Saint Stephen, the first Martyr

Matthew 10:17-22 

The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.

  ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59 

The martyrdom of Stephen

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

  But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’

Psalm 30(31):3-4,6,8,16-17 

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Be a rock of refuge for me,

  a mighty stronghold to save me,

for you are my rock, my stronghold.

  For your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Into your hands I commend my spirit.

  It is you who will redeem me, Lord.

As for me, I trust in the Lord:

  let me be glad and rejoice in your love.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

My life is in your hands, deliver me

  from the hands of those who hate me.

Let your face shine on your servant.

  Save me in your love.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Church – instituted by Christ Jesus

763 It was the Son’s task to accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent. “The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.” To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. the Church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.”

764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.” To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.” The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is. They form Jesus’ true family. To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.

765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot. By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

766 The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.” “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'” As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.


Stephen (Greek: Στέφανος Stéphanos, meaning “wreath, crown” and by extension “reward, honor, renown, fame”, often given as a title rather than as a name, Hebrew: סטפנוס הקדוש, Stephanos HaQadosh), (c. AD 5 – c. AD 34) traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy at his trial, he made a speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul, a Pharisee and Roman citizen who would later become a Christian apostle.

The only source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen is mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected to participate in a fairer distribution of welfare to the Greek-speaking widows.

The Catholic, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Church of the East venerate Stephen as a saint. The Lutheran Church recognizes Stephen as a saint as it recognizes all Christians as saints. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; artistic representations often depict him with three stones and the martyr’s palm frond. Eastern Christian iconography shows him as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer.

Source: Wikipedia