Saint Stephen

26th December

One can find the story of St. Stephen in the book of Acts Chapters 6 and 7. He lived a few years after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is believed that he was a Greek Jew who converted from the Jewish beliefs to being a Christian.

In those early years of the Church, Christianity was not a popular religion because the Jews felt that it was a threat to what they had always believed and practised. It was a risk to preach about Jesus. The number of Christians continued to grow into a caring community that cared for the poor and the widows, especially by providing them with food.

Stephen was chosen as one of the seven deacons appointed to organise and distribute food to the Greek widows. Besides he was also an effective preacher. People followed him to hear him speak about Jesus and His teaching, about His Death and Resurrection. The Jewish leaders lied about him, they took him to trial and accused him of blasphemy.  Stephen stood firm and he accused them of causing the death of Jesus. They followed the Jewish law by condemning him to being stoned to death.

 He became the first Christian Martyr when he was about thirty years old. The Church celebrates St. Stephen the day after Christmas. It is a celebration, a manifestation of St. Stephen who offered his life as witness, by standing up for what he believed : that this special Baby in the manger was the Son of God, who became Man for our salvation.

Stephen faced the conflict with the Jews with strength of character and without fear.

During their tender age, children do not normally encounter such serious conflicts. But they will definitely have experiences of being hurt by a friend, of being rejected, bullied.

  • Encourage children to speak about their experiences by providing quiet ‘corners of time’ with them and a disposition of listening.
  • Refrain from minimising their concerns. What seems to be trivial to us, might be a ‘real tragedy’ for them

Children are tormented when simple conflicts develop into name-calling, mocking, when lies are spread about them, or worse when they are shoved or hit.

Use this opportunity to discuss with them strategies that they would adopt to resolve the situation.
Think about suggesting the 5 finger rule:

  • Ignore 
  • Move away 
  • Explain 
  • “Stop” 
  • Teacher

-You may decide to write these strategies and others on strips of paper, store them in a jar and ‘fish’ them out when conflict situations arise. While people were stoning him to death, Stephen asked Jesus to forgive the people for what they were doing.

Children do not find it easy to understand the concept of forgiveness, to be ready to forgive, to admit that they are wrong and ask for forgiveness by apologising.

Take the opportunity to explore with the children “the building blocks” of forgiveness so that they will continue to develop them as they grow up.

Discuss with the children :
Is it easy to forgive? and Why should we forgive?
Have you ever been forgiven? and How did it feel?
How can you begin to show that you have forgiven?

Jesus showed us that God forgives us completely all the time. He will always welcome us with open arms when we are sorry, when we forgive others.

From a Children’s Bible relate the parable of the Prodigal Son and explain that this is the way God will always forgive us.

During Family Prayer time encourage children:

  • To declare their faith that Baby Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Thank Him for becoming one of us.
  • Ask Our Lady and St. Joseph to protect us as they cared for and protected Jesus while he was growing up.
  • Ask Jesus to make us strong to be able to forgive others and not to be too proud to ask for forgiveness.
  • Sing together “Joy to the World” or any other Christmas Carol that expresses your thoughts and feelings on the day!

St. Stephen was the first Martyr of Jesus. He spread the Work and Love of Jesus. Jews accused Stephen of blasphemy and thus condemned him to death. The high priests, were jealous and angry for Stephen especially when he called them “betrayers and murderers” and so, they stoned him to death. While the stones struck him, he prayed for his opponents.

Activity: Pebbles in the Sea! 

Think of someone who you think is jealous of you and you feel he is not a true friend or has made you something and you felt bad about it. Write this person’s name on a pebble with a marker. Throw this pebble in the sea and while you throw the pebble, say a prayer for this person. By this action, you’re letting go of the past, praying for those who made you feel sad and moving on. 

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.