St. Stephen was the first of the seven deacons chosen by the Holy Apostles to help minister to the Faithful of the Church, and the story of his martyrdom is related in the 6th and 7th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. He is considered the first, or “proto,” martyr and died exactly one year after Pentecost. He was a kinsman of a young man named Saul, who stood by as he was stoned to death by the Jewish elders. Those of the Sanhedrin who questioned him before they sentenced him to death, saw his face shining with the Glory of God “like the face of an angel,” yet they were unmoved with pity or understanding. He was condemned for telling the truth, and revealing that Truth to them as His Master.
There is a church today dedicated to him over the rocks that he died on in what was outside the gates of Jerusalem. In this icon he carries a scroll rolled in his left hand, and his head is tonsured, as when he was made a deacon. After St. Stephen died, Gamaliel, who was St. Paul’s teacher and respected member of the Sanhedrin, took his body and buried it on his land. Let us pray that, like him, we never compromise our Faith in the face of evil.