Vatican City, Dec 26, 2014 / 10:21 am
Pope Francis marked the feast day of Saint Stephen on Dec. 26, noting that the martyrdom of the early Church saint helps prevent the Christmas season from being reduced to a trivial celebration.
"The Gospel of this feast gives a part of Jesus' discourse to his disciples in the moment in which He sends them on mission. Among other things, He says, 'You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved,'" the Pope said during his Angelus address in St. Peter's Square Friday.
"These words of the Lord do not disrupt the celebration of Christmas, but strip it of that false saccharine-sweetness that does not belong to it. It makes us understand that in the trials accepted on account of the faith, violence is overcome by love, death by life."
Saint Stephen is acknowledged as the first Christian martyr, whose death by stoning was overseen by a Pharisee named Saul. Saul would later become St. Paul – whose own experience of Christ would transform him into a believer, and later a martyr himself.