Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of our Church. In that upper room, Jesus’ disciples were anointed by the Holy Spirit, and from that day went out into the world harvesting souls. All but one (St. John, who survived being dropped into boiling oil) was martyred.
Martyrdom is what initially caught St. Justin’s attention. As you’ve probably read in a dozen other blogs, today is his feast day. Justin is the patron of philosophers (hence the pic of The Thinker). He was a voracious student of Philosophy: Plato, Socrates and the like. Ultimately it was watching Christians clinging to their faith in Christ as they were sent to their deaths that led him to begin serious Christian study, and what changed his mindset from paganism to faith in Jesus. As he later wrote in his first apology, “…though we say the same as do the Greeks, we only are hated, because of the name of Christ.” (click here to read The First Apology of Justin.)
I’ve thought about the martyrs quite a lot as I continue along my walk, particularly on their feast days. I admire those courageous men and women being sentenced to their deaths in the name of the Lord, so much so that I took one, Joan of Arc, as my confirmation name. Today as I ruminate the work of Justin Martyr, and his consequential death, I can’t help but wonder: would I be able to stay on the path if death for my faith were laid before me?
I like to think I would walk to my death with a hymn on my lips. Fortunately for me, I live in 21st Century America, where Catholics are not presented with such a difficult choice.
Or are we?