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Monday, 18 December 2017
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St Stephen

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 St. Stephen is one of the seven deacons mentioned in the New Testament Book of Acts of Apostles, and was the first martyr of a fledgling Church. He was stoned to death by followers of Saul (later known as Paul) for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


2014          Mass in Rathkenny 12 noon

Here is the account from Acts of Apostles:


Acts 6:8-10. 7:54-61


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'. Then he knelt down and said aloud, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them'; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing . . ."

Like Jesus before him, Stephen offered up his spirit to the Father, and forgave his executioners.Tradition had it that Stephen's forgiveness of, and prayer for, those that had stoned him, led to the conversion of Saul, (Acts of Apostles, Chapter 9), who had conspired in his murder.

Benedict on St Stephen

About Martyrdom

According to St Clement of Alexandria, martyrdom means 'bearing witness to God', and this martyrdom applies to anyone seeking to know God and to be obedient to His commandments. We bear witness by our lives; in choosing not to sin, even though drawn to it, is a martyrdom indeed.

Today, in an increasingly secular society, bearing witness might mean saying in company or, indeed, in the public arena, " I believe in Jesus Christ, and in what He teaches, and so (for example) I uphold the gospel of life!" Even in Christian society, many will experience the reality that to allow faith to inform one's life, often leads to ridicule and to being sidelined or silenced.

And so today, those who espouse values, such as family life based on heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and chastity before marriage, undergo persecution and martyrdom too.

Pope Benedict in the USA

At Mass in Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, New York City, on April 20, 2008, the Vicar of Christ told the throng:

May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, ‘the same, yesterday, and today and for ever’ and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8). These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world—including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb.”

Earlier, on April 16, also in Washington, the Pontiff made these remarks to the US bishops:

“ . . Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel

It is your task to proclaim boldly the arguments from faith and reason in favour of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today

“…far from a Catholic approach to ‘thinking with the Church’, each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3). We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.”

Cardinal speaks of Ireland and EU
Benedict speaks on Stephen