One of the first deacons  (called to serve), the Proto-martyr (the first of multitudes to imitate Jesus in shedding his blood, man full of grace and the Holy Spirit, man who knew the Word of God, meditated on it, lived it and died for it--- these sublime virtues describe the great SAINT STEPHEN,  whose Feast day we celebrate directly after the birth of the Saviour.  The Saviour was born on earth and his faithful soldier was born in heaven. 

How many excellent lessons we can learn from St Stephen!

1. DEACON!  Means "servant". In imitation of Jesus (and St. Stephen) may we understand the value of service. Jesus declared: "The son of man came not to be served, but to give His life in ransom for many."  "To serve is to reign; to reign is to serve!"

2. JESUS IN THE POOR!  As deacon, he was summoned to serve Jesus in the poor, orphans, widows, and the forgotten ones in society. May we see Jesus in the poor and suffering. Mother Teresa's classical phrase:  "To see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor."

3. WORD OF GOD.  St. Stephen was a man of the word of God.  He read the Word of God, meditated on it; assimilated it; he preached it; he lived it and even died for it!  May the Word of God take a more prominent role in my life!

4. DEFENSE OF THE TRUTH!  St. Stephen was not afraid to confront the enemies of the truth and stick up for the truth.  Never have we ever lived in a world with so much information; never has there been so much confusion.  May we know the TRUTH and stand up for the truth, like St. Stephen and the saints.

5. DEBATE!  Today more than ever we need Christians who can honestly---- through good apologetics--- give arguments for the reason why we believe. May our words be like the fiery words of St. Stephen and pierce to the heart of the unbelievers.

6. INNOCENCE.  As St Stephen defends the Truth in front of the Sanhedrin, his face looked like that of an angel.  May we radiate innocence and purity in our actions, which flow from a pure and innocent heart.  "Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God." (Mt 5:8)

7. FORTITUDE: MAN OF COURAGE!  Despite the hostility of the enemies of the truth, St Stephen did not back down, nor buckle under pressure. When confronted with obstacles in our lives, tribulations, and persecutions, may we remain firm, sustained by the strength of the Holy Spirit.

8. CROWNING GRACE!    The name "Stephen" means crowning!  He was not crowned with roses, diamonds, gold--- no comfortable crown at all!  Rather, St. Stephen's crowning was that of stones, crashing down upon his skull and killing him.  Shortly after, however, Jesus would crown him in heaven as the  PROTOMARTYR--- meaning, the first to die to shed his blood in imitation of his Lord and Master, the crucified and risen Lord  Jesus!

9. MERCY AND FORGIVENESS.  In imitation of Jesus, as Stephen is dying, he is forgiving his enemies, as we read in Sacred Scripture: " As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep.   (Acts of the Apostles 7:59,60).  Another name for mercy is God's love forgiving.  May we be merciful, so as to receive God's mercy!

10. CONVERSION THROUGH PRAYER AND MERCY!  St. Augustine points out that it was through the prayers of St. Stephen that we have the conversion of Saul to St. Paul.  Conversion is God's work; however, He is profoundly moved by humble, pure, sincere and fervent prayer and an outpouring of mercy.  Those were the sentiments of the heart of Stephen. Now, both St. Stephen and St. Paul, side by side, are worshipping the Lord Jesus for all eternity!

May Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, the Queen of the Apostles, and the Queen of the Martyrs, obtain for us that fire, love enthusiasm and zeal that burned in the heart of St. Stephen. May our words, works, and intentions be crowned with grace and holiness!