Saturday, January 05, 2008

Christian Martyrs

The picture is of St. Eulalia, her method of death is traditionally said to be torture by fire. In this painting by J.W. Waterhouse, he depicts no miraculous intervention but for the snow which the Christians conceived a heaven-sent shroud for the young saint, whose body was exposed in the Roman Forum. The composition of St. Eulalia is daring by any standards, leaving the center of the canvas virtually unoccupied. Yet is succeeds beyond measure. The youngest mourner points upward at the rising dove which symbolizes the departing soul.
The following story of another young girl martyerd for her faith comes from a book called "Martyrs of the Colliseum", I have condensed this from 17 pages.
Christian Martyr – St. Prisca

The identity of St Prisca is uncertain. One tradition claims that she is identical with Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament, another that she was the daughter of Aquila and Priscilla. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts XVIII, 1-4), it is written that St Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish Christians exiled from Rome, when he was in Corinth and again in Ephesus after they had moved there. Later, they were apparently able to move back to Rome, as St Paul sends his greetings to them there (Romans 16, 3-5). The tradition claims that this was her house. This has been challenged, and Prisca may be another woman altogether. Prisca was supposedly baptized by St Peter the Apostle, and this event is shown in a fine 17th century painting by Domenico Cresti.

The Story

At the time when Claudius was Caesar, he issued a new and most impious edict to the whole world, that the Christians should offer sacrifices to the gods or be put to death. He ordered his presidents and judges to carry out this law that he might destroy the worship of the Christians.

There were then malignant men who ardently desired to destroy the Christian worship; and coming to a certain church, they found the blessed Prisca praying. She was of noble blood; her father had been thrice consul and was exceeding rich. This holy child was in her eleventh year, and was adorned with the grace of God and the most perfect purity of morals. The ministers of the Emperor said to her,” Our Emperor Claudius has commanded you to sacrifice voluntarily to the gods.”
Prisca went and many times was ordered to pray to the gods, which she did not and instead called out, “But I will sacrifice without blood, and only to the immaculate God, my Lord Jesus Christ.” Many miraculous things occurred but the heart of the Emperor was hardened and he ordered many tortures, this is the account of one when she was ordered to be fed to wild animals—

The perfect said, “Behold, O Emperor, this sorceress who overthrew our gods; may she be torn to pieces by the beast.”
Amongst the animals was a savage lion, which had not been fed for four days. The Emperor, sitting on his throne, said to Prisca, ‘Believe and consent to my wishes; avert this terrible calamity that is hanging over you..”
The holy child raised her eyes to heaven, and said, “O Lord Jesus Christ, who has manifested the knowledge of thy divinity, and crowned Thy saints with glory, preserve me perfect in this combat to-day.” Then turning towards the Emperor, she said: “O miserable wretch! Know that I would rather be devoured by beasts, that I may merit eternal life with Christ, than fall into the snares of eternal death by yielding to thy seductions.”
The Emperor then ordered the most ferocious lion to be let loose to devour her. The lion was roaring in his den, so that he terrified all the people. His keeper let him out, and he entered the arena bounding and roaring; then he walked towards the Saint, not showing terror but love, and leaving forward he adored her, and kissed her feet. The blessed Prisca, praying to the Lord, said; ”O God, Thou permittest me to combat like a criminal in this theater of guilt, but Thou preservest my soul unsullied and undefiled.” Then turning towards the Emperor, she said,” You see, O Emperor, you have but manifested our power over tortures and wild beasts because Christ, who made heaven and earth, and everything in them, is always victorious ; to Him everything is subjected by the will of His Father.”
The Emperor commanded the lions to be taken back to his den; but, before he left the arena, he attacked one of the relations of the Emperor, and killed him. The enraged Claudius ordered the blessed Prisca to be cast again into prison; she was filled with the grace of God, and said; “Preserve me, O Lord, from the snares they have laid for me, and from the scandals of the workers of iniquity.”
After three days the Emperor once more ordered a sacrifice to be offered in the temple, and sent for the holy virgin. She came, and was resplendent as the sun. Claudius said to her, “ Believe and sacrifice, and you will be safe.” But she said,
“I do sacrifice, and I believe in Jesus Christ.” Then the Emperor in anger ordered her to be suspended and torn with hooks. When she was drawn up, she said,
“Thou hast rejoiced me, O Lord, in Thy holy will, and I will delight in they works of Thy hands; They judgments, O Lord, are true and eternal light!
Saying these things, immediately the arms and bones of those who were tormenting her were afflicted with the sharpest pain, so that they cried out to the Emperor; “Free us, we beseech thee, from these pains; the angels of God are tormenting us.”
Then the Emperor, enraged beyond measure, ordered her to be led outside the city to be beheaded. The holy martyr Prisca, rejoicing, said; “O, Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all, I praise Thee, I adore Thee, I beseech Thee, I implore Thee, who hast liberated me from all the evils intended for me. Save me now, O Lord Jesus Christ, with whom there is no acceptation of persons; perfect me in the confession of Thy name; order me to be received into They glory, that I may happily escape the evils by which I am surrounded; and reward the impious Claudius according to his works towards Thy helpless handmaid!”
And having said this she turned towards the executioners and addressed them thus : “Fulfill the orders you have received.” And thus did the blessed Prisca end her life by the sword….”

Then it was announced to the Bishop of Rome by a Christian who watched in concealment, how they led the blessed Prisca along the Ostian Way, to about the tenth milestone, and there beheaded her, and took away her life. The Bishop, having heard this went with him to the place he mentioned, and they found her body between two eagles, one at her head and the other at her feet, guarding it, lest the beasts should touch it.

There are many stories of Martyrs that have had miraculous graces during their deaths. I don’t know if they are all true or if some are exaggerated, but while reading and typing this story I welled up so many times, and could scarcely type at times. Whether it be the protection and graces Jesus gave to this eleven year old girl of great faith, which I believe this savior of ours would do, or some other element I cannot describe, but I want to pass it on to those who get the same inspiration and blessing that I do from reading it.

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