It was end of the 3rd century in the Roman Empire, and Christians were still a persecuted minority. The terrible Diocletian persecution was on the horizon and Emperor Constantine’s edict of toleration was still decades away. Paganism was still operating in full force.
Cyprian (not to be confused with the north African bishop by the same name) was a pagan magician. Not the kind of magician that entertained people, but the kind that dealt with demons to harm people. He had given himself over to demonic force so much that he regularly interacted with demons face-to-face, and possibly even Satan himself. He was powerful and feared.
Until he met his match.
[See also: How the Famous Sell Their Soul to Satan]
Justina was a beautiful virgin. She was also the follower of the strange Christian sect. Seeking to bring her to ruin, Cyprian sent demons after her three times. Yet each time they were unsuccessful. When the demons returned, they explained why they were unable to harm her: she made the Sign of the Cross.
Perplexed that she possessed a power greater than his own, he made the Sign of the Cross and was immediately freed from the demonic influence in his life. He decided to become a Christian and was baptized.
He was a holy man, and was soon ordained a deacon, then a priest, and finally a bishop. Justina, on the other hand, retained her virginity and became the head of a convent.
During the great Diocletian persecution of the early 4th century, both Cyprian and Justina were arrested and tortured.
At one point, since they refused to renounce their faith in Christ, they were thrown into a boiling cauldron, and yet were unharmed. A nearby pagan priest declared that his pagan god could also protect him from the boiling cauldron and throw himself in as well, but he immediately died. The torturer, now scared and confused, sent Cyprian and Justina back to the local ruler, who ordered that they be beheaded.
Justina was beheaded first. She was so calm and graceful in accepting the martyrdom that a bystander, Theoctistus, was convicted by Christ in his heart. He threw himself down at the feet of Cyprian and proclaimed himself a Christian. The executioner then beheaded both of them.
The feast of Ss. Cyprian and Justina was removed from the calendar of the Roman rite in 1969, but is still on the liturgical calendar used in the extraordinary form of the Mass. Their feast day is September 26th.
Ss. Cyprian and Justina, please pray for us!
[See also: The Sign From Which Demons Flee]