– Catholic Herald, Rome – Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Saturday – the Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Protomartyr – telling the faithful that the example of the great saint shows us the way in which Christian witness changes history.
The Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 7) tells of how a mob dragged Stephen, first named of the seven Deacons chosen by the Apostles, out of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. Among them was a man called Saul, who would become St. Paul the Apostle. “The text says that among those for whom Stephen prayed and whom he forgave there was ‘a young man named Saul’,” Pope Francis noted, “who ‘was consenting to [Stephen’s] death’.”
Francis went on to note: “Paul was born by God’s grace, but through Stephen’s forgiveness, his witness. That was the seed of his conversion. This is the proof that loving actions change history.”
“He is the first martyr,” Pope Francis said of St. Stephen, “that is, the first witness, the first of a host of brothers and sisters who, even today, continue to bring the light into the darkness: people who respond to evil with good, who do not succumb to violence and lies, but break the cycle of hatred with meekness and love.”
“In the nights of the world,” Pope Francis said, “these witnesses bring God’s dawn.”
“We are called to bear witness to Jesus right where we live,” Pope Francis said, “in our families, at work, everywhere, even just by giving the light of a smile, a light that is not our own – it comes from Jesus – and even just by fleeing the shadow of gossip and tattle-taling.”
“When we see something that is wrong,” Pope Francis went on to say, “let us pray for the one who made a mistake and for the difficult situation,” rather than “criticize, bad-mouth, and complain.”
Pope Francis led the traditional Marian devotion from the library of the Apostolic Palace – a concession to the emergency measures in place throughout Italy over the Christmas holiday – rather than the window of the Papal apartments overlooking St. Peter’s Square, beneath which the faithful usually gather in great numbers for the noonday prayer.
“We have to do it like this to avoid people coming to the Square,” Pope Francis explained after the Angelus. “Thus, we are collaborating with the regulations that the Authorities have established, to help all of us escape this pandemic.”
Pope Francis greeted everyone following following virtually, and said: “May the joyous Christmas atmosphere that continues today fill our hearts again, enkindling the desire in everyone to contemplate Jesus in the Crib, so as to serve Him and love Him in the persons who are near us.”
He also offered thanks for the Christmas greetings he has received from Rome and around the world.
“It is impossible to respond to everyone,” Pope Francis said, “but I take this opportunity now to express my gratitude, especially for the gift of prayer that you have offered for me, which I willingly reciprocate.”
Image: Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Dec. 16, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media.