Another story is told about a young man destined to encounter this powerful way through an old Christian man. The lad thought of himself as a “lover of wisdom” and nothing more. In his day, the boy had no Christian point of reference or roots. One day he found himself not far from the sea walking through the reeds atop its cliffs. The old man spotted the lad from a distance and followed him. When the boy finally noticed the old shadow maker, the lad confronted him. “Are you following me, man?” Without hesitation, the frail man suggested he was simply out looking for a lost member of his household.
The old man asked what brought the boy there. The boy answered that he was out to practice thinking, in peace. The old man replied, “Are you then a lover of words, rather than a lover of deeds and of truth? Do you not strive to be a practical man rather than a philosopher”? Now in deep conversation, the two discussed philosophy, justice, and the soul. The young lad eventually embraced the foundations of Christ’s Way that day and would become one of our well-known Christian apologists in the early Church. Justin Martyr, a Roman boy, who grew up in Samaria, lived in a day quite similar to our own. He shared his culture’s love of wisdom and helped his culture see that Christ’s way exemplified and transcended Greco-Roman life. It fulfilled all of its longings.
Shortly after his encounter with the old man, Justin—reflecting on that momentous day—remembered that his, “spirit was immediately set on fire, and an affection for the prophets, and for those who are friends of Christ, took hold of me; while pondering on [the old man’s] words, I discovered that his was the only sure and useful philosophy.” In our day, marked by the mingling of humanity amidst a growing urban jungle, the best of North American life must be of a kind that sets spirits on fire with affection for the prophets and love for the friends of Christ. Like Justin in the Greco-Roman world, I believe that the DNA of the Christian message has the power today to help create the best possible North America filled with the best possible North Americans.