Persecutions: St. Stephen



Objective: Students should understand the historical and spiritual reasons for martyrdom, be able to name several martyrs (including the first), and know something about their lives, and to discuss the historical significance of Constantine the Great for both Rome and the Church.




Definition of “Martyr”:

Work on this word for a few moments with the students. For what or whom would each of us be willing to die? Are there martyrs today? Where? In what situation might we face the decision to become a martyr today?


Role of a Deacon:

Stephen was one of the first deacons. Let’s look for a moment at the development of the first church in Jerusalem. After baptism, many of the people chose to sell all they had and live together. What a wonderful community life that must have been – all their meals together, everyone talking all day about Jesus. Sort of like a big Christian family. But, as in most families, arguments developed. Someone got the best seat, the bigger piece of bread, the nicer shawl. The apostles were too busy preaching to deal with these constant concerns. Peter and the other apostles chose seven men to help them in caring for the early Church. Read this in Acts 6:1-7. These were called deacons. The apostles continued to spread the gospel. A deacon is a priest’s helper.  He helps in the Divine Liturgy and helps the priest by visiting the sick, praying for people, etc.  Do we have a deacon?


Life of St. Stephen:

St Stephen was the first martyr. Review with the students the role of the Sanhedrin – the supreme council of the Jewish people. Composed of Sadducees (rich landowners) and Pharisees (religious fanatics) and headed by the high priest, the Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus and now will condemn Stephen. Read the story of his life in Acts 6 and 7. Either the students can read around the circle sequentially, or each student can read several verses and report to the class, round robin style.


Quiz Questions:

  1. Define the word, “martyr”.
  2. Name the first martyr.
  3. Define the word, “deacon”.
  4. Who condemned Stephen?
  5. Who held the coats at the death of Stephen?


Close with Prayer