August 2nd, Saint Stephen, Pope and Martyr
This Stephen was a Roman, who became Pope in 254, and fulfilled his office during the reign of the Emperors Valerian and Gallienus. His short Popedom was made notable by the controversy over the re-baptism of those christened by hereticks. Such re-baptism he forbade, and wrote to Saint Cyprian in these words : Let us have no innovations, but only what hath been handed down unto us. No sure or certain records of his martyrdom exist. But tradition saith that as persecution was waxing dreader and more dread, Stephen gathered together the clergy, and exhorted them to be brave in lifting up their testimony, and himself celebrated Masses and Councils in the Catacombs ; and that finally, whilst he was one day finishing the Mass, the soldiers of the Emperor brake in upon the Christians and cut off Stephen’s head as he sat in his chair; and that the relicks of the Martyr along with the chair stained with his blood, were buried by the clergy in the cemetery of Saint Callistus, upon the second day of August in the year 257. According to the Pontifical Book, he lived as Pope three years, three months and twenty-two days, and held two December ordinations, and in them ordained six priests, five deacons and three bishops.
Be merciful to the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men : and keep us in thy continual protection ; at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr, the Holy Father Stephen, whom thou didst raise up in thy Church to be thine under-shepherd, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God world without end. Amen.