St. Stephen (1st Century AD)
Feast Day: December 26
Patron Of Deacons, Altar Servers, Stonemasons, Casket Makers
The Bible indicates Stephen was a 1st-century deacon, and the first Christian martyr.
A Jew from outside Palestine, he became Christian, then headed the first seven deacons. He studied with Saul and Barnabas under Gamaliel (a Sanhedrin member opposing persecution of the Apostles). Learning Scripture to perfection, he was steeped in chastity, humility, and Divine spirit – drawing great admiration, fearing nothing in service of God.
Members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, angered that Stephen had bested them in debates, charged him with blasphemy before the Sanhedrin. Filled with the Holy Spirit during his trial, Stephen accurately detailed Israel’s history and disobedience to God, which enraged his accusers. Stephen then saw a vision of Christ and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
An incensed crowd thus rushed upon him, stoning him. Watching was Saul of Tarsus, a virulent persecutor of Christians, for whom Stephen prayed as he forgave his murderers. Thus, Saul later became the Apostle Paul after encountering Christ.