Cassidy Alpaugh, a fourth-grade PREP student asks:
“Father, who was the first Saint?”
“Great question, Cassidy! Though Christians generally regard Jesus’s parents, Mary and Joseph, as our first living saints, all early Christians who were martyred for following Jesus are considered the first saints, with Saint Stephen as the first.
I’m sure you know about the 12 Apostles called by Jesus to follow Him and spread the Gospel. There also was a large group of men and women that the Apostles chose to assist in that calling. Those followers were called disciples and initially numbered 72. From that group, seven men were chosen to organize the disciples and their missions and to serve the poor. These first seven were the first Deacons of the Catholic Church, ordained by the Apostles. St. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church. He preached the Word of Jesus and assisted in the spiritual needs of the community, helping spread Christianity throughout the land. Stephen was actually born Jewish and converted to Catholicism. The Temple rabbis were jealous of Stephen’s success and condemned him to death. He was put on “trial” just like Jesus. Stephen kept teaching about Jesus at the trial and told the judges they were murderers of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Upon hearing this, the crowd was enraged and dragged Stephen outside and stoned him to death. He forgave them as they stoned him, then said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and died. Stephen’s faith and martyrdom is described by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Stephen’s feast day is Dec. 26, appropriately the first saint we honor after the birth of Jesus.”