Saint Justin Martyr

Feast: June 1
By Michael McKenna

The prophet Isaiah instructs (7:9) “Unless you believe, you will not understand” – a sentiment echoed through the ages by the great Christian thinkers who understood the proper use of reason must be preceded by faith in the proper object. That is to say, not faith in ourselves or even science, but faith in God revealed to us in His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Born of gentile parents in Samaria in 100AD, Justin gave much of his young life to the search for truth. One of the most important Christian writers of the second century, though not biographical, Justin’s writings nevertheless reveal how his study of all the schools of philosophy led him to Christianity, “the one certain and profitable philosophy”.

Patron saint of apologists, philosophers and speakers, Justin comes upon the faith not via any grand luminary thinker but rather an anonymous old man who he describes as engaging with him by the seashore and who points Justin, in his doubt, to the scriptures. Justin records: “A fire was suddenly kindled in my soul. I fell in love with the prophets and these men who had loved Christ; I reflected on all their words and found that this philosophy alone was true and profitable. That is how and why I became a philosopher. And I wish that everyone felt the same way that I do.”

Convinced of the faith by the scriptures and the blood of the Christian martyrs, his teaching ministry brought him to Greece, Egypt, and Italy where he founded a Christian school in Rome. He is distinguished in particular for the two Apologies he presented to the persecuting emperors Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. His description in one, of the rites of baptism and the ceremonies of Mass, is the most authoritative account that we possess on the early Church’s liturgy.

Justin argued that Christians were in fact, the emperor’s “best helpers and allies in securing good order, convinced as we are that no wicked man … can be hidden from God, and that everyone goes to eternal punishment or salvation in accordance with the character of his actions.”

Refusing to denounce his faith, Justin said: “No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false.” Asked if he thought “that by dying you will enter heaven, and be rewarded by God?” Justin replied, “I do not think, I know.”

Tags: News, Saints