Saint Stephen of Mar Saba
A “do not disturb” sign helped today’s saint find holiness and peace.
Stephen of Mar Saba was the nephew of Saint John Damascene, who introduced the young boy to monastic life beginning at age 10. When he reached 24, Stephen served the community in a variety of ways, including guest master. After some time he asked permission to live a hermit’s life. The answer from the abbot was yes and no: Stephen could follow his preferred lifestyle during the week, but on weekends he was to offer his skills as a counselor. Stephen placed a note on the door of his cell: “Forgive me, Fathers, in the name of the Lord, but please do not disturb me except on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Despite his calling to prayer and quiet, Stephen displayed uncanny skills with people and was a valued spiritual guide.
His biographer and disciple wrote about Stephen: “Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things.”
Stephen died in 794.
For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds. Psalm 69:33
A great theme in Scripture is this: God is on the side of the poor. This was why God chose the lowly Israelites in the first place. It’s also at the heart of Mary’s Magnificat and Jesus’ Beatitudes. It is the reason behind the divine mandate to care for the poor, the widow and the stranger. But who are the poor? The poor are the economically poor, yes. But the poor also include all who are at a distinct disadvantage in society due to race, age, gender, language, ill health, limited education, absence of opportunities or lack of power. If God is on their side, then shouldn’t we also be on their side? We do this through small but significant ways—such as volunteering, contributing financially, praying, staying informed on social justice issues and supporting legislation and candidates who are mindful of the poor. Loving God, you hear the cries of the poor. Help me to be more attentive to those cries and to take loving action on their behalf.