St Stephen, the first Christian martyr Feast day: December 26

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Home > Media > News > St Stephen, the first Christian martyr Feast day: December 26
St Stephen, the first Christian martyr Feast day: December 26

The saint that the Church celebrates on the day after Christmas gives us an opportunity to reflect that through the birth of Christ, we are called to give our lives totally to God.

St Stephen, one of the first ordained deacons of the Church, was also the first Christian martyr.

St Stephen, whose name means ‘crown’ in Greek, is first mentioned in the Bible as one of seven men chosen to distribute alms to the poor.  He is seen in the Bible living out his vocation as deacon by assisting needy widows within the Christian community.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, St Stephen was a man “filled with grace and the Holy Spirit” and was renowned for being a great preacher.

Not afraid to proclaim faith in Jesus as the Son of God, Stephen was accused of blasphemy by the Jewish religious leaders of the time and condemned to be stoned to death.
As he was being stoned, the New Testament records, “… he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them.’”

Present at the stoning of St Stephen – and therefore one of those for whom the saint prayed – was Saul, later to have a conversion and become the great apostle St Paul.

St Stephen is the patron saint of those with headaches, and of deacons. He is traditionally represented in artwork carrying rocks.

On his feast day in Rome in 2018, Pope Francis said St Stephen teaches us to always forgive.

“He died like Jesus entrusting his life to God and forgiving his persecutors,” the Pope said.

“We are called to learn from him to forgive, always: forgiveness enlarges the heart, generates sharing, gives serenity and peace.”