Saints for Today: Justin, Martyr (D. 166)


Feast Day: June 01

Justin was born of Roman or Greek parents near ancient Sichem, Israel at the beginning of the second century. In his studies he consulted various philosophies—Stoic, Peripatetic, Pythagorean, and Platonic—but at Ephesus he met a wise man who directed him to the study of the Old Testament. He converted to Christianity around the year 130 and went to Rome, where he opened a school. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy.

Justin publically debated Jews, Gnostics, and those who worshiped Roman gods. He was perhaps the first person to build a bridge between pagan philosophy and the Christian teachings. Many of the early Christians were uneducated, but Justin believed that if the Christian teachings were properly explained, many more persons would embrace the faith. “It is our duty,” he said, “to make known our doctrine.”

Saint Justin looked upon apologetics, the defense of Christian teaching, as a “preparation for the gospel.” He is perhaps the first writer after Saint Paul to grasp the universal implications of Christianity. Only three of his written works have come down to us: two “Apologies” and his “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.” He is among the first to describe in detail for non-believers the rite of baptism and the Eucharistic liturgy.

Justin was arrested during the reign of philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius. At his court trial, when asked which system of teaching he followed, Justin replied: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians.” When threatened with torture, Justin replied: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved.” He was scourged and then beheaded with six other Christians, five men and one woman.

Justin was a layperson who bore witness to Christ in his everyday occupation as a philosopher. Today few Christians have full-time jobs that call on them daily for reasonable explanations of the Christian faith, as Justin’s did. But the Church expects laypeople to transform our worlds, so we must take every chance we get to show and tell others about Christ and His way.

Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Ghezzi, Bert. “Voices of the Saints.” Chicago: Loyola Press, 2000.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.


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