On December 26th, the day after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
What we know about St. Stephen comes from the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 6 & 7) in the New Testament.
Stephen came from a family of Hellenists (Greek Jewish converts to Christianity). These Jews spoke Greek rather than Aramaic, and in their synagogues they heard the Scriptures read in Greek rather than Hebrew.
There were divisions between the Hellenistic Jews and the Jews from Palestine. The Hellenistic Jews were often made to feel like outsiders. One of their complaints was that the food was not being distributed fairly. To resolve the problem, the apostles ordained seven men as deacons to serve the poor and preach the faith.
Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church. He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. The Bible states that "Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8)
However, some of the Jewish Hellenists strongly disagreed and argued against Stephen’s preaching about Jesus. "But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke." (Acts 6:10) They plotted against Stephen and found witnesses to falsely testify that Stephen had committed blasphemy.
Stephen was arrested and brought to the court. When Stephen testified in court, he made two major points. First he believed that God could be found everywhere, not just in a single place like temple or a single person like Abraham. Second he demonstrated how from the beginning, the Israelites had consistently rejected God’s messengers, prophets, and chosen servants. And now they rejected and killed God’s Son who had been sent to them.
Those who had been listening to Stephen were blinded by anger so strong that they didn’t even wait for normal court proceedings. They rushed toward him, dragged him out of town, and stoned him. Stephen was the first person killed for his faith in Christ. His last words were “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
St. Stephen is the patron saint of deacons and stonemasons. He is often pictured holding a pile of stones because of the way he died.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
The Life of Stephen - God's Story
You can print out and make the rhombicuboctahedron (yep…that’s the name of an object that has eight triangular and eighteen square faces) for yourself. Just click on this image.
The Story of Stephen the Martyr
St. Stephen colouring page.
Who was the first recorded martyr for the Christian faith? from Drive Thru History