Some days ago, I was catching up with friends in these isolated times, and reading on how others are managing in their homes with reduced physical contact with others. I thought back to different times, places, and hardships. How others have navigated trying times. I thought of the Saints and of persons in history that have undergone trying times, illnesses, imprisonment, isolation, etc. and how they navigated long and short term difficulties, both at the individual and the collective. Going about my days and thinking about this, St. Justina of Antioch surfaced, or came to the surface.
As per the Golden Legend, she was a beautiful maiden relentlessly pursued by the sorcerers Cyprian and Acladuis. Cyprian summoned the Devil to torment her and to inflame her with desire so as she would depart from her private vow of chastity, which she resisted through the sign of the cross. The torment got so acute that the Devil sent plagues and fevers to the city where she lived, letting it be known through prophets/seers that until Justina agreed to marriage many would die and suffer. This went on for 7 years until Justina, unmoved in her conviction yet moved by the plight of others, “prayed and succeeded in driving the pestilence from the country.” All the wiles of the Devil and the cunning of the sorcerers, both Cyprian and Acladuis, came to fruitless ends. Justina remained unswerving. “Thwarted at every turn, the Devil went back to Cyprian and stood shamefaced before him. ‘What?’ Said Cyprian to him. ‘You, too, defeated? Is your power so feeble that you cannot overcome one girl and get her in your power? So feeble that, on the contrary, she single-handedly defeats the lot of you and beats you all into pitiful submission? Tell me pray, where does this extraordinary strength of hers come from?'”†
My thoughts here run parallel to St. Justina’s life, because all the wiles of the Devil and the sorcerers brought her and others to walk through dark times, of hardships and suffering. I emphasis dark because the artifices of her foes typically came under the blanket of night, and with illusory guises. The way I see it, she learned to navigate the dark and the shadows growing through each encounter in fortitude against her enemies.
This has served as inspiration for me during these times, with uncertainty in the air dressing itself in doubts, anxiety, unnameable fears, shadows and confusion. Hence, I’d like to share a little prayer I wrote under the auspices of the Saint herself, with a reminder that if things get too dark and uncertain, she is the candle the burns in the darkness and shines a light upon the shadows.
Holy Saint Justina
Blessed Saint Justina
Beneficent Saint Justina of Antioch
Maiden, Martyr, and Healing Abbess,
Courageous Saint and Brightest Candle in the Dark.
Pray for us, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I’ve found that a small lit candle with this prayer does wonders. May we all cultivate the strength to persevere and flourish. Keep going.
† Jacobus De Voragine, The Golden Legend: Selections, ed. and trans. by Christopher Stace, Penguin Books: London, England, 1998.