For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Justin, Martyr, c. 100-165
Justin, a layman, was the first great apologist of Christianity and a number of his lengthy writings remain with us today. Born of Greco-Roman parents, Justin received the best liberal education available in his day. He studied rhetoric, history, poetry, and was especially interested in philosophy. But none of the philosophers whom he studied seemed to have exactly what he was looking for.
One day, as Justin was walking near the seashore pondering one of Plato’s maxims, he found himself being followed by a venerable looking old man. This stranger aroused Justin’s interest by telling him of a philosophy more virtuous and satisfying than any he had studied to that time. It was one, the man told him, revealed by God to the Israelite prophets of ancient times which had reached its culmination in Jesus Christ. Inspired by the man’s words, Justin began a study of Scripture and undertook to learn more about Christianity. Justin was baptized when he was about thirty.
Up to this time, Christianity’s beliefs and practices were largely unknown to those outside of the faith. Justin, however, felt that many people would accept Christianity if it were presented to them properly. He began teaching and writing about the Christian faith and also about what took place at their secret meetings (the celebration of the Eucharist).
Traveling to various lands, Justin debated with pagan philosophers, heretics, and Jews. Eventually, he came to Rome where he argued in public with a Cynic named Crescens. Having bested Crescens in the debate, Justin earned his hatred. Crescens denounced Justin as a Christian and Justin, together with six other Christians, was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus, for trial. After admitting his Christianity and refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods, Justin and the others were condemned to torture and death.
St. Justin is a patron of philosophers. We honor this martyr by a memorial on June 1.
Justin's message today: Justin searched for a time before finding God. Once he had found God, he kept the faith even to death. Although martyrdom may not be the fate of any of us, we should be prepared to defend our faith at any given moment.