San Stefano Rotondo dates from the 5th century, may be the oldest round Roman Church. It originally held the relics of St. Stephen, the first Martyr , whose relics had been discovered in the Holy Land. Because of this connection, the Church was modeled after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The frescoes on the walls, depicting twenty-four scenes of martyrdom, depicting how saints suffered for the Faith are a constant reminder of the importance our Faith should have in our lives and they are quite memorable. The relics of St. Stephen are unfortunately not kept here anymore, so the Church was later rededicated to St. Stefan, King of Hungary.
Proclaiming the truth
Being in the Church originally dedicated to St. Stephen, it is fitting that the readings today speak of persecution and of an attempted stoning of Jesus. Stephen was stoned to death for proclaiming the truth about Christ, that he was the Son of God. In the Gospel, that is what the crowd takes issue with, that Jesus says he is the Son of God. But that is true. As he asks them, “can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” We are called to witness to the truth, despite who may find it difficult to accept, because the truth does not depend on people’s perception of it. They tried to stone Jesus for it, but he escaped from their power.
Choosing Christ and the Gospel
Today’s station church, which has stood from the 4th Century, with its wonderful frescoes, stands as a testament to those who gave their lives for Christ. It bears witness to the extreme worth of their choice to cling on to Christ and the Gospel, that now millennia later we can stand here now as believers. For through the sacrifice of these martyrs, we can see that they bore witness to the truth, just as in the end of today’s Gospel people came to believe because they saw that Jesus bore the truth. “everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him.” That is still our mission in the world. That others may believe in Christ, because they see we bear witness to the Truth.
Written by: Mario Majano
Photos by: Fr Justin Huber