HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH
ST. JUSTIN, PHILOSOPHER
St. Justin was one of those glorious Saints that have rendered the Church illustrious by their extraordinary learning, as well as by their eminent virtues. He wrote in defence of Catholic truth against pagans, Jews, and heretics, and presented to the Emperors and Roman Senate two famous “Apologies,” wherein he vindicates the innocence of the Christians, and proves that the crimes imputed to them were mere calumnies of the pagans. By the sanctity of his life, and the zeal and energy of his preaching, he converted many infidels, and finally terminated his brilliant career by a glorious Martyrdom.
St. Justin was born about the beginning of the second century at Neapolis,* the capital of Samaria, of Greek parents, who were idolaters. Having gone through the usual elementary course of studies, he found himself inspired with a great desire to know something about the Great Cause, or Creator of all. Having in vain sought for truth among the Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and those of the Platonic school, God was pleased to satisfy his yearnings after a wonderful manner. Having wandered one day into a solitary place in order that he might with more tranquillity enjoy his meditations, he met with an old man of very venerable appearance, who told him that if he wished to arrive at a knowledge of the true God, he should leave the study of philosophy, and begin to read the Prophets, who in their writings had manifested to man the Mysteries of God, and announced Jesus Christ, His Son, through Whom alone we can arrive at the knowledge of the true God, “But,” continued this venerable personage, “above all things, pray to the Lord to illuminate thy mind, because these things are not to be understood except by those unto whom God hath given the knowledge of them.” Having pronounced these words, he disappeared.
*The ancient Sichem, now called Napleus
After this interview, Justin applied himself continually to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, from which he derived that blessed knowledge which made him embrace the Faith and receive the Sacrament of regeneration about the year 133, being then about thirty years of age. The constancy and fortitude of the Martyrs in suffering tortures and laying down their lives for Jesus Christ, as he himself confesses, contributed much to his conversion, from which time he dedicated himself entirely to the love of Jesus Christ, and the advancement of His Religion. To this end he received the Holy Order of Priesthood,* and exerted himself continually in the conversion of infidels and heretics, considering himself called by God to the defence of His Church. Hence he used to say: “Since I have obtained from God the grace to understand the Scriptures, I labour to make them understood by others also, lest my neglect should be punished at the tribunal of God.” And again: “I am determined to manifest the truth, although I should be cut to pieces.”
*The clerical character of St. Justin is by no means an incontrovertible point. The silence of the ancient authors with regard to his ordination has induced some to consider him a layman, as they think that so important a circumstance, had it taken place, could not have been omitted by early writers. His preaching, teaching, catechizing, etc., would proclaim him a deacon, at least; and it is hard to believe that if such a person at all entered the clerical state, the Church would have failed to promote him to the priesthood.–Ed.
Having proceeded to Rome, he instructed many in the doctrines of the Christian Faith; and there, about the year 150, composed and presented to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and to the Roman Senate, his first “Apology,” wherein he demonstrates the truth of the doctrines, and the sanctity of life, which the Christians professed. He adds that many of them had lived in a state of inviolate purity for sixty or seventy years; and that Christians were so enamoured of this angelic virtue, that they either live in perpetual continency, or embrace the marriage state for the holy purpose of bringing up children in the love and service of God; their desires being placed in the joys of eternal life, which they expect through the death of Jesus Christ.
In testimony of the truth of the Christian Faith, he brings forward the fulfilment of the Prophecies, which had been preserved by the Jews, the avowed enemies of the Christians. “We have seen,” says the Saint, “those Prophecies fulfilled in our own days, by the Birth of Jesus Christ from a Virgin; in His preaching and miracles; in His Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven; in the reprobation of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem; in the conversion of the Gentiles, and the establishment of the Church throughout the entire world. These Prophecies, so perfectly fulfilled, must convince us that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, Who will come one day to judge mankind, as hath been foretold, and as we believe.”
The Church in those days kept concealed from the uninitiated the celebration of the most Holy Mysteries; but St. Justin thought it necessary to explain them, in order to contradict the infamous calumnies of secret lewdness and infanticide, which were being circulated against the Christians. Wherefore, having explained the sacred ceremonies of Baptism, he proceeds to speak of the Eucharist in the following terms: “He that presides in the assembly is presented with bread and a chalice of wine, with water; whereupon, in the Name of the Son and the Holy Ghost, he renders glory to the Father. And by these gifts doth he make thanksgiving, which all the faithful confirm by the word ‘Amen’. The prayers, praises, and thanksgiving being terminated, the Deacons take of the bread and the wine, mixed with water, over which all these holy prayers have been recited, and having distributed them among those present, they carry some to the absent also. This food is by us called Eucharist; of which no one can partake who believeth not our doctrines, and who hath not been cleansed from sin in the laver of regeneration. This is not common food or drink; but as Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was, for our Redemption, by virtue of the Divine Word, composed of flesh and blood; so we are aware that, by virtue of the prayer containing His Divine words, the food by which we are nourished is the Flesh and Blood of the Word Incarnate.” Thus we see that the present doctrine of the Catholic Church is that which was believed and practised in the Apostolic times, in which our Saint lived. It is believed that although this “Apology” of St. Justin did not cause the persecution to cease, it made a favourable impression on the Emperor Antoninus Pius, as is inferred from his letter, written to the cities of Asia Minor in favour of the Christians, and recorded by Eusebius.