Stephen – the first deacon

As we move into chapter 6 of Acts as our first reading at Mass today, there is another omission: this is the beginning of the chapter when we’re told that the apostles choose seven men to take on particular tasks for them. This is the traditional origin of the order of deacons in the Church.

The first example of what these men do in the Church is the preaching ministry of Stephen, venerated as the first deacon. In today’s reading (6:8-15) engages in debate and is then brought before the Council of priests, or Sanhedrin. At the end the author gives us this vivid description: ‘his face appeared to them like the face of an angel’. The story of Stephen will continue.

Stephen has great eloquence and confidence – the same as we saw with Peter and John earlier on. As we respond to the current pandemic we need the same confidence about what we are about as the Church, confidence about our life and worship, confidence about our moral teaching in the face of all that is going on. The story of Stephen’s ministry in Acts should be a source of inspiration for us all, and we should pray for God’s blessing on the ministry of deacons in the Church – in our parish, our diocese and throughout the world; and please pray for those of us who are responsible for the formation of deacons.

Fr Ashley

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