Acta Sanctorum: St. Justin Martyr (June 1)
June 01, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Life (died c. A.D. 165)

One of the great conversion stories of early Christianity is that of St. Justin Martyr. It is the story of a searcher for truth who, once he found truth in Christianity, was ready to die for it.

Justin tells us something about himself in his writings. He was born in Samaria, between Judea and Galilee. His pagan parents, apparently of Greek origin, were wealthy enough to give their intellectual son a chance to follow higher studies.

The young Samaritan was especially attracted to philosophy, for he had a thirst for the truth about God. There were many non-Christian schools of philosophy in his day. Justin started to pick them over, but found only in the School of Plato some encouragement to God-study.

One day as he walked along near the seashore pondering the remarks of Plato, he encountered a venerable old man with whom he began to talk about his search. The stranger told him that if he was interested in philosophy - the quest for wisdom - he should look into the truths revealed by God through the Hebrew prophets and through Jesus Christ.

Justin was interested. He had heard many evil accusations brought against the Christians, but was already disposed to judge them slanders. These Christians were ready to die for their faith, he saw; therefore, they could not be all that wicked. So he undertook a thorough study of Christianity, and in its teachings he found peace of mind.

Most of the early Christians were not trained thinkers. Their faith was more of the heart than of the mind. Justin, however, was a professional scholar. In his zeal for the Christian faith, he went right on with his scholarly profession, boldly defending the nobility of the Christian faith in lectures, public debates, and writings. He was ready to take on any non-Christian scholar in debate, and through his zeal he won many converts.

The philosopher’s journeys as a lecturer brought him eventually to Rome. It was there that he was arrested and put on trial for his beliefs. Arrested with him were six other Christians, one of them a woman. Fortunately, the actual court record of their trial has been preserved. Justin’s behavior before the tribunal tells us much about the man himself.

The Roman Prefect Rusticus, as judge, began the inquiry. “What branch of learning do you study?” he asked the scholar. Justin answered, “I have studied all in turn… I follow the Christians because they have the truth.”

“What is that teaching?”, Rusticus asked. Justin gave a brief summary of Christian belief in God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. But the Prefect was more interested (no doubt with punitive intent) in discovering where the Christians gathered together to worship. Justin gave his own Roman address and said he would be happy to discuss Christian beliefs with any callers.

“You are, then, a Christian?” Rusticus asked. (It was Roman judicial practice to elicit a confession of faith.) Justin said he was. The Prefect then said slyly, “If I have you beaten and beheaded, do you believe you will then go up to heaven?” Justin replied, “If I suffer as you say, I hope to receive the reward of those who keep Christ’s commandments.”

Rusticus rejoined, “So you think that you will go up to heaven?” Justin said, “I don’t think it, I know it. I have no doubt about it whatever.”

“Very well,” said the judge. “Come here and sacrifice to the gods.”

Justin replied, “Nobody in his senses gives up truth for falsehood. We ask nothing better than to suffer for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ and so to be saved. “

The six other Christians with him expressed agreement with their spokesman. They were therefore all condemned to be scourged and beheaded.

A Christian hand wrote a postscript to this precious account of inspired courage: “Some of the faithful took up their bodies secretly and buried them in a fitting place, upheld by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

--Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture 1 Cor. 1:18-25
The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
(Year B) Through Christ we received new life and we consecrated ourselves to God. I will explain the way in which we did this. Those who believe what we teach is true and who give assurance of their ability to live according to that teaching are taught to ask God’s forgiveness for their sins by prayer and fasting and we pray and fast with them. We then lead them to a place where there is water and they are reborn in the same way as we were reborn; that is to say, they are washed in the water in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. This is done because Christ said: Unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of heaven, and it is impossible for anyone, having once been born, to re-enter his mother’s womb.

An explanation of how repentant sinners are to be freed from their sins is given through the prophet Isaiah in the words: Wash yourselves and be clean. Remove the evil from your souls; learn to do what is right. Be just to the orphan, vindicate the widow. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. If your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as wool; if they are like crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you do not heed me, you shall be devoured by the sword. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The apostles taught us the reason for this ceremony of ours. Our first birth took place without our knowledge or consent because our parents came together, and we grew up in the midst of wickedness. So if we were not to remain children of necessity and ignorance, we needed a new birth of which we ourselves would be conscious, and which would be the result of our own free choice. We needed, too, to have our sins forgiven. This is why the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, is pronounced in the water over anyone who chooses to be born again and who has repented of his sins. The person who leads the candidate for baptism to the font calls upon God by this name alone, for God so far surpasses our powers of description that no one can really give a name to him. Anyone who dares to say that he can must be hopelessly insane.

This baptism is called “illumination” because of the mental enlightenment that is experienced by those who learn these things. The person receiving this enlightenment is also baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold everything concerning Jesus. (First Apology)

Musical Selection (John Michael Talbot)
May I never boast of anything
Save the cross of the Lord
The cross of Jesus Christ
Through it the world has been crucified to me
And I to the life of the world
Through the cross of Jesus Christ
All that matters now is one created anew
Peace and mercy on all
Who follow this rule of life
The Israel of God
Henceforth let no man trouble me
For I bear the marks of the Lord
The marks of Jesus Christ
All that matters now is one created anew
Peace and mercy on all
Who follow this rule of life
The Israel of God
May I never boast of anything
Save the cross of the Lord
God our redeemer,
who through the folly of the cross taught your martyr Justin 
the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ:
remove from us every kind of error
that we, like him, may be rmly grounded in the faith,
and make your name known to all peoples;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, now and for ever. Amen. (English Missal)