Saint Stephen: The First Martyr

Saint Stephen was one of the first Christians and the first person to be martyred for Christ, only a year after Jesus’ death.

Feast Day: 26 December

Saint Stephen was one of the first Christians and the first person to be martyred for Christ, only a year after Jesus’ death. Stephen was a deacon who, before becoming Christian, was a Greek-speaking Jew. It was his job to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members of the community in the early Church.

Stephen was described as full of the Holy Spirit and joyful went about curing people and preaching the word of God. Like with Jesus, many members of the synagogues challenged Stephen’s teachings, but Stephen was able to very publicly and definitively beat them in debates. This led to the officials resenting Stephen and so they accused him of blasphemy and brought him before the Sanhedrim.

St Stephen faced two accusations: that he had declared that Jesus would destroy the Temple in Jerusalem and that he had changed the customs of Moses. The scripture shows that St. Stephen appealed to the Jewish scriptures to prove how the laws of Moses were not subverted by Jesus but, instead, were being fulfilled.

His assertions angered those listening and, after he’d proclaimed Jesus was now in heaven beside God the father, they took him from the city and stoned him to death.

Why Stephen inspires me

A reflection from someone in our young Catholic community

St. Stephen is the patron saint of altar servers and deacons and, as an alter server, I used to celebrate his feast day with the rest of the parish every year. This was how I came to know of him as a saint, but as I found out about him the thing that really inspired me was his conviction to share his faith no matter the cost to himself.

When I think about what in my life is worth dying for, it is only ever things that my life would become empty without. The fact that people, only a year after Jesus’ resurrection, were so filled with love from God that they would rather die than give up the faith they’d gained speaks volumes about the value of such a faith and really encouraged me to try and understand my own faith more, to understand just what it was they found so compelling about their relationship with Christ.

Motivated to look deeper into my faith by their example, my faith has grown so much and I fully understand why a relationship with God is worth dying for. This relationship is the only thing in life that ever brings constant joy and I fully understand that a life without it pales completely in comparison.

Prayer to Saint Stephen

O Great Saint Stephen, the scriptures tell us that your face was like an angel’s as you witnessed to the truth of Christ.

Please ask the Most Holy Trinity to fill my soul, and the souls of all my brothers and sisters throughout the world, with a deep hunger for the truth that comes from the Heart of Jesus, and also with the loving courage to embrace and profess the truth even amid difficulties, confusion and persecution.

May the serenity and peace which were yours at the hour of your stoning be ours as well, as we wait in hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever.