Moved by the Love of Christ - serving the suffering Church
The martyrdom of St. Stephen
Move your cursor slowly over the icon and join us in four brief prayers.
In the person of Mary, Queen of Martyrs, we recognise the beauty of our calling. Of all creation, it was only Mary who was never enslaved – even for an instant – by the law of death. Unlike St. Paul, never in even the slightest of ways did Mary’s heart ever approve of any killing. In holding out the red cloak of martyrdom to Saul, Mary is also bestowing upon him the grace of her sinless heart, thereby mothering his rebirth as St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Aid to the Church in Need commits its heart to Mary that she may keep it firmly centred on the eternal and incarnate Word to whom she gave birth.
Heaven opened reveals the glory of God and His Risen Son. The right hand of God reaching down from heaven bestows the power to participate in Christ’s victory over the law of sin and death upon all those who choose to follow Him. Perceiving the glory of the life-bearing Risen Christ, His followers, instead of being agents of death, are given the strength to bear the violent blows of a world still enslaved by death. Aid to the Church in Need humbly asks Almighty God for the grace of unswerving fidelity to the Risen Christ’s call to discipleship.
In the person of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, we see the martyrs of our own day, who suffer persecution and harassment for their faith in Christ and for their allegiance to His Church. Like St. Stephen, they responded to God’s call to tend to the needs of their neighbour. Like him, their work and witness is blessed and becomes a stumbling block to the world around them. Their eyes, like those of St. Stephen, see the glory of God and the Risen Son of Man. Like St. Stephen, they bear the violence of others in a spirit of forgiveness. Aid to the Church in Need implores St. Stephen’s intercession that the persecuted may persevere and that it may never falter in its solidarity with them.
In the person of St. Paul, we find the model par excellence of conversion. Initially approving of the killing of St. Stephen, St. Paul’s spiritual eyes subsequently came to see what St. Stephen saw – but in a new way. On the road to Damascus, St. Paul saw the Risen Lord alive not just in heaven, but also in the people he was persecuting. His conversion meant donning the red cloak of martyrdom. The clear vision of Christ’s love enkindled in St. Paul an immense power of witness. Aid to the Church in Need prays to St. Paul to guide its efforts in supporting the evangelising mission of the Church, particularly in regions of acute need and poverty.