Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.” These words were written between 155-157 A.D. to the Roman Emperor by St. Justin in his treatise providing a detailed explanation of Christian practices and rituals, while also seeking to convince the emperor to abandon the persecution of the Church. Not only did the emperor reject Justin’s arguments, but Justin was eventually put on trial around the year 165 A.D. for refusing to worship the pagan gods of the Roman Empire. 

The testimony of St. Justin’s trial before the Prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus, was recorded in the The Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companion Saints. After these Christians were seized and brought before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.” 

Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus asked: “What system of teaching do you profess?” 

Justin replied: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

Rusticus asked: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin answered: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?” 

Justin responded: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men.” 

Rusticus asked: “You are a Christian, then?” 

Justin answered: “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen:  If you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?” 

Justin answered: “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?” 

Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus then said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.” 

Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.” 

Justin replied: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior.”

In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus then pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” 

The execution of St. Justin and his companion saints was described in these words: “Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.”

The courageous martyrdom of these faithful saints comes to mind as we see so many politicians stoop to false worship at the altar of abortion rather than give true worship to the Triune God and adherence to His commandments. 

Thus, it is entirely appropriate that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco announced on May 20 with regard to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a staunch advocate of abortion who is a member of his archdiocese, “After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

I fully support and earnestly commend Archbishop Cordileone’s action in regard to Speaker Pelosi. All politicians who promote abortion should not receive holy Communion until they have repented, repaired scandal, and been reconciled to Christ and the Church.

The Memorial of St. Justin Martyr is June 1. St. Justin, pray for us to have the courage to stand up for the true doctrines of Christianity as you and your saintly companions did.

May God give us this grace. Amen.