The Feast of Stephen

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen and the second day in the Octave of Christmas. At first it may seem awkward to mark the feast of the first Christian martyr on the day immediately following the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord. The Scriptures for today's liturgy throw us headlong into the mystery of the cross while we are still gathered around the crèche savoring the peace of the birth in Bethlehem. St. Stephen's example, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, is a reminder that living out the Christian vocation can exact a costly price for all of us. We are remembering a man who lived out that vocation and whose dying words were a prayer for those who were persecuting him, words that echo the words that Jesus spoke from his cross.

The feast is an official holiday in many parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, it is noted as "Boxing Day," a title that derives from the practice of opening the poor boxes in the Christian churches and distributing their contents to the poor on the day after Christmas. It was also a day when the more affluent people of the kingdom "boxed up" the leftovers of the Christmas feast and gave them to the poor. This act of Christian charity has been immortalized in the Christmas carol entitled "Good King Wenceslaus."

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