Acta Sanctorum: St. Justin Martyr (June 1)
June 01, 2023
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 A) I myself, when I rejoiced in the teachings of Plato, hearing Christians slandered and seeing them fearless in the face of death and all other things considered fearful, understood that it was impossible for them to act in wickedness and love of pleasure.  For what lover of pleasure, or person without self control who considers it a good to eat human flesh, would be able to greet death and thus be deprived of his good things, but not try by all means to always live this present life, and elude those ruling; to say nothing of the fact that being put to death, he would denounce himself?
As many things as may be spoken well by all belong to we who are Christians; for we love and worship with God, the Logos from the unbegotten and indescribable God, since He became man
for our sake, and so that by becoming a participant in our sufferings He might provide the cure. For all writers through the implanted seed of the Logos present in them were able too see reality only dimly. For the seed and the imitation (according to the ability that each is given) is one thing but the participation and imitation of the Logos (which is in accordance to the gift which is from Him), is another thing which is not the same.
Because it is in the nature of men to be capable of knowing what is good and what is shameful,
and both as a consequence of our condemnation (whom they do not understand, yet they say do such sorts of shameful things), and because they rejoice in such things in the deeds of the gods, even now they still demand the same things from men and from us (while they do such things), they require death, or chains, or some other sort of thing which they prefer, condemning us themselves with no need for other judges. And it is not possible in accordance with sound minded judgment to consider our teachings shameful, but more noble than all human philosophy. (Second 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 of wisdom,
through the folly of the cross
you taught the blessed martyr Justin
the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ;
grant by his intercession
that we may reject falsehood and deceit
and remain always steadfast in the faith.
We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.