Proto-Martyr and Deacon (d. ca. 34)
+ Stephen was chosen to be one of the first seven deacons, was a man “full of grace and fortitude” who worked great wonders and signs among the people.
+ Accused of blasphemy against Moses and God, he was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin.
+ Thrown out of Jerusalem, he was stoned to death. Kneeling before his murderers, including Saul of Tarsus, Stephen cried out with a loud voice, “Behold, I see heaven thrown open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
+ Saint Stephen died around the year 34 and his supposed relics were discovered in 415. He is honored as a patron of stonemason and carvers.
For prayer and reflection
“In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, this commemoration may seem out of place. For Christmas is the celebration of life and it fills us with sentiments of serenity and peace. Why disturb the charm with the memory of such atrocious violence? In reality, from the perspective of faith, the Feast of Saint Stephen is in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas. In martyrdom, in fact, violence is conquered by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their ‘birth into heaven.’ Therefore, today we celebrate the ‘birth’ of Stephen, which in its depths springs from the Birth of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love him into a dawn of new life!”—Pope Francis
On this day, we also remember six women and children who were martyred in Ban Song Khon, Mukadahan, Thailand, on December 26, 1940. The martyrs honored include Blesseds Margarita Phila and Lusia Khambang (professed sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Xieng Vang), as well as Akatha Phuttha, Sesilia Butsi (age 16), Bibiana Khamphai (age 15), and Maria Phon (age 11). These six martyrs were beatified with Blessed Filip Siphon Onphithakt (d. December 16, 1940) in 1989.
Grant, Lord, we pray,
that we may imitate what we worship,
and so learn to love even our enemies,
for we celebrate the heavenly birthday
of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Prayer from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.