St. Stephen

St_Stephen_MartyrdomThe rich sold their estates to relieve the necessities of the poor, and deposited the money in one common treasury, the care whereof was committed to the apostles, to see the distribution made as everybody”s necessity required. Heaven alone is free from all occasions of offense, and the number of converts being very great, the Greeks (that is, the Christians of foreign countries, who were born and brought up in countries which spoke chiefly Greek, or at least were Gentiles by descent, though proselytes to the Jewish religion before they came over to the faith of Christ) murmured against the Hebrews, complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. The apostles, to provide a speedy remedy, assembled the faithful, and observed to them, that they could not relinquish the duties of preaching, and other spiritual functions of the ministry to attend to the care of tables; and recommended to them the choice of seven men of an unblemished character, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, who might superintend that affair, that so themselves might be freed from distractions and incumbrances, the more freely to devote themselves without interruption to prayer and preaching the gospel. This proposal was perfectly agreeable to the whole assembly, who immediately pitched on Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch. All these names are Greek; whence some think they were chosen among the Greeks, in order to appease the murmurs that had been raised. But it frequently happened that Hebrews changed their names into Greek words of a like import, when they conversed with Greeks and Romans, to whom several names in the oriental languages sounded harsh, and were difficult to pronounce. Stephen is named the first of the deacons, as Peter is of the apostles, says St. Austin. Hence he is styled by Lucian, archdeacon. These seven were presented to the apostles, who praying, imposed hands upon them, by which rite they received the Holy Ghost, to qualify them to become ministers of God”s holy mysteries. Their ordination was made by virtue of a commission, either general or particular, given by Christ to his apostles for the establishment of inferior ministers or Levites for the service of the altar. Whence St. Paul requires almost the same conditions in deacons as in bishops and priests, and speaks of their sacred ministry. St. Ignatius, the disciple of the apostles, orders the faithful to reverence deacons as the command of God, and calls them