The Protomartyr, the first martyr, Stephen is celebrated on this, the day after The Feast. As the Entrance Antiphon states: "The gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs, and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven." Stephen was a young man who followed the command of love laid out by his Lord. He witnessed with great joy to the message of Jesus. He served the needs of the Church as a deacon, ministering to the poor and the widows and the orphans. He faced those who feared or hated "the way" that he took, and in a moment of joyful boldness embraced death for the sake of the gospel of life. And in that embrace, he reminded us of the great teaching of Jesus to "love our enemies" and to "pray for our persecutors". In the Collect Prayer today we prayed that we may imitate Stephen, " ... and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors."
To all who serve in the ministry of deacon, thank you and may the grace and example of Stephen bring you strength and joy. And to those moving toward Ordination as Deacons (and I know a few within our Diocese and beyond), continue to grow in holiness and love.
This is a significant day within the life of our parish community. It was on this day, December 26, 1992, that a fire destroyed the rectory of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. It was caused by a faulty furnace. The church proper was thankfully saved. But the real devastation came when the pastor, Father Bill McGuire, was found in the house, having died from heart failure. For a young parish, this was a day that lives in the memory and the hearts of those who worship here. We prayed for Father McGuire at Mass this morning as we continue to remember him in our thoughts daily. May he rest in peace.