Deacon and Proto-Martyr (d. ca. 34)
+ Stephen, 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, he 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.
In many places, especially those that were previously part of the British Empire, December 26 is celebrated as “Boxing Day.” This observance possibly dates from the 17th century when tradespeople and servants collected “Christmas boxes” or money or gifts on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for their service throughout the year.
“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
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,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Prayer from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.