The day Good King Wenceslas looked out

by Kevin Birnbaum

Giorgio_Vasari_Martyrdom_of_St_StephenMartyrdom of St. Stephen by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)

Today is the feast of St. Stephen the protomartyr, the first person to be killed for his faith in Christ. His death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

As he was being stoned to death, Stephen echoed Christ’s own words from the cross: Jesus had cried, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46); Stephen called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

And just as Jesus had prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), Stephen also was full of compassion to the end—his last words were a prayer for his murderers: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).