St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Feast of Stephen, Protomartyr
December 26



Amaethlu (Maethlu) of Anglesey (of Wales) (AC)
6th century. Amaethlu founded a church in Anglesey, Wales, which is now dedicated to him under the name Llanfaethlu (Benedictines).


Blessed Andrew Dung Lac M (AC)
Born 1785; died 1839; beatified in 1900. Andrew was a native priest of Tonkin (Vietnam), who was arrested with Blessed Peter Thi. Both were beheaded on December 21 (Benedictines).


Archelaus of Mesopotamia B (RM)
Died c. 278. Bishop Archelaus of Kashkar, Mesopotamia, was a formidable opponent of Manicheism; however, the writings attributed to him are not his (Benedictines).


Christina of Markgate, OSB Hermit (AC)
Died 1160. Christina was a nun and anchorite of Markgate under obedience to the abbot of St. Alban's. Her spiritual director was Blessed Roger of St. Albans (Benedictines).


Blessed Daniel of Villiers, OSB Cist. (PC)
Died late 12th century. Daniel, monk and cellarer of the great Cistercian abbey of Villiers in Brabant, is named a beatus in Cistercian catalogues (Benedictines).


Dionysius, Pope (RM)
Born in Greece (?); died in Rome, Italy, 269. Dionysius, a Roman priest, was chosen as pope on July 22, 259, in an election delayed for one year because of the violence of Valerian's persecution of the Christians. About 260, Dionysius issued a doctrinal letter to correct the phraseology in the writings of Patriarch Dionysius of Alexandria regarding the Trinity. The letter opposed Sabellianism and insisted on the true doctrine of Three Persons in one Godhead. He sent large sums of money to the churches of Cappadocia, which had been devastated by the marauding Goths, to rebuild and to ransom those held captive. Dionysius brought order to the Church and procured a comfortable peace after Emperor Gallienus issued he edict of toleration. He condemned Paul of Samosata as a heretic. Dionysius is the first pope who is not listed as a martyr (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia). In art Pope St. Dionysius is portrayed in papal vestments with a book (Roeder).


Blessed Margaret of Hohenfels, OSB V (AC)
Died after 1150. Born into the aristocratic family of Hohenfels, Margaret took the veil at the Benedictine monastery of Bingen under Saint Hildegard, who appointed Margaret prioress (Benedictines).


Marinus of Rome MM (RM)
Died 283. The Roman Marinus is described as the son of a senator, who was beheaded under Numerian, after having been miraculously delivered from the torture chambers, wild beasts, fire, and water. His acta are probably a pious fiction (Benedictines).


Blessed Paganus of Lecco, OP M (AC)
Died 1274. Paganus was received into the Dominican Order by Saint Dominic himself and lived in it for 50 years. He succeeded Saint Peter the Martyr of Verona as inquisitor general and, like him, was murdered by heretics (Benedictines).


Stephen the Deacon, Protomartyr (RM)
Died in Jerusalem, c. 35; feast day in the East is December 27; bother feast days on August 3 to commemorate the rediscovery of Stephen's relics, and on May 7 their translation to Rome.

Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic Church. The story of his election as one of the first seven deacons to serve the Greek- speaking Christians and his martyrdom is found in Acts 6:1-8:3. He was stoned to death by the Jews at the instigation of the Sanhedrin. The gist of his argument in support of Christianity was that God does not depend upon the Temple, because it, like the Mosaic Law, was a temporary institution destined to be fulfilled and superseded by Christ, who was the prophet designated by Moses and the Messiah the Jews had long awaited. His dying prayer obtained the conversion of St. Paul, who was actively engaged in Stephen's martyrdom. This is all that is known of him, but from these details certain things can be deduced: Stephen was probably a Greek-speaking Jew, perhaps educated in Alexandria, and a zealous preacher.

Stephen's feast was kept in both the East and West at least from the 4th century. His cultus was given further popularity by the discovery of his remains.

His relics were discovered in a remarkable way, some centuries after his martyrdom. In the year 415 a certain holy priest named Lucian was awakened one night by a venerable man appearing to him clothed in white. He called him by his name and bade him go to Jerusalem and tell the bishop to come and open the tombs, in which lay the remains of several servants of God, together with his own. Through their means, he said, God would open to many the gates of his clemency.

Lucian asked who it was who spoke to him. It is Gamaliel, the figure replied, the one who instructed Paul the apostle in the law. He told the priest that the body of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death by the Jews, would be found without the city beyond the northern gate. His body had been left exposed a day and a night, he said, without being touched, but he had exhorted the faithful to carry it away secretly at night to his home in the country. The bodies of Nicodemus who sought Jesus by night, together with others, would also be found.

Lucian fearing that he might be deceived and if he made known these things be looked upon as an imposter, gave himself to prayer, asking that if this message was from God, it would be made known to him a second and a third time.

