He lived from: 5 A.D. – 34 A.D
Feast Day: 26th December
Related Article : St Martin de Porres
“Look! I see heaven open. The Son of Man is standing at God’s right hand.”
The name Stephen means Crown. St. Stephen was the first Christian Martyr and Deacon of the Catholic faith. He is believed to have been a Greek Jew who subsequently converted to Christianity. At this time of year, we sing the hymn:
Good King Wencelas last looked out on the Feast of Stephen and this is the Stephen to whom it is referred.
Not much is known of his early life. Reference to him first appears in the Bible at Acts Chapter 6. As the word of Jesus spread, the number of Disciples increased as did the number of believers. During that time, there was a lot of confusion over the distribution of alms and service to the poor. Stephen was seen as a trustworthy character and this led him to be chosen as one of the seven Deacons who would perform such works. He was an excellent speaker and his preaching style was so effective.
He was full of God’s power and grace and he carried out great miracles amongst the people. As time went on, he was accused of blasphemy and he was made to stand trial at the Jewish Law Court, called the Sanhedrin. And what was his crime? He was accused of talking against Moses, Abraham and God Himself, which was untrue. The Sanhedrin did not want to hear anyone talking about Jesus because they did not believe that He was the true Son of God.
At the trial, Stephen vehemently defended the faith and recalled the many mercies that God had given the children of Israel and the ungrateful way in which they had repaid Him. He accused them of murdering Jesus, whose Coming, Stephen said, had been foretold by Moses in the Old Testament. This angered all who were present and he was dragged out onto the streets. He was then stoned to death according to the Law at that time. As he was dying, he called out to God to forgive his killers. This event was witnessed by St. Paul.
It was believed that Stephen was initially buried in a grave to the north of Jerusalem. Subsequently, his body was exhumed and moved to a new grave outside the Damascus Gate. The Basilica of St Stephen was built to commemorate the site of his grave.
St. Stephen was canonised by Pope Gregory VII in 1083.
When boys and girls are invited to become altar servers they are joining The Guild of St. Stephen which is an international organisation. It was founded in England in 1904 by Fr Hamilton McDonald at the Sacred Heart Convent in London. In 1905 Pope Pius X sanctioned the establishment of the Guild at Westminster Cathedral allowing all parish branches to be linked to it. Altar Servers are presented with the Bronze Medal.
The motto is: I offer myself to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary, our Mother and to our holy patron St. Stephen
Thank you for reading and God Bless,