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E03610: Augustine of Hippo delivers a Latin sermon, probably at a feast of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030). He reminds his audience of the discovery of Stephen's relics, emphasises that his miracles are performed by God's power, and refers to written testimonies (libelli) of those who have been cured. Sermon 319, preached c. 425 in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 2017-08-28, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 319

[De Stephano martyre

'On the martyr Stephen']

1. Donet mihi Dominus pauca dicere salubriter, qui donauit sancto Stephano tanta dicere fortiter.

'May the Lord who enabled Saint Stephen to say such powerful and courageous things, enable me to say a few salutary things.'

In what follows Augustine reflects upon Stephen's activity and martyrdom, emphasising that he performed miracles by the power of and died for Christ.

6. Triumphauit, coronatus est. Latuit tanto tempore corpus eius, processit quando deus uoluit, illuminauit terras, tanta miracula fecit, mortuus uiuos facit mortuos, quia nec mortuus. Ergo hoc commendo charitati uestrae, ut sciatis quod orationes eius multa impetrant, non tamen omnia. Nam inuenimus etiam in libellis qui dantur, fuisse illi difficultates impetrandi, et accepisse tamen postea beneficium, non deficiente supplicis fide. Non cessatum est, oratum est, et dedit postea Deus per Stephanum. Sunt uerba orantis Stephani, et responsum est illi: pro qua oras non est digna, hoc et hoc fecit. Et tamen institit, rogauit, accepit. Dedit nobis intelligere, quia in cuius nomine faciebat antequam carnem deponeret, in eius nomine faciunt orationes eius ut beneficia impetrentur, quibus nouit ea dari debere.

'He triumphed, he was crowned. His body lay hidden such a long time, it came to light when God willed, it shed its light on many lands, worked many miracles. Being dead, he brings the dead to life, because he isn't in fact dead. So what I would impress upon your graces is what you should realise that his prayers obtain many favours, but not all. We find even in the written accounts (libelli) that are given out that he has had many difficulties in obtaining something, and yet that he eventually won the favour, when the faith of the suppliant did not fail. There was no letup to the praying that was done, and eventually God granted it through Stephen. We have the words of Stephen's prayer and the answer he received: "The woman you are praying for doesn't deserve it; she has done this and that." And yet, he persisted, he begged, he received. He has given us to understand that the one in whose name he performed miracles before he laid aside the flesh, is the one in whose name his prayers ensure that favours are obtained for people he knows they should be given to.'

Augustine continues to explain that Stephen performs miracles by his prayers.

7. ... Per conseruum beneficia sumamus, honorem et gloriam Domino demus. Quid uobis plus dicam et multum loquar? legite quatuor uersus quos in cella scripsimus, legite, tenete, in corde habete. Propterea enim eos ibi scribere uoluimus, ut qui uult legat, quando uult legat. Ut omnes teneant, ideo pauci sunt: ut omnes legant, ideo publice scripti sunt. Non opus est ut quaeratur codex: camera illa codex uester sit. Aliquanto quidem temperius solito processimus: sed quia longa lectio recitata est, et graues aestus sunt, libellum beneficiorum dei per ipsum, quem lecturi hodie fuimus, in diem dominicum differamus.

'... Let us receive favours through our fellow servant, let us give the honour and glory to the Lord. Why should I say anymore to you, and talk at length? Read the four lines of the verse which I have had written up in the shrine; read them, hold onto them, have them by heart. The reason I wanted to have them them written there, after all, was so that any who wanted could read them, read them whenever they wanted. So that all could remember them, that's why they are few; so that all could read them, that's why they are written up in public. There's no need to go looking for a book; let that little room be your book. I see we have been proceeding a little more quickly than usual. But because a long reading was chanted, and the heat is rather oppressive, let us put off until Sunday the leaflet (libellum) of God's favours received through Stephen, which we were going to have read today.'

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1440-1442. Translation: Hill 1994, 151, 153, 154. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippo Regius

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



This sermon was preached certainly after the discovery of the relics of Stephen in Cahargamala (Palestine) in AD 415 and their arrival in Africa c. AD 420 and in Hippo c. 425, for the relics were evidently deposited in the church in which Augustine is preaching.


Augustine mentions four lines which he had ordered to be written in the basilica of Hippo, but does not quote them. It is difficult to say whether they referred to Stephen.


Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 9. Sermons 306-340A for the Saints ‬(New York: New City Press, 1994). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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