Ordinary Time: June 1st
Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr
Other Commemorations: Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest (particular calendars)
Today is the Memorial of St. Justin, apologist and martyr (c. 100-165), who was one of the most important Christian writers of the second century. Justin himself tells how his study of all the schools of philosophy led him to Christianity, and how he dedicated his life to the defense of the Christian faith as "the one certain and profitable philosophy."
St. Justin is particularly celebrated for the two Apologies which he was courageous enough to address in succession to the persecuting emperors Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. One of them contains a description of the rites of baptism and the ceremonies of Mass, thus constituting the most valuable evidence that we possess on the Roman liturgy of his day. He was beheaded in Rome in 165. Justin is also referred to as "the Philosopher."
On the first Thursday after Pentecost, the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest is observed on the particular calendars in Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Czech Republic and England and Wales. Approval for this feast was first granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1987. In 2012 the Congregation sent a letter to all conferences of bishops, offering the feast to be inscribed in their respective liturgical calendars if they ask for it.
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 of philosphy and examined the teaching of all the philosophers. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. 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 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 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 we Christian men do keep with godliness 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 his first Apology Justin had given, in order to rebut the slanders of the heathen, an open account of the Christian assemblies and of the holy Mysteries there celebrated. The prefect asked him in what place he and Christ's other faithful servants in the city were accustomed to meet. But 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.
—Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
Patronage: Apologists; lecturers; orators; philosophers; speakers.
Symbols and Representation: Ox; pen; sword; red-hot helmet.
Highlights and Things to Do:
- St. Justin was a prolific writer, and one of the first Christians to write about the Eucharistic liturgy of the early church. See Catholic Culture's Collection of Fathers of the Church Writings to read some of St. Justin's writings. Read some of Early Christian Writings also has a collection.
- Read this account of St. Justin's life and another account from the Church Fathers of his martyrdom.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia has an excellent entry on St. Justin. Their summary: "The role of St. Justin may be summed up in one word: it is that of a witness. We behold in him one of the highest and purest pagan souls of his time in contact with Christianity, compelled to accept its irrefragable truth, its pure moral teaching, and to admire its superhuman constancy. He is also a witness of the second-century Church which he describes for us in its faith, its life, its worship, at a time when Christianity yet lacked the firm organization that it was soon to develop, but the larger outlines of whose constitution and doctrine are already luminously drawn by Justin. Finally, Justin was a witness for Christ unto death."
- Catholic Culture has several resources dedicated to St. Justin. See
- Way of the Fathers: Episode 9—Justin Martyr: Everything Good Is Ours by Mike Aquilina
- Catholic Culture Audiobooks: St. Justin Martyr—Dialogue with Trypho (excerpt) by James Majewski
- Church Fathers: St. Justin Martyr by Thomas Mirus
- Read more about St. Justin:
- Read Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience Address March 21, 2007 on St. Justin.
Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest The feast focuses firstly on Jesus’ Priestly Office (Latin: Munus sacerdotale). He is considered the model for believers, and for the clergy in particular, with priests acting In persona Christi (“In the person of Christ”). The laity are thus urged to pray that priests would be more like Christ, the compassionate and trustworthy high priest (Hebrews 2:17), ever-living to intercede for humanity before The Father (Heb 7:25).
The Second Vatican Council taught many things about the Priesthood of Christ, and sharing in that one Priesthood through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Orders. This development has been reflected in many subsequent documents. One effective way to build upon this teaching is to establish the Feast of Christ the Priest more widely.
What Pope Pius XI wrote about the feast in honor of Christ’s Kingly Office can be said just as truly about this feast in honor of Our Lord’s Priesthood:
For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year - in fact, forever.
The entry from the Roman Martyrology (2005) reads:
Thursday after Pentecost: The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Eternal High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek. In him the Father has been well pleased from before all time. As Mediator between God and human beings, fulfilling his Father’s will, he sacrificed himself once on the altar of the Cross as a saving Victim for the whole world. Thus, instituting the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice, with a brother’s kindness he chose, from among the children of Adam, men to augment the priesthood, so that, from the sacrifice continually renewed in the Church, streams of divine power might flow, whereby a new heaven and a new earth might be made, and throughout the whole universe there would be perfected what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the human heart.
Thursday after Pentecost
Station with San Lorenzo in Panisperna (St. Lawrence in Panisperna):
Let us not forget that we celebrate today's mysteries "with St. Lawrence," the Roman deacon who walked so perfectly in the footprints of his predecessor in the diaconate, St. Philip. The unclean are cleaned, the sick are healed and joy reigns supreme. Pentecostal cleansing, pentecostal healing, pentecostal joy! Let us be modern Philips and Lawrences helping to alleviate bodily and spiritual misery of our brethren, thus paving the way for the "Spirit of the Lord who fillet the whole world." (Msgr. Martin Hellriegel)
The church stands on the site of St. Lawrence's martyrdom. The appellation refers to the name of the street, which in turn most likely refers to the tradition of the Poor Clares in the adjacent convent of distributing bread and ham (pane e perna) on August 10th, the feast day of St. Lawrence. This is done in remembrance of St. Lawrence distributing funds from the church to the poor.
For more on San Lorenzo in Panisperna, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.