Some days afterward Gamaliel appeared to him again as before and commanded him to obey. Still he delayed until a third message had been given him, then terrified lest some punishment should come upon him for his long delay, he went to Jerusalem. He laid the whole matter before the bishop who bade him go at once and search for the relics.

The bodies were found at Kafr Gamala, though not immediately, contained in three coffins, engraved with Greek characters, the names of Stephen, Nicodemus, and Abibas. The bishop hurried to the scene with a multitude of people. When the coffin of Stephen was opened a sweet fragrance pervaded the air, and many miracles took place at the tomb. Stephen's relics were taken to Jerusalem, the others left at Kafr Gamala, which is about 20 miles from the northern gate of Jerusalem.

His alleged relics, together with the stones reputedly used at his martyrdom, were translated first to Constantinople and then to Rome. The day on which they were translated, the Church now celebrates the principal feast of the saint. Many of the early Fathers of the Church testify to the authenticity of this wonderful discovery.

In 444 the Empress Eudocia built a stately Church over the spot where Stephen had been stoned to death and in which the relics were enshrined.

Saint Augustine, in the last book of The City of God, speaking of the miracles which followed the discovery says: "Let us so desire to obtain temporal blessings by St. Stephen's intercession that we may merit in imitating him those which are eternal."

How many countless thousands of holy men and women were to follow the first martyr St. Stephen, who persevered in death, proclaiming that the faith that they had professed in life and thus entering with him into their eternal reward (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Coleridge, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Murray, White).

In art he is shown vested as a deacon, holding a book or a palm; or carrying stones; or with stones resting on his book of the Gospels; or with stones gathered in the folds of his dalmatic. In several unusual pieces, he is shown (1) in a coffin with Abibas, Gamaliel, and Nicodemus around him; (2) his body guarded by animals; (3) preaching to the Jews 14th- Century French Illumination (Roeder).

He is the patron saint of bricklayers (due to his death by stoning) (Roeder), those in the building trades (White) and deacons (Farmer). Stephen is also the patron of several French cathedrals including those at Sens, Bourges, and Toulouse (Farmer). He is invoked against headaches (Roeder).


Tathai of Wales, Hermit (AC)
(also known as Meuthin, Tathan, Tathaeus, Tathar, Athaeus)

5th century or early 6th century. Nephew of Saint Samson of Dol, this Irish saint planted himself in the land of Wales, first as a hermit, where he founded a church at Glamorganshire and bore good fruit. His monastery at Llantathan, named after him, was one of the most famous schools in Wales. From there he went to Caerwent (Gwent), where he founded another monastic school that produced the great Celtic scholar, Saint Cadoc.

According to his vita, Tathai was famous as a miracle-worker and as the "Father of all Gwent, he was the defender of the woodland country . . . he was never angry . . . whatever was given to him, he gave to others . . . no one was more generous in the West for receiving guests and giving them hospitality." Both Caerwent and Llantathan claim to be the place where he died (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Montague).


Theodore the Sacristan (RM)
6th century. Theodore's contemporary, Saint Gregory the Great, tells us that Theodore was a sacristan (mansionarius) in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, who talked to the angels as he worked (Benedictines).


Vincentia (Vincenza Maria) Lopez y Vicuņa (AC)
Born at Cascante, Spanish Navarre, March 22, 1847; died December 26, 1896; beatified in 1950; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975; feast day formerly on January 18.

Vincentia, daughter of a lawyer, was sent to Madrid for her education, where she lived with her aunt Eulalia de Vicuņa. Vicentia was a strong-willed woman, who refused to marry the man with whom her parents matched her, because she wished to follow her aunt's example. After much persuasion, they allowed her to dedicate herself to the service of God when she was 19. Shocked at the dangers and difficulties encountered in the lives of domestic servants, she elected to serve them. To this end, Vicentia, Eulalia, and a group of followers began to live a communal life in 1871. They drew up a constitution. In 1878, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate for Domestic Service was founded to look after the needs of serving girls, when Vincentia and three others pronounced their vows. The institute soon spread throughout Spain, then to other parts of Europe and Latin America. Papal approval for the order was given in 1888 (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).


Zeno of Gaza B (RM)
Died after 399. Unlike his cousins Saints Eusebius, Nestabus, and Zeno, this Zeno survived Julian's persecution to become the bishop of Gaza (Benedictines).


Zozimus (Zosimus), Pope (RM)
Died in Rome on December 27, 418. The Greek Zozimus, son of the priest Abram, was consecrated pope on March 18, 417, to succeed Pope Innocent I. During his short reign, Zozimus formally condemned the Pelagian heresy in Epistola Tractoria, after being misled for a time by Pelagius and his supporter Caelestius. Zozimus also had to deal with two other problems. First, he recognized Patrocus as metropolitan of his area but the neighboring bishops opposed his governance. Second, Zozimus appears to have acted too quickly in accepting the appeal of Apiarius of Sicca, who had been condemned by African bishops. These bishops objected to the pope's interference (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.