Blessed Feast of St. Stephen!
St. Stephen was a deacon, and the first Christian to die for believing in Christ. A Pharisee named Saul (someday to be St. Paul) watched the coats for those who stoned Stephen to death.
Here are some verses from Acts 6 where we first hear about St. Stephen (Douay-Rheims translation):
2. Then the twelve calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5. And the saying was liked by all the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.
8. And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9. Now there arose some of that which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke.
11. Then they suborned men to say, they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God. 12. And they stirred up the people, and the ancients, and the scribes; and running together, they took him, and brought him to the council. 13. And they set up false witnesses, who said: This man ceaseth not to speak words against the holy place and the law. 14. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us. 15. And all that sat in the council, looking on him, saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel.
Find Acts 7 to read about the stirring speech he gave before his accusers, and his martyrdom.
Maria Trapp said that in Austria this used to be the day that the farmers brought their horses and hay outside of the village church and the priest would come out and bless them, since St. Stephen is the patron saint of horses. (According to one source I found, the reason for this is a medieval poem that tells of St. Stephen’s conversion to Christianity because he owned a horse that Our Lord cured.)
- To Do for today: St. Stephen is also the patron of deacons! Today is a good day to thank your deacon(s) for their service at your parish church.
Sancte Stephane, ora pro nobis!
Oh, one last thing: Today is the feast day mentioned in the glorious Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas. We sang it with some other carols and chants before midnight Mass, inspired by this beautiful version:
Note: The above image of St. Stephen is a photograph of painting by Carlo Crivelli, from Wikipedia, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.