Matthew 28: 6
March 31, 2024
March 31, 2024
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The example of this 8th century saint should reassure anyone who thinks that great or grandiose deeds are necessary for a sanctified life. Saint Stephen of Mar Saba (725 – 794), whose feast day is March 31st, lived a quiet, unassuming and prayerful existence, but his service to others through contemplation and works led to him being an exemplar of holiness and peace.

He ministered for half a century within the community of Mar Saba, a monastery established by Saint Sabas in the 5th century. His witness of heroic virtue and selfless love illustrates the extraordinary power of God’s grace to transform and ennoble ordinary life. A nephew of Saint John Damascene, one of the most learned men of his time, young Stephen was introduced to monastic life at the age of ten.

From then until he reached the age of 24, he received instruction from his uncle, upon whose death he became both a monk and an ordained priest. Stephen’s spiritual insight was especially evident in the charitable guidance he accorded his fellow monks. At Mar Saba, he labored variously as a spiritual director, guest-master, cantor, dispenser and special guest-master overseeing the igumen’s (Abbot’s) quarters.

St. Stephen is called the Wonderworker because once while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he experienced a transcendent radiance. As he elevated the Eucharist and recited the words, “Holy things to the holy”, the cell in which he was praying filled with brilliant light. The miraculous incandescence emanated from Stephen himself. From that day forward, whatever he requested during the Eucharistic Liturgy was granted. In this, he radiated God’s immense love for man.

After several years of service to the monastery, Stephen requested permission to live as a hermit. It was granted conditionally; his superiors allowed him to pray as a hermit during the week, but, on the weekend, expected him to exercise his skills as a counselor. At 37, he went into total solitude for fifteen years, three times going into the desert around the Dead Sea for Lent.
He died at peace in 794.



Dear God, Almighty Father, you have created us in your image and all who live edifying your creation are worthy of sainthood. Whatever help, spiritual or material, Saint Stephen of Mar Saba, who lived a life in Christ Jesus, was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness.

He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. Yet, even in total poverty, living according to your Will, he possessed all things. Help us to imitate and emulate Saint Stephen, to spread peace in the world, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Saint Stephen of Mar Saba, pray for us.



Benjamin was born in Persia, but the remainder of his early life is lost to history. He was appointed a deacon of the Church, and for some time, enjoyed the years of peace that Christians were granted during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III. Prior to his twelve-year reign, Christians had been actively persecuted.

Near the end of his reign, the ire of Isdegerd was raised by Abdas, a Christian bishop who burned the Temple of Fire—the great sanctuary of the Persian pagan gods—in his zeal for Christ. King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all Christian churches unless Abdas agreed to rebuild the Temple of Fire. Of course, he refused, and was summarily executed.

For the next 40 years (first under Isdegerd, and then his son, Varanes), a general persecution was unleashed on Christians. Churches were destroyed, and Christians were tortured and imprisoned mercilessly. Among the faithful who suffered during this persecution was Saint Benjamin, a deacon. He was imprisoned for one year after a member of the royal court overheard him preaching .

Saint Benjamin was renowned for his zealous preaching, bringing many Persians and Greeks to the faith. Following his imprisonment, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople negotiated his conditional release: the condition, that he never preached within earshot of any member of the royal court again.

Saint Benjamin, however, at great risk to his life, declared it his duty to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and could not remain silent. He resumed his preaching with great intensity, finding audiences wherever he could, including public places and street corners. Before long, he was re-arrested and brought before the king who again ordered him to stop preaching or else, he would have to face the consequences.

Saint Benjamin replied, “I cannot possibly do that. Those who hide the talent they have received will be given over to greater suffering.” King Varanes then ordered that he undergo extreme torture. Reeds and thorns were thrust beneath his finger and toe nails, and into the most tender parts of his body before being withdrawn. Following this, which he bore with smiles and joy, a knotted stake was thrust into his bowels to rend and tear them. In this most terrible agony, he died, earning the martyrs’ golden crown.

Saint Ephrem, considering the heroic constancy of the martyrs, wrote: “The wisdom of philosophers, and the eloquence of the greatest orators, are dumb through amazement, when they contemplate the wonderful spectacle and glorious actions of the martyrs: the tyrants and judges were not able to express their astonishment when they beheld the faith, the constancy, and the cheerfulness of these holy champions.

What excuse shall we have in the dreadful day of judgment, if we, who have never been exposed to any cruel persecutions, or to the violence of such torments, shall have neglected the love of God and the care of a spiritual life? No temptations, no torments, were able to draw them from that love which they bore to God; but we, living in rest and delights, refuse to love our most merciful and gracious Lord.

What shall we do in that day of terror, when the martyrs of Christ, standing with confidence near his throne, shall show the marks of their wounds? What shall we then show? Shall we present a lively faith? true charity towards God? a perfect disengagement of our affections from earthly things? souls freed from the tyranny of the passions? silence and recollection? meekness? almsdeeds? prayers poured forth with clean hearts? compunction, watchings, tears? Happy shall he be whom such good works shall attend. He will be the partner of the martyrs, and, supported by the treasure of these virtues, shall appear with equal confidence before Christ and his angels.”

Saint Benjamin is remembered by Christians today for his great courage and faith in Jesus Christ. Today, many continue to look to Saint Benjamin for courage and strength by wearing Saint Benjamin medals—a reminder of the importance of preaching, living courageously in the Lord, and the sacrifice that the brave martyrs of the faith made throughout Church history.


Thy martyr, Benjamin, O Lord, by his struggle hath received from thee, our God, the imperishable crown; because, acquiring thy strength, he demolished usurpers and crushed the powerless might of Satan. Therefore, through his intercessions, O Christ God, save our souls. Amen

We entreat you, O most holy martyr Saint Benjamin, who cheerfully suffered most cruel torments for God our Savior and his love, on which account you are now most intimately and familiarly united to him, that you pray to the Lord for us miserable sinners, covered with filth, that he infuse into us the grace of Christ that it may enlighten our souls that we may love him. Amen

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