At Mass, I was struck by the vivid red of the priest's vestments: the same deep red as the poinsettias. And Saul's presence at Stephen's martyrdom, too. In fact, as I walked to St. Peter's, I was remembering a phrase from the 2nd or 3rd retelling of St. Paul's conversion story (it is told 3 times in the book of Acts). As Paul is telling the story, the Lord didn't just appear to him on the road to Damascus and say, "Why are you persecuting me?" He also commented, "It is hard for you to kick against the goad."
Could it be that one of the "goads" the Lord had sent to lead Saul into the Christian community had been precisely the "wisdom and spirit with which he [Stephen] spoke"? Was Saul resisting the faith that comes from hearing? He may have been glad to be rid of the preacher Stephen (little suspecting what else the Lord had up his sleeve).
I want to keep reflecting on this; that the Lord took his time with Saul, worked on his case, gave him several chances to respond to grace... It didn't all happen on the road to Damascus.