Paris, 26 December, 2023 / 7:00 pm (ACI Africa).
If “Good King Wenceslas” is one of the Christmas hymns you look forward to each year, you probably know which saint is celebrated today — St. Stephen, the first person to die for the risen Christ. Roman Catholics celebrate his feast on Dec. 26, while Eastern Catholics honor him one day later, on Dec. 27.
Stephen was a Jew who likely became a follower of Jesus while he was still ministering on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while traveling with almost no possessions.
Famously, Stephen was stoned to death near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem for proclaiming his faith in Jesus. Today, near the site of Stephen’s martyrdom, a grand Catholic church and convent have stood since the year 1900. A chapel of one form or another memorializing Stephen’s martyrdom has existed at the site since at least the fifth century.
Every year, the Church of St. Stephen (Saint-Étienne in French), a minor basilica, celebrates its patron with a Mass and a meal. The current Dominican priory was created in 1882 and the Dominicans today run the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem, a highly respected center of biblical study.