Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, Dec. 26

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Stephen, the namesake for “Stephen ministers” was called as one of the Church’s first seven deacons (Acts 6:1-7) to serve at the altar and serve the people.

According to a Catholic News Service article, the wonders he worked rattled local Jewish leaders. Witnesses at his trial before the Sanhedrin gave false testimony, and Stephen defended himself with a stirring speech recalling the long history of Israel’s relationship with God and calling the Jews “stiff-necked people” who “always oppose the Holy Spirit.”

While admonishing the people in public, he was stoned by a mob led by Saul of Tarsus, who would later become St. Paul. As he was being killed, he cried out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

Though often sang in the days leading up to Christmas, it was on St. Stephen’s feast day that Good King Wenceslaus went out to help the poor man following the martyr’s example.

He is the patron of bricklayers, stonemasons and numerous individual Christian churches, including St. Steven Parish in Sun Lakes and St. Stephen Byzantine Cathedral for the Eparchy of Phoenix.