Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen

c. 33 A.D.


    Stephen (Stefano in Italian) was the disciple chosen by the apostles, "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" as the first of the seven deacons (Acts 6:1-5). His tasks were to look after the distribution of alms to the faithful (especially the widows) and to help in the ministry of preaching. The gist of his defence of Christianity was that God does not depend on the Temple, in so far as, like the Mosaic Law, it was a temporary institution and destined to be fulfilled and superseded by Christ, who was the prophet designated by Moses and the Messiah whom the Jewish people had so long awaited. Stephen finally attacked his hearers for resisting the Spirit and for killing the Christ as their fathers had killed the prophets. He was then stoned to death for blasphemy by the Jews apparently without a formal trial, while he saw a vision of Christ on God's right hand. His dying prayer (Acts 7:59-60) was witnessed by Saint Paul, who was actively engaged in his martyrdom. In art he is depicted as vested as a deacon, holding a book of the Gospels and sometimes a palm. He carries a pile of stones in his hand, or they rest on his book, or head, or are gathered into the folds of his dalmatic. Saint Stephen is celebrated on December 26th.