Today is the Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen. For speaking truth, for bearing witness to Jesus, Stephen was stoned to death. Saul of Tarsus, prize student of the great Rabbi Gamaliel, stood by and approved. He can be seen standing with stony approval to the right in the painting.
We know what happened next, how Stephen upon seeing Jesus at the Right hand of the Father prayed this sin not be held against his murderers; how Saul, later Paul, would be converted from his single-minded mission to exterminate this new sect, to spreading the Gospel all over the world. Note the crown of martyrdom being given Stephen. Also note a second being held back in the distance by another angel-that one meant for Saint Paul.
We see plenty of Sauls-turned-Paul in the pro-life movement. Norma McCorvey of Roe, Dr. Bernard Nathanson-both of whom converted to Catholicism. This year, Abby Johnson walked out as Planned Parenthood clinic director and joined those on the demonstration line.
They all share something in common with Saint Paul. They were prayed for by those being arrested, being ridiculed for their fidelity to the Lord. It wasn’t Ivy League apologetics that swayed them.
It was love.
Perhaps that’s why, writing years later to the Corinthians, Saint Paul said, “I can speak with the tongues of angels, but if I have not love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal”.
There’s a lesson in that for us in the pro-life movement, and here in the pro-life blogosphere where passions can run high. For my part, I will not tolerate incivility on my threads, from either side. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
Above all, we must pray.
Stephen was the first of many martyrs to follow. So many in the pro-life movement suffer martyrdom on many levels. I’ve been ridiculed roundly, as have so many others. That doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve moved on to a place where I simply cannot grasp how others can’t see, won’t see the intrinsic value of an individual human life, without regard to form or function. And so, at this juncture, I’m left with one certain truth.
We must pray.
Praying with the Church in her closing prayer from the Office of Readings:
Give us, Lord, the gift of practising what we worship and loving our enemies:
for we are celebrating Stephen’s birth into heaven.
He knew how to pray even for those who were killing him.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.