December 26                                                                                          Patron of:
THE Apostles told the disciples to choose seven men who lived a holy life to help in the care of the poor. These men were called deacons, and Stephen was named first of the deacons. The Apostles ordained them deacons by praying and placing their hands upon them.
Stephen was full of grace and courage, and worked great wonders among the people. But some of the Jews accused him of talking against God and against Moses. He was brought before the court of the Jews. Stephen talked with great wisdom. People said there was a halo around his head and his face looked like that of an angel as he spoke bravely of Jesus Christ.
The Jews became very angry. But Stephen being full of the Holy Spirit, looking up to heaven, said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right Hand of God."
The angry people dragged the holy deacon outside of the city and stoned him to death. But Stephen forgave his murderers. Falling upon his knees, he cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin against them." When he said "Lord Jesus receive my spirit," he died. He was the first martyr.
O God, grant that we may imitate the saint we honor and learn to love our enemies. For today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.

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