Our celebration today leads us to two great saints. The first is St. Stephen in today’s first reading. This is really the beginning of the end of his life. His courageous words and steadfast commitment to the truth are beginning to find disfavor among some trouble makers. The members of the “so-called Synagogue of Freedmen” are angry that they could not withstand Stephen’s wisdom, so they are starting to stir up trouble that will eventually lead to Stephen’s execution, but through it all, he finds his glory and peace in Christ.
The second saint is the saint of today’s feast: St. John Baptist de la Salle. John gave up a promising and rewarding career as a scholar-priest at an influential church, complete with a posh life that would take care of him for the rest of his life. And he gave it up to work at a ministry he wasn’t all that excited about: educating young people. Yet, the more he became convinced that this was his life’s calling, the more he dedicated himself to it. He is the founder of the Christian Brothers, who have a ministry of education all over the world, and is the patron of school teachers.
His life resonates with St. Stephen in that he too met up with opposition. He experienced heartrending disappointment and defections among his disciples, bitter opposition from the secular schoolmasters who resented his new and fruitful methods and persistent opposition from the Jansenists of his time, whose heretical doctrines John resisted vehemently all his life.
Dedication to the truth can be a difficult thing to live. There is always opposition to it. But as St. Stephen and St. John Baptist de la Salle show us today, there is also joy and peace in it.