Feast day: June 1
"We are slain with the sword, but we increase and multiply; the more we are persecuted and destroyed, the more are deaf to our numbers. As a vine, by being pruned and cut close, shoots forth new suckers, and bears a greater abundance of fruit; so is it with us." – St. Justin Martyr
Born in Flavia Neapolis (in Palestinian Syria) around 100; conversion to Christianity around 130; martyred in Rome in the year 165, under Marcus Aurelius.
Saint Justin Martyr (as he is commonly referred to) is the best known 2nd century Father of the Church. He was born a pagan, in a pagan region of what is now the Middle East, and was well, if ecclectically, educated in philosophy.
An avid lover of truth, he sought it through different philosophical schools, none of which satisfied his thirst, even though he was moved by the moral discipline of the Stoics and inspired by the speculative power of the Platonists.
At around the age of 30 he happened to cross paths with an old man walking along the beach who questioned him about his beliefs and especially about the sufficiency of philosophy as a means of attaining truth. This old man introduced him to Revelation and argued that although philosophers could talk about God, the Prophets, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had experienced and known God and could bring others to Him.
Justin had always admired Christians from a distance because of the beauty of their moral lives. As he writes in his Apologies: "When I was a disciple of Plato, hearing the accusations made against the Christians and seeing them intrepid in the face of death and of all that men fear, I said to myself that it was impossible that they should be living in evil and in the love of pleasure.”
He had been persuaded of the superiority of the Christian creed over all other beliefs and philosophies, and seen this belief made manifest in the witness of Christians who “preferred truth to life.” Martyrdom was for him the highest proof of the truth of Christianity. Nobody, he said, died for the teaching of Socrates.
His his heart burned within him as he realized that he had finally found the Truth he had searched for all his life.
He became a Christian and a great apologist, engaging in debates and writing numerous works about the faith, most famously two apologetical treatises called “Apologies” and “Dialogue with Tryphon.”
Following his conversion he taught school in Ephesus and in Rome, where in 165 he was condemned to death with six companions, Chariton, Charito, Evelpostos, Pæon, Hierax, and Liberianos during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius.