Pope Benedict XVI addressed pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father's Angelus message on the feast of St. Stephen. The feast falls on the day after Christmas and celebrates the life of the first martyr of the faith.
Recalling the life of St. Stephen, the Holy Father said that St. Stephen fulfilled the words of Christ, saying that "believers who are called to bear witness in difficult and dangerous circumstances will not be abandoned or left defenseless: the Spirit of God will speak to them."
"The deacon Stephen, in fact, worked, spoke and died animated by the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to the love of Christ to the point of extreme sacrifice. The first martyr is described, in his suffering, as a perfect imitation of Christ, whose passion is repeated even in the details," the Holy Father said. The Pope went on to say that the passion and death of Jesus Christ was repeated in St. Stephen's death who forgave his enemies while he was being stoned.
Pope Benedict called on the faithful to contemplate on Jesus, especially during this Christmas season where "we contemplate in the mystery of His Incarnation."
"Allowing ourselves to be drawn by Christ, like St. Stephen, means opening our lives to the light that calls, directs and makes us walk the path of good, the path of humanity according to God’s loving plan," the Holy Father said.
The Supreme Pontiff also stated that the life and death of St. Stephen serves as a "model for all those who want to serve the new evangelization." The pope stressed that proclaiming the gospel does not rely on new methods or techniques, but relies primarily on the presence of the Holy Spirit in one's life and being guided by Him.
"In essence, the evangelizer is able to bring Christ to others effectively when he lives of Christ, when the newness of the Gospel manifests itself in his own life. We pray to the Virgin Mary, so that the Church, in this Year of Faith, sees more men and women who, like St. Stephen, who know how to give a convinced and courageous witness of the Lord Jesus."
After the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father concluded by greeting the pilgrims who were present in various languages. The Holy Father greeted the English speaking pilgrims, calling on them to live their lives like St. Stephen who was "blessed by God’s grace to have the courage to speak up and to defend the truth of our faith in public, with charity and constancy."