June 1 – Sts. Justin and Pamphilus, Martyrs
St. Justin was born of heathen parents at Neapolis in Samaria, about the year 103. He was well educated, and gave himself to the study of philosophy, but always with one object, that he might learn the knowledge of God. He sought this knowledge among the contending schools of philosophy, but always in vain, till at last God himself appeased the thirst which he had created. One day, while Justin was walking by the seashore, mediating on the thought of God, an old man met him and questioned him on the subject of his doubts; and when he had made Justin confess that the philosophers taught nothing certain about God, he told him of the writings of the inspired prophets and of Jesus Christ whom they announced, and bade him seek light and understanding through prayer. The Scriptures and the constancy of the Christian martyrs led Justin from the darkness of human reason to the light of faith. In his zeal for the faith he travelled to Greece, Egypt, and Italy, gaining many to Christ. At Rome he sealed his testimony with his blood, surrounded by his disciples. “Do you think,” the perfect said to Justin, “that by dying you will enter heaven and be rewarded by God?” “I do not think,” was the Saint’s answer; “I know.” Then, as now, there were many religious opinions, but only one certainty—the certainty of the Catholic faith. This certainty should be the measure of our confidence and our zeal.
Reflection—We have received the gift of faith with little labor of our own. Let us learn how to value it from those who reached it after long search, and lived in the misery of a world which did not know God. Let us fear, as St. Justin did, the account we shall have to render for the gift of God.
St. Pamphilus was of a rich and honorable family, and a native of Berytus, in which city, at that time famous for its schools, he in his youth ran through the whole circle of the sciences, and was afterward honored with the first employments of the magistracy. After he began to know Christ, he could relish no other study but that of salvation, and renounced everything else that he might apply himself wholly to the exercises of virtue, and the studies of the Holy Scriptures. This accomplished master in profane sciences, and this renowned magistrate, was not ashamed to become the humble scholar of Pierius, the successor of Origen, in the great catechetical school of Alexandria. He afterward made Caesarea, in Palestine, his residence, where, at his private expense, he collected a great library, which he bestowed on the church of that city. The Saint established there also a public school of sacred literature, and to his labors the Church was indebted for a most correct edition of the Holy Bible, which, with infinite care, he transcribe himself. But nothing was more remarkable in this Saint than his extraordinary humility. His paternal estate he at length distributed among the poor; towards his slaves and domestics his behavior was always that of a brother or a tender father. He led a most austere life, sequestered from the world and its company, and was indefatigable in labor. Such a virtue was his apprenticeship to the grace of martyrdom. In the year 307, Urbanus, the cruel governor of Palestine, caused him to be apprehended, and commanded him to be most inhumanly tormented. But the iron hooks which tore the martyr’s sides served only to cover the judge with confusion. After this, the Saint remained almost two years in prison. Urbanus, the governor, was himself beheaded by an order of the emperor Maximinus, but was succeeded by Firmilian, a man not less barbarous than bigoted and superstitious. After several butcheries, he caused St. Pamphilus to be brought before him, and passed sentence of death upon him. His flesh was torn off to the very bones, and his bowels exposed to view, and the torments were continued a long time without intermission, but he never once opened his mouth so much as to groan. He finished his martyrdom by a slow fire, and died invoking Jesus, the Son of God.
Reflection—A cloud of witnesses, a noble army of martyrs, teach us by their constancy to suffer wrong with patience, and strenuously to resist evil. The daily trials we meet with from others or from ourselves, are always sent us by God, who sometimes throws difficulties in our way on purpose to reward our conquest; and sometimes, like a wise physician, restores us to our health by bitter potions.
Taken from the “Pictorial Lives of the Saints: with Reflections for Every Day in the Year”