January 17, 2018

Saint Prisca, Virgin and Martyr

Feast Day – January 18th 

According to popular piety, Saint Prisca, also known as Priscilla, was a child martyr of the early Roman Church. Born to Christian parents of a noble family, Prisca was raised during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius. While Claudius did not persecute Christians as fervently as other Roman emperors, Christians still did not practice their faith openly. Prisca's parents went to great lengths to conceal their faith, and thus, were not suspected of being Christians.

Prisca, however, did not feel the need to take precaution. The young girl openly professed her dedication to Christ, and eventually, she was reported to the emperor. Claudius had her arrested, and commanded her to make a sacrifice to Apollo, the pagan god of the sun.

Tradition tells how, Prisca refused, and was tortured for disobeying. Suddenly, a bright, yellow light shone about her, and she appeared luminous like a little star.

Claudius ordered that Prisca be taken away to prison, in the hopes that she would abandon Christ. When all efforts to change her mind were unsuccessful, she was taken to an amphitheatre, and as many martyrs before her, thrown in with a lion.

As the crowd watched, Prisca stood fearless. According to legend, the lion walked toward the barefoot girl, and then proceeded to gently lick her feet. Disgusted by his thwarted efforts to dissuade Prisca, Emperor Claudius ordered her beheaded.

Several 7th-century accounts of the grave sites of Roman martyrs reference the discovery of an epitaph of a Roman Christian named Priscilla in a large catacomb and locates her place of interment on the Via Salaria as the Catacomb of Priscilla. Another legend relates the martyrdom of a Prisca who was beheaded at the tenth milestone on the Via Ostiensis. Pope Eutychianus is said to have translated the earthly remains of St. Prisca to the Church of Saint Prisca on the Aventine, Rome.

Source: Adapted excerpt from Ordinary People Extraordinary Lives.

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