In Florence things can go badly for the rich if they don't run the state. — Lorenzo de Medici

Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff




St. Prisca and St. Faith


Jan. 18; A.D. 270. Oct. 6; A.D, 290


I am going to tell you about two children whose names are found among the saints of our Prayer Book.

January 18 is marked "S. Prisca." Prisca was the daughter of Roman parents of high rank. She was a very beautiful child, and very good. Both her father and her mother were Christians, and they had taught their little girl to know and love JESUS CHRIST. But the Emperor of Rome, Claudius, was enraged against all who would not bow the knee before the pagan gods, and one day, when she was about thirteen years of age, he commanded the young girl Prisca to come into the heathen temple, and there to offer incense. He thought it would be easy to turn so young and gentle a girl from her faith.

But though Prisca was so gentle and so young, she was brave and firm.

"No!" she said, "I bend my knee before none but Him Who hath made heaven and earth, GOD the FATHER Almighty, and His Blessed SON, JESUS CHRIST Our LORD."

At this the Emperor was very angry, and ordered the child to be beaten. They beat her till even the heathen who looked on were touched with pity. But she bore it all with calm fortitude.

She was then sent back to prison. By-and-by the Emperor ordered her to be brought into the great amphitheatre, where a lion was led out to attack her.

There the young girl stood, brave and firm still—upheld by a strength from on high. Her face glowed with a heavenly brightness; she had no fear of death—she was ready to be torn in pieces.

But behold! the lion forgot his savage nature—he would not touch the child; instead of rushing upon her, he fawned at her feet, gentle as a lamb.

They tried other cruelties. They shut her up for a long time in one of the temples of the pagan gods. All was vain. Prisca would not give way. Then at last they killed her by cutting off her head.

There is a story that an eagle flew down to watch over her dead body until the Christians were able to come and bury it.

We have old pictures of St. Prisca: in some she is shown with a lion crouching by her side, in others an eagle is keeping watch over her martyred form.

The other child-martyr is St. Faith. Her day is kept on October 6. She, too, was of high birth, and was a very beautiful girl. Her home was in France, at a place called Agen.

It was a time of great trial to the Christians of those parts. A bad man, named Dacian, had come there to govern. He hated the Christians, and calling many of them together, he showed them the horrible irons he would use in torture if they would not worship the false pagan gods.

Many fled in fear to hide in the caves and rocks of a great hill near at hand. But little Faith was left in the city, and very soon she was called to stand before Dacian.

What is thy name?" asked Dacian.

"My name is Faith," she answered.

"Who is the GOD thou dost worship?"

"I am a Christian; I try to serve the LORD JESUS CHRIST with all my heart and soul."

"It is to our gods thou must bow down, child," cried Dacian. "Bow down before them, or thou shalt die under the torture."

But St. Faith heard these words without a sign of fear. She only looked up to heaven and said, "I am ready to suffer."

Then they laid her on the rack. But it was too dreadful a sight, that of the young and noble maiden stretched there upon the cruel irons. The people could not bear to look upon it, and they began to cry out, "Shame! she has done nothing amiss. