Yesterday Spain sent one of her princes to represent her at the court of the Conqueror of Death. Today Christ receives with equal honor the representative of learning in the service of religion. The philosopher's mantle worn by St. Justin is as splendid as the royal purple of St. Hermenegild, for both prince and philosopher have washed their robes in their own blood, mingled with that of the Lamb, and these robes have become the insignia of their eternal glory. But the victory of Christ's champions is not felt in Heaven only—the blood of the martyrs makes the very earth fruitful. In spite of heresy, Catholic Spain was born from the royal blood of St. Hermenegild, and paganism, by sacrificing St. Justin to its own hatred, inspired new vigor into the seed sown in Rome by Sts. Peter and Paul. On this very day the sacred cycle brings before us Sts. Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus, the glorious triumvirate won to Christ by the immortal St. Cecilia, who embodies so nobly the Roman Faith defended with such love and learning by St. Justin. When she was born, St. Justin's public disputations with the adversaries of Christianity were filling Rome with his victorious refutations of paganism. His writings, which he boldly caused to penetrate even to the imperial throne, carried the light to regions which he could not reach by his spoken word. The executioner's axe, in striking off the head of the apologist, gave more force to his demonstrations than had been given by his powerful logic, when for the first time he overcame the powers of Hell and put an end to a fierce persecution.
The world, courted on all sides by a thousand different schools, which by their contradictions seemed bent on making the discovery of truth impossible, was now in a position to recognize sincerity. Marcus Aurelius had succeeded Antoninus Pius, and he claimed to enthrone philosophy in his own person. His ideal of perfection was the satisfaction of self and the contempt of others, and he passed from dogmatic skepticism to the establishment of the Moral Law, delivering his Thoughts to the admiration of his courtiers without caring for the reformation of their morals. St. Justin had been seeking truth from boyhood, in order to find justice. He was not discouraged by the ill-success of his early efforts, and did not make the delay of the dawn an excuse for denying the existence of the light. When, at God's chosen time, he found Wisdom, he longed to communicate Her to all, little and great, and devoted his life to the work, making naught of the labors and sufferings by which he solemnly confessed his Faith before the world. What man of good faith could hesitate to choose between the Christian hero and the crowned sophist who put him to death? Who would not, like St. Cecilia, pour scorn upon the pretensions of those false philosophers who have made themselves masters of the world and who give no proof of their love for wisdom beyond their determination to shut the mouths of those who preach it?
True philosophy, baptized in the blood of this convert, is henceforward Christian forever. But woe to reason if she forgets her consecration to Christ, ignores the Mystery of the Incarnation, and declares herself satisfied with a purely natural explanation of the origin of man, the end of creation, and the Moral Law. If man withdraws himself from the supernatural light, he will be rightly punished by the withdrawal of that natural light, which he thought to be his own, and the world will be plunged into unreasoning foolishness.
Let us read the Breviary account of the Martyr-Philosopher:
St. Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student in the schools of all the philosophers, and examined the teaching of them all. He received the light of Heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian Faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian Faith.
Among the most famous of the works of St. Justin are his two Apologies or Defenses of the Christian Faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defense of the Faith, he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But St. Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: "The right doctrine which Christian men do keep with piety is this: that we believe that there is one God, the Maker and Creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and Who is to come to judge all mankind."
In order to rebut the slanders of the heathen, in his first Apology St. Justin had given a clear account of the Christian assemblies and of the holy Mysteries there celebrated. Therefore the prefect asked him in what place he and Christ's other faithful servants in the city were accustomed to meet. But St. Justin, fearing to betray the holy Mysteries and his brethren, mentioned only his own dwelling near the famous church in the house of Pudens, where he lived and taught his disciples. The prefect then bade him choose whether he would sacrifice to the gods or suffer a cruel scourging. The unconquered champion of the Faith answered that he had always desired to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom he hoped to receive a great reward in Heaven. The prefect thereupon sentenced him to death, and thus this excellent philosopher, giving praise to God, suffered the pain of scourging, and then shed his blood for Christ, and was crowned with martyrdom. Some of the faithful stole away his body and buried it in a fitting place. The Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII commanded that his office and Mass should be said throughout the Church.
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