Today, December 26, is the Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr
St. Stephen, deacon of the infant Church, recounted to the elders who were berating him all that God had done for His people, from Abraham to Solomon. He then accused them of being unfaithful to the Holy Spirit, of persecuting the prophets, and of ignoring the law.
From The Acts of the Apostles, 7:51-60:
[Stephen said,] “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloak at the feet of a young man named Saul. 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.
Today, Christians all over the world are facing persecution and martyrdom. In the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in Europe, in Central and South America Christians are being forced to choose between living their faith and living at all. Whether it be Islamic extremists, Communist governments, or drug lords and dictators, the fact is that there are many millions of Christians who put their lives on the line for the sake of being faithful to Jesus. They deserve our prayers and our support. Their persecutors and murderers also need our prayers. Perhaps, like Saul, their hearts will be turned to the Lord.
Today is a good day to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer persecution and the threat of martyrdom.
today we celebrate the entrance of Saint Stephen
into eternal glory.
He died praying for those who killed him.
Help us to imitate his goodness
and to love our enemies.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
From The Liturgy of the Hours
Here is information on organizations that help:
- Catholic Relief Services, working with Caritas Iraq, is providing food, water, living supplies, shelters, reopening schools and preparing to help in the harsh northern Iraq winter. Donate online at www.crs.org or call 1-877-435-7277 (8 a.m.-11 p.m. ET) or mail to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21297-0303.
- Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the pope, which has given over $3.5 million in aid to Iraqi and Syrian Christians being driven from their homes. Urgently asking every parish to join them in prayer and support for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria. One hundred percent of all donations will support this need. Donate online at www.churchinneed.org or call 1-800-628-6333 or mail to Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard St., P.O. Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222.
- Catholic Near East Welfare Association, an agency of the Holy See active in Iraq for more than 50 years, which is sending emergency funds to Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and Chaldean and Syriac Catholic archbishops. Donate online at www.cnewa.org, call 1-800- 442-6392, or mail to CNEWA, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY 10022-4195.
Here is a link to “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East,” a report by the Knights of Columbus to then Secretary of State John Kerry:
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.