Saint Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church and the first Christian martyr.
While working among the early Christians, the Apostles heard a complaint that their Greek-speaking widows were being neglected during the distribution of alms. The Twelve decided to appoint seven deacons to oversee this distribution and ensure fairness.
Of the seven selected, Stephen was the oldest and given the title of “archdeacon.” He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit.
Stephen’s popularity created enemies among some Jews. Members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen entered debate with Stephen and accused him of blasphemy. Filled with wisdom, Stephen won his debate.
The losers did not accept this outcome. Stephen was put on trial and several false witnesses were brought forward by the Sanhedrin to testify he was guilty of blasphemy.
Stephen responded to these charges by detailing the history of Israel and outlining the blessings God had bestowed upon the nation.
As Stephen concluded his defense, he looked up and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
The angry crowd rushed upon Stephen in disbelief and carried him outside of the city to stone him.
As Stephen was stoned to death, he spoke his last words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Following these words, Stephen died.
In 415 a priest claimed he had a vision of Stephen’s tomb and located his remains. The name inside the tomb confirmed the find.
St. Stephen is often depicted with stones, a Gospel Book, a miniature church and a martyr’s palm frond. He is the patron saint of bricklayers and deacons. His feast day is celebrated on December 26.