St. Stephen—A Brave Deacon and Great Preacher
St. Stephen’s entry can be found on the Dec. 26 page of the Roman Martyrology.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. ―Acts 7:59–60
In the early days of the Church, after Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, the apostles went about Jerusalem, preaching and performing many miracles and signs of wonder. New believers were joining the way of Jesus in great numbers. Before long, the apostles realized they needed help in taking care of such a rapidly growing community. They searched out seven men known to be wise and devout to assist with certain duties, freeing the apostles up for prayer and ministry. Stephen was one of the seven chosen.
It soon became evident that Stephen was an extraordinary preacher and could work great marvels, bringing even more people to the new Faith. Unfortunately, Stephen’s holy persuasiveness seriously irritated some religious zealots. They spread lies about him, gathered together some false witnesses, and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
When Stephen was asked to speak by the council, he reminded the synagogue authorities of the countless persecutions of holy prophets throughout Israelite history. Bravely comparing those persecutions to the behavior of the Sanhedrin, he accused them of denying words of truth. The council members were livid over Stephen’s speech. Stephen then gazed upward and described a vision of heaven with Jesus at the right-hand side of God―an action that sent his audience over the edge; they brought him outside of the city and began to stone him. As the stones were hurled at him, Stephen spoke gentle words of prayer and forgiveness. Before long, Stephen was dead.
Stephen’s death created an unexpected boost to Christianity. The Christians in Jerusalem were then so heavily persecuted that many fled to other cities, towns, and countries. These scattered disciples taught people in other places about the message and life of Jesus, and multitudes more converted. So, this dispersion of believers brought about by the martyrdom of Stephen was actually an early step in making Christianity a universal―or catholic―faith.
Bible Journaling with St. Stephen
St. Stephen’s entry can be found on the Dec. 26 page of the Roman Martyrology. He is the patron of many groups and situations, including: deacons, stone masons, and headaches. Consider spending six days with St. Stephen and your Bible. See what new insights you might glean from this brave and inspired saint.
- Day 1) Acts 6:1–7
- Day 2) Acts 6:8–15
- Day 3) Acts 7:51–53
- Day 4) Acts 7:54-60
- Day 5) Acts 8:1–4
- Day 6) Acts 22:19-20