Feast of Saint Stephen
St. Stephen was Christianity’s first martyr. His story is told in the Acts of the Apostles. As he was was stoned to death outside the city, he cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He is the patron of bricklayers, stonemasons and numerous individual Christian churches.
The following is from St. Stephen, first Martyr on the Vatican News:
A young man filled with the Holy Spirit
Stephen was one of the first to follow the Apostles. It is believed that he was either Greek, or a Jew educated in Greek culture. What is certain is that he was greatly appreciated by the community in Jerusalem that his name appears first among the seven men chosen as deacons to assist the Apostles in their mission. A man “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,” we worked wonders and miracles – but some members of the synagogue stirred up the people against him, with the elders and scribes saying he had blasphemed against Moses and against God. In the days following Pentecost, Stephen was hauled before the Sanhedrin, and accused by false witnesses of preaching that Jesus would “destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
Martyrdom and prayer for his persecutors
Saint Stephen then gave a speech – the longest recorded in the Acts of the Apostles – in which he reviewed the history of salvation. God, he said, had prepared for the coming of Jesus, the Righteous One, but the leaders of the people had resisted the Holy Spirit, just as their fathers had persecuted the prophets. Stephen concluded his speech with the words, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” This final proclamation cost him dearly. With a loud cry, those present cast him out of the city “and began to stone him.”
“Just as Jesus on the Cross entrusted himself to the Father without reserve and pardoned those who killed him, at the moment of his death St Stephen prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; and further: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (cf. Acts 7: 59-60). Stephen was a genuine disciple of Jesus and imitated him perfectly. With Stephen began that long series of martyrs who sealed their faith by offering their lives, proclaiming with their heroic witness that God became man to open the Kingdom of Heaven to humankind.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 26, 2005
To learn about all the Christmas Season feast days and for ways to celebrate the season, go to archseattle.org/Christmas.