts of the Apostles, “cannot but bear witness to what is most precious to him: He bears witness to his faith in Jesus, and this unleashes the wrath of his adversaries.”
Today, two thousand years later, unfortunately we see that the persecution continues: there is persecution of Christians. There are still those – and there are many of them – who suffer and die to bear witness to Jesus, just as there are those who are penalized at various levels for the fact of acting in a way consistent with the Gospel, and those who strive every day to be faithful, without ado, to their good duties, while the world jeers and preaches otherwise.
These brothers and sisters may also seem to be failures, but today we see that it is not the case. Now as then, in fact, the seed of their sacrifices, which seems to die, germinates and bears fruit, because God, through them, continues to work miracles (cf. Acts18:9-10), changing hearts and saving men and women.
The Holy Father then invited us to ask ourselves:
Let us ask ourselves, then: do I care about and pray for those who, in various parts of the world, still suffer and die for the faith today? So many who are murdered for their faith. And in turn, do I try to bear witness to the Gospel consistently, with meekness and confidence? Do I believe that the seed of goodness will bear fruit even if I do not see immediate results?
“May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help us bear witness to Jesus,” he prayed.
May the 1st Martyr pray for those suffering
After the Angelus, he entrusted to St. Stephen the peoples who are suffering because of war:
I also entrust the invocation of peace of war-torn peoples to the intercession of the first Martyr. The media show us what war produces: we have seen Syria, we see Gaza. Think of tormented Ukraine. A desert of death. Is this what we want? The peoples want peace. Let us pray for peace. Let us strive for peace.
Let wonder turn to adoration
The Holy Father also made an invitation to contemplate the Nativity scene:
I invite you to pause before the large Nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Square, inspired by the one Saint Francis made in Greccio eight hundred years ago. As you observe the statues, you will see a common feature on their faces and in their poses: wonder. You will see a wonder that becomes adoration. May we let ourselves be struck by awe before the birth of the Lord. I wish that you preserve this in yourselves: the wonder that becomes adoration.