As men who are born, and come into the world, generally in the same way…one can never fully know the twists and turns our paths in life will take. We may think we know which way we are going. We may be on the road to earning a college degree or gearing towards some other sort of milestone…just merrily skipping along…when out of nowhere our focus or field of interest gets turned around…a chance conversation...or being a witness to the unjust treatment of a Christian…perhaps, even witnessing their death… Sometimes, God uses whatever means necessary to correct our inclinations …and to set us on the path to sainthood. This is precisely the story of yet another saint, who found his path altered by the True Faith…in a place he wasn’t even looking.
Saint Justin was born in Samaria around the year 100 A.D. His parents were Roman colonists, who were pagan. He was an intellectual young man and was greatly interested in philosophy. Longing to find the answers to his quest for the truth he studied all varieties of pagan wisdom. Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, and Platonism were among his favorites. He spent much of his time reading and contemplating the works of Plato…and yet his heart was still yearning for the Truth about life.
Then one day in 130, while casually strolling along the beach and enjoying it’s honest beauty, he met an old man and a conversation was begun…The old man revealed to him the riches of the True Faith. The old man told Justin about the ancient Hebrew Prophets. He told Justin about Jesus Christ and the history of the Christian Faith. This old sage told Justin many tenants of the Christian Faith, including the fact that the soul was a gift from God. This new information peeked his curiosity about a faith he had not bothered with before. Justin was intrigued… and as he wrote in his famous book ‘Dialogue to the Jew Trypho,’ this was a fundamental turning point in his life. The old man had encouraged him to pray so that he would one day be able to understand the Truth about God. And with his first prayer …his conversion had begun...
Since Justin was an intellectual, he approached his newfound faith in the same manner as he had approached pagan philosophies…He used his brain and his intelligence. He became the first Christian philosopher. According to St. Justin, the true philosophy was that of Jesus Christ. He wrote that there are bits and pieces of truth everywhere in the world….but the only place where they are all found…without mixture of error…is in the Person of Jesus Christ… the Logos of God Himself…
Since he wanted to teach others about the Truth that could only be found in the Christian Faith, he opened the first school of Christian philosophy, teaching “the eminent science of Jesus Christ.” He wrote Christian Apologetics for both the Romans and the Jews. He combined the best elements of Greek philosophy with Christian theology, using his writings to defend Christianity against the false accusations that were springing up amongst the pagans.
He became widely celebrated for the two Apologies, or defenses of the Christian Faith, which he courageously addressed to the persecuting Roman emperors; Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. One of these Apologies contained a description of the rites of baptism and the ceremonies of Mass, thus constituting the most valuable evidence that we possess on the Roman liturgy of his day. The two emperors responded with different reactions. By presenting these two Apologies and his vigorous defense of the faith, he was able to obtain a public edict from the government of Antoninus. But Justin wasn’t spared, as Marcus Aurelius sentenced St. Justin to be scourged and condemned to death. And when questioned about the Christian doctrine, he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses:
“The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind.”
And then, for refusing to offer sacrifice to Roman gods, he died a martyr’s death on April 13th sometime between the years 162 – 165. Let us pray:
O God our redeemer,
who through the folly of the cross
didst teach thy martyr Justin
the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ:
free us, we beseech thee, from every kind of error,
that we, like him, may be firmly grounded in the faith,
and make thy name known to all peoples;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.