|Martyrdom of St. Stephen by Vasari
In the third century, Tertullian wrote that the blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church. It was seed that God planted from the beginning. St. Paul endured imprisonments, beatings, stoning; St. John was exiled on the island of Patmos; St. Peter was allegedly crucified upside down.
It all began with Stephen.
"Those who listened to (Stephen's) words were stung to the heart; they ground their teeth in anger at him. Stephen meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky above and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand. 'Look!' he exclaimed, 'I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand.' The onlookers were shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears as they did so. Then they rushed at him as one man, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses meanwhile were piling their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As Stephen was being stoned he could be heard saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' And with that he died." (Acts 7:54-60)
Surely his acute view of reality buffered Stephen's agony as stones were hurled at him. He was given grace appropriate to the situation, just at the moment he needed it.
Continue reading at Nancy's blog The Breadbox Letters.