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At the age of ten, Stephen came to the Palestinian monastery of Saint Sabas (Mar Saba), where for the next fourteen years he received his spiritual and intellectual formation from his uncle, the Church Father Saint John of Damascus. Stephen became a monk and was ordained to the priesthood. Once, while celebrating the eastern rite of the Mass, as Stephen elevated the Eucharist and recited the words, "Holy things to the holy," the monastic cell in which he was celebrating the liturgy was filled with a brilliant light that emanated from the celebrant himself. From that occasion onward, he received the mystical favor that whatever intention he prayed for during the Eucharistic liturgy was granted. He obtained permission to live as a hermit, combining this vocation of solitude with an active apostolate of praying for the needs of others. He had a special love for animals, feeding out of his hand doves, starlings, and deer. His compassion for the lowly black worms that crawled through his hermitage prompted him to gather them into a spot where they would be safe from being trampled upon.


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