Spiritual Reading for the Fourth Saturday in Lent ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading



St. Justin composed other works in defence of Catholic doctrine, against the Marcionites and Valentinians; and also his Dialogue with Trypho, against the obduracy of the Jews. Marcus Aurelius having succeeded Antoninus Pius in the empire, the persecution was renewed; and one, Crescens, who, although styling himself a Cynic philosopher, was in reality a very shallow fellow, took occasion to exclaim loudly against the Christians. St. Justin, in public dispute, frequently convicted him of the most violent malice and the greatest possible ignorance of the doctrine and practices of the Christians, and was induced to publish, and present to the emperor, his second “Apology,” in which he defends his religion against the calumnies of Crescens and others.

In showing that Christians had been unjustly put to death, he relates that a married couple had both been guilty of incontinency; the woman, having been converted to the Christian Religion, used all her endeavours to withdraw her husband from his shameful practices; but he, instead of amending, accused her and one Ptolemy, who had been the means of her conversion, of being Christians. The Prefect, Urbicus, sentenced them to death; whereupon a certain Christian, named Lucius, exclaimed: “With what conscience, O Urbicus, dost thou condemn a man who hath been guilty of no crime?” Lucius, together with another Christian, received a similar sentence.

A very short time after the publication of this discourse, St. Justin was apprehended, together with six other Christians of his acquaintance, and brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, who exhorted him to obey the imperial edicts. The Saint replied: “No one can be reproved or condemned for obeying the precepts of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

The Prefect asked him what kind of learning he professed. Justin answered that he had learned the doctrines of various sects, and had finally embraced Christianity, although it was despised by those who were led away by errors and false opinions. “Unhappy wretch!” exclaimed the prefect, “dost thou then delight in this discipline?” Justin answered: “Yes, because it teaches me the true doctrine.” Rusticus: “Which is this doctrine?” Justin: “The true doctrine which we profess is to believe in one only God, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was foretold by the Prophets, the Preacher of salvation unto men, and the Master of those who happily observe the Divine precepts. But neither have I a tongue to express nor a mind to conceive anything worthy of His infinite dignity; for to do so should need the mind and the Spirit of the Prophets, who, inspired by God, foretold His coming.”

The Prefect asked him where the Christians were in the habit of assembling. Justin replied: “Where they please and where they can. Dost thou imagine, perchance, that we all assemble in the same place? The God of the Christians is not confined to a place; He is invisible, and fills both Heaven and earth; and is everywhere adored and praised by the faithful.” “But I wish to know,” rejoined Rusticus, “where thou and thy disciples assemble.” The Saint answered: “As for myself, I dwell at the Timothean baths: this is the second time I have come to Rome, and I am scarcely acquainted with any other place in the city; and if any one should wish to seek me, I am ready to communicate to him the doctrines of truth.” Rusticus: “Thou art then, a Christian?” Justin: “Yes; I am a Christian.”

The Prefect then turned to St. Justin’s companions, and interrogated them, one after another, concerning their Faith. They all confessed themselves Christians, and manifested a desire to die for Jesus Christ. Rusticus then said to Justin: “Tell me, thou who dost believe that thou hast the true wisdom, whether thou art persuaded that thou shalt ascend into Heaven, after I shall have caused thee to be scourged and beheaded.” The Saint replied: “If I shall suffer these punishments, I hope to receive the reward which is prepared for those who observe the commandments of Christ.” The Prefect asked: “Dost thou, then, really imagine that thou shalt ascend into Heaven?” “This I do not only imagine, but I know it,” replied the Saint, “and am so fully assured of it that I entertain no doubt whatever.”

Finally the Prefect, turning to all those Confessors of Jesus Christ, said to them: “Go ye together, and all sacrifice to the gods.” Justin, answering for all, replied: “No man in his senses could abandon Religion to become a participator in impiety.” The prefect hereupon threatened that their non-compliance would be followed by the most unrelenting tortures. Justin said: “There is nothing which we more earnestly desire than to endure torments for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus attain unto salvation; for this it is that will enable us to present ourselves with confidence at the tribunal of that Judge before Whom all the world must necessarily appear.” To this the other Martyrs assented, adding: “Do quickly what thou art about. We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.”

The Prefect then announced against them the following sentence: “Those who have not wished to sacrifice to the gods, or obey the edict of the Emperor, shall first be scourged, and afterwards beheaded, in pursuance of the law.” The Martyrs were forthwith led to the place of execution, where, the sentence being carried into effect, they received the glorious crown of Martyrdom, in 167, or the following year. Their bodies were privately carried away by the Christians, who gave them honourable interment.

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