St. Alban was the first martyr of England, his own country. During a persecution of Christians, Alban, though a pagan then, hid a priest in his house. The priest made such a great impression on this kind pagan that Alban received instructions and became a Christian himself.
In the meantime, the governor had been told that the priest was hiding in Alban’s house, and he sent his soldiers to capture him. But Alban changed clothes with his guest, and gave himself up instead. The judge was furious when he found out that the priest had escaped and he said to Alban, “You shall get the punishment he was to get unless you worship the gods.” The Saint answered that he would never worship those false gods again. “To what family do you belong?” demanded the judge. “That does not concern you,” said Alban. “If you want to know my religion, I am a Christian.” Angrily the judge commanded him again to sacrifice to the gods at once. “Your sacrifices are offered to devils,” answered the Saint. “They cannot help you or answer your requests. The reward for such sacrifices is the everlasting punishment of Hell.”
Stephen’s name means “crown,” and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr’s crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.
God worked many miracles through Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen’s preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they had men lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.
The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him. After such an expression of love, the holy martyr went to his heavenly reward.).