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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Saint Stephen, deacon and first martyr

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Glory to God in the highest
and peace on earth to the people he loves.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 7,55-8,4

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand.

'Look! I can see heaven thrown open,' he said, 'and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.'

All the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they made a concerted rush at him,

thrust him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul.

As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'

Then he knelt down and said aloud, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' And with these words he fell asleep.

Saul approved of the killing. That day a bitter persecution started against the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles scattered to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria.

There were some devout people, however, who buried Stephen and made great mourning for him.

Saul then began doing great harm to the church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.

Once they had scattered, they went from place to place preaching the good news.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The liturgical season of Christmas begins today. We just celebrated the holy mystery of the birth of Jesus. The Lord God became a child to save us. The liturgy invites us to contemplate the birth in heaven of the first Christian martyr. It is the ripe fruit of the preaching of evangelical love, the love that had brought the Son to leave heaven to come to earth. These days, starting today, through the memory of several witnesses, the church shows us the purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God. He came down on earth to bring men into the heaven of never-ending love. The passage of the Gospel that the liturgy is presenting to us in this memory of Stephen is part of the missionary discourse of Jesus to the Twelve. The disciples immediately understand the Master's words: "I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves." They did not have to worry though. He would be with them, and his Spirit would sustain them. Stephen is the first of the martyrs, the first lamb that is sacrificed, in imitation of the Master. Stephen, Paul’s fellow disciple from the school of Gamaliel, joined the Apostles in preaching and was then chosen as one the seven deacons for the service of charity. "Full of grace and power, he performed many miracles among the people," narrates the Acts of the Apostles. He could not silence the Gospel that he had received and that had changed his existence. Nor could he back down when opposition and violence rose up against him as a result of his new life. Oppositions did not intimidate him. Strong in faith, he continued to preach the Gospel until his blood was shed. While he was being stoned to death, he followed Jesus’ example by asking God to welcome his spirit and forgive his persecutors. Stephen, who became the first martyr of Christian history, leads the procession of all those who in every place and time have proclaimed and continue to proclaim the Gospel until they have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. All those who "gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" are today in heaven and see God "face to face." The martyrs leave us with a precious example of how to listen to the Gospel in order to follow Jesus. They confirm for us that without at least some "heroism" we cannot follow the Gospel.

Prayer of the Christmas season

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 19 November
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 20 November
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 21 November
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 22 November
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 23 November
Memory of the Church
Friday, 24 November
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 25 November
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 26 November
Liturgy of the Sunday