St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr who follows the Divine King to death is honored on the Feast of St. Stephen. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by growing in the Virtue of Observance so he can respect and honor God’s chosen deacons and by building the Virtue of Magnificence so he can imitate the great witness of St. Stephen.

Liturgy

Christmastime – December 26 – The Feast of St. Stephen – Mt 10:17-22

Commentary

The day after Christmas (December 26), the Holy Catholic Church solemnly remembers the Martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-59), the very first Catholic murdered after the Ascension of Christ. Jesus the King establishes His eternal Kingdom, and saves His followers through His death and the Resurrection, and welcomes the repentant faithful into His Kingdom. St. Stephen, whose name means “crown”, is a deacon in the early Church and is the first martyr to receive the crown of holiness in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

After being appointed by the Apostles to the order of deacons, Stephen is challenged to publicly debate with various Jews. Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks with wisdom that his attackers cannot refute. Unsuccessful, the Jews accuse Stephen of blasphemy, and drag him before the Jewish High Priest and the high court. Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the truth about Jesus and courageously rebukes the Jewish leadership for rejecting Him (Acts 7:1-53). Despite the Jews’ insane rage, Stephen looks heavenward and proclaims “Behold, I see the heavens open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” A violent mob forcefully drags Stephen out of the city and viciously stone him to death, a grisly and slow method of execution, by which men pick up and repeatedly hurl stones at a man accused of a crime until he is dead; a young zealous Pharisee named Saul (the future St. Paul) oversees the stoning. Stephen, like Jesus, prays for God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:54-60). 

Looking at today’s Gospel, Jesus’ promises have come true with Stephen. Great King, Jesus strengthened the disciples by promising that He would make them victorious in battle, and rather than meekly submitting to persecution in fear, He charged His disciples to reject anxiety and to be confident in Him. With their faith, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to supernaturally intercede during persecution, allowing men to literally speak the words of God to their persecutors. For Stephen’s faith in Jesus and His promise, Steven is given the blessing to speak the truth forcefully, to forgive his murderers, and be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven as the first Catholic to be martyred after the Ascension.

Be awed by Jesus Christ

Before His Crucifixion, Jesus, the Divine King, makes explicit promises to provide supernatural help to His men after the Ascension. Marvel at how the Divine Provider keeps His promise to St. Stephen by strengthening him with fortitude and the words St. Stephen speaks as he is stoned to death (Acts 7:54-59).

Respect and honor Deacons

Realize: St. Stephen was ordained to be a deacon by St. Peter and the Apostles, establishing the Order of Deacons.  

Believe: Reflect upon the Order of Deacons (CCC 1536-1554, 1569-1600).

Pray: Almighty and Gracious Father, help me build the Virtue of  Observance (a part of Justice) so I always give proper respect and honor to those heroic men who take up the vocation to the diaconate.

Be a magnificent Catholic man

Realize: Men deny Jesus by outright rejection of Him, by failing to publicly stand in the Name of Christ when necessary to oppose evil, or by failing to continually proclaim the truth of Jesus to men.

Believe: Reflect upon the Necessity of Faith and Perseverance (CCC 161, 1816, 1821).

Pray: Jesus, Magnificent King, help me build the Virtue of Magnificence (a part of Fortitude) so I take on the great and noble work of proclaiming Your truth and courageously persevere against evil opposition and persecution of Your Holy Catholic Church.