“St. Stephen and the Christmas Miracle”
Merry Christmas and Blessed “Christmastide!” We not only have a day but a whole season of
Christmas containing various celebrations that help us reflect more deeply on the story and
Mystery of Christmas and Christ’s Incarnation.
One ancient tradition in the Church is that the day after Christmas, December 26, is the Feast of
St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It seems like a bit of an odd thing to celebrate the first
Christian death, right after celebrating the birth of Christ.
But here is the story of why we celebrate Saint Stephen the martyr the day after Christmas.
The following is adapted from an article from the National Catholic Register by Thomas J.
In the year 415, a priest named Lucian (who lived near Jerusalem) one night, when he was half
awake, he saw an elderly man who said, “I am Gamaliel.” (Gamaliel was a Sadducee who taught
St. Paul and who, according to tradition, secretly became a Christian. He is referenced in Acts
5:34-29 and Acts 22:3).
In Lucian’s vision, Gamaliel told Lucian the location of the tomb of St. Stephen (As Gamaliel
himself had taken and entombed the body of St. Stephen), which had been lost and forgotten for
centuries. The lost tomb was not far from Lucian’s church. God had sent Gamaliel to Lucian
because he wanted the relics enshrined in churches where, he said, “through their means, God
might open to many the gates of His mercy.”
Lucian did indeed find the remains of St. Stephen where Gamaliel had told him. At this news, the
Bishop with a large crowd came to the tomb. He placed the bones of St. Stephen in a chest. As he
did so, more than 70 witnesses who suffered from a variety of serious ailments, were healed. The
date of the recovery of the relics of St. Stephen was Dec. 26, 415, which is why we celebrate the
feast of St. Stephen on Dec. 26.
This discovery sent a surge of religious joy through the Christian world. Saint Augustine
recorded many stories of the miraculous healings God granted through the intercession of St.
Stephen, many of which he knew firsthand because often he knew the person who had been
One of his stories is that in a procession with the relics of St. Stephen, a blind woman was led to
where the bishop was carrying the reliquary. The woman asked if she was near the saint. The
bishop said yes, and gave her one of the flowers that decorated the reliquary. The woman applied
the petals to her eyes, and immediately her sight was restored.
So while it may seem strange to celebrate the first Christian martyr after the celebration of the
birth of Christ, we can see that in God’s coming, God transforms the things of death into things of
life. Through St. Stephen God uses Stephen’s own death and even his tomb and bones by the
power of Christ to bring about for many, unexpected Christmas miracles of miraculous healings
and thus the surprise of Christmas joy!
– Fr. Kevin
PS: On Dec. 27th, the Feast of St. John, there is a tradition of blessing and drinking wine on this
day. Therefore after the 5:30 pm Mass in Iowa Falls, I invite anyone to join me for a serving of
hot spiced wine (as well as hot cider for any kids or those who do not wish to drink alcohol), as
well as a blessing of any wine you might like to bring to be blessed!