The First Martyr

St. Stephen, one of the seventy-two disciples of our Saviour, was chosen after His Ascension one of the seven deacons. Their ministry was very fruitful but Stephen especially, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Many adversaries rose up against him, but they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit that spoke through him. At length, he was brought before the Sanhedrin and charged like our Divine Master with blasphemy against Moses and against God. Stephen boldly upbraided the chief priests for their resistance to the Holy Ghost and for the Crucifixion of the Saviour. They were so angered they gnashed their teeth against him and ordered him to be dragged outside the city where he was stoned to death, thus becoming the first Christian martyr. In the mural we see the scene of his martyrdom, Stephen looking up to Heaven as though filled with the Holy Ghost and seeing the vision in which he declared: "Behold, I see the Heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God".

The Jews are holding stones to throw at him, while Saul, at one side, keeps their garments.

This mural expressing fortitude seems to be composed in tone rather than in form, though the effect of the battlements, the hill country, the resentment depicted on the wrathful faces of his executioners, the joyful countenance of Stephen, the elemental beauty of the enveloping atmosphere subtly suggesting earth tones, but palpitating with spiritual life as they surround the martyr, give a sense of terrible beauty and sheer truth to the picture that appropriately associates it with an ideal of Fortitude.