St. Justin Martyr
A Lover of Wisdom
Justin, who later would be referred as Justin Martyr, was born around the year 100 to Greek-speaking parents in the Palestinian province of Samaria (ancient Shechem). His father was an adherent of the Greek pagan religion. Justin was raised to that religion. He was also given an excellent education in history and literature.
As a young man, Justin was interested in philosophy. He searched for truth in the various schools of thought that emerged throughout the empire. However, despite this ardent desire, he was frustrated with the philosophers’ conceits and limitations, aside from their apparent indifference to God.
After some years of study and searching for answers, Justin encountered an old man who urged him to study the Jewish prophets. That encounter made a life-changing impact on Justin’s life and views. The old man told him that the prophets had not solely spoken by the inspiration from God, but they also prophesied of Christ’s coming and the establishing of His Church. The aspiring philosopher began to be drawn to the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity, which eventually led him to be baptized around age thirty.
The Unapologetic Apologetic
After his conversion, Justin continued to wear the philosopher’s toga. He embraced the life of simplicity and austerity even after he moved to Rome. He was deeply inspired by the dedicated example of Christians whom he had seen martyred for the faith. He was most likely ordained as a deacon because he preached, was not married and gave religious instruction in his own home. Other than that, he was also the author of various apologetic works which centered on the defense of the Catholic faith against pagans, Jews and non-believing philosophers. Some of his works, which were strongly worded, were addressed to Roman officials to refute the lies that had been perpetrated against the Church.
In his writings, Justin also explained that the Church considers celibacy as a sacred vocation. He also condemned the common practice of infant killings and denounced the accumulation of excessive wealth and properties. Justin also explains in his writings that the Church regards celibacy as a sacred calling, condemns the common practice of killing infants, and looks down on the accumulation of excessive wealth and property. His first defense, or apology, was written to Emperor Antoninus Pius around the year 150. He convinced the emperor to regard Christianity with tolerance.
However, when Marcus Aurelius was made emperor in 165, persecution of Christians began again. In that year, Justin wrote to the emperor who was himself a philosopher. He attempted to demonstrate the unjust treatment of the occurring persecutions and defended the superiority of the Christian faith over Greek philosophy. Fully convinced of his claims, Justin expected that he would be put to death for expressing them.
Martyred for His Convictions
Indeed, Justin was arrested along with a group of other believers. They were brought before the Roman prefect Rusticus. The prefect made it clear that Justin could be spared from execution. This would happen if he would obey the gods and comply with the edicts of the emperors. Justin, steadfast in faith and conviction, refused and instead replied, “no one can be justly blamed or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Rusticus gave them another opportunity to save their lives from death and questioned them regarding their beliefs about Christ and their manner of worshiping. Justin and his companions declined the prefect’s advice to renounce the faith and pledge their loyalty to the emperor. With firm faith, Justin said, “There is nothing which we more earnestly desire, than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.” Along with his six companions, Justin was scourged and beheaded. His feast day is June 1.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Justin Martyr
- St. Justin Martyr is the patron saint of philosophers and lecturers.
- St. Justin Martyr has been regarded as a saint since the earliest centuries of the Church. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also celebrate his feast day on June 1.
- St. Justin Martyr wrote one of the earliest documents which described the weekly Sunday liturgy of Christians. The structure of their worship has great comparison to the present form of the Holy Mass. He also emphasized that only baptized persons and those free from serious sins may receive the Eucharist.
- Most of St. Justin Martyr’s works are lost. His existing works are First, Second Apology and Dialogue with Trypho.
- St. Justin Martyr was the first known writer to quote from the Acts of the Apostles.
Prayer to St. Justin Martyr
O God, who through the folly of the Crosswondrously taught Saint Justin the Martyrthe surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,grant us, through his intercession,that, having rejected deception and error,we may become steadfast in the faith.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.