Today is the second day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Stoned outside Jerusalem, he died praying for his executioners. He was one of the seven deacons who helped the apostles; he was "filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit," and was "full of fortitude." The Church draws a comparison between the disciple and his Master, emphasizing the imitation of Christ even unto the complete gift of self. His name is included in the Roman Canon.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday called for prayerful and concrete solidarity with Christians throughout the world suffering because of the faith.
The Holy Father’s appeal came in remarks ahead of the Angelus prayer on Monday, the Feast of St. Stephen the Deacon, who was the first Christian to give his life in witness to Christ.
“The protomartyr Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, was stoned because he confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” said Pope Francis. “The only begotten Son who comes into the world invites every believer to choose the path of light and life,” he continued. “This is the profound meaning of his coming among us: loving the Lord and obeying his voice, the deacon Stephen chose Christ, [who is] Life and Light for every man.”
Pope Francis went on to say, “By choosing the truth, he became at the same time the victim of the mystery of evil present in the world – but Christ has conquered.”
Pope Francis then spoke of the plight of Christians suffering all manner of adversity for the sake of the Gospel.
“Today too the Church, to bear witness to the light and the truth, is experiencing severe persecution in different places, up to the supreme test of martyrdom,” he said. “How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated because of Jesus,” he reflected. “Today we want to think about them and be close to them with our affection, our prayer, and also our tears.”
“Despite trials and dangers,” he continued, “they bear witness with courage that they belong to Christ, and they live the Gospel, dedicated to the least, the forgotten, doing good to all without distinction; they bear witness to charity in truth.”
The Holy Father concluded his remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, with a call for renewed commitment to living the faith we profess as Christians.
“In making space within our heart to the Son of God who gives himself to us at Christmas,” he said, “let us renew the joyous and courageous willingness to follow him faithfully as our only guide, persevering in living according to the mind of the Gospel and refusing the mentality of the rulers of this world.”
Pope Francis then asked the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, to intercede for us and for all Christians everywhere, asking her to accompany and sustain us always in our pilgrim way, as we live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness to God the Father, and the one whom we contemplate in the crèche.Catholic Culture - St Stephen
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St. Stephen, first martyr, pray for us in this age of blood and martyrdom - 2016 saw new martyrs being created worldwide. Perhaps include petitions to the first Christian martyr throughout the new year.