martyred c. AD 36
Saint Stephen, martyred c. AD 36
Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He lived just a few years after Jesus. He was a deacon chosen to distribute food to the Greek-speaking Christian community in Jerusalem. He was a great preacher whose views worried Jewish leaders. For example, he told Christians that they didn’t have to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders had Stephen stoned to death. Stephen wasn’t afraid to die because he knew he was going to Heaven. As he was dying, Stephen forgave the people who killed him, just like Jesus did on the Cross.
Discuss: Why shouldn’t Christians be afraid to die?
Stephen is a patron Saint of stonemasons, altar servers, deacons, horses, and several countries. His name means “crown” in Greek, and he is often shown wearing a martyr’s crown, or with three stones and a palm leaf. His feast day, December 26, is a national holiday in many countries and cities that were historically Catholic.
Explain that Saint Stephen forgave the people who killed him as they were stoning him. We hear of this happening with many Saints who were martyred. Jesus forgave those who crucified him and set the example for unconditional forgiveness.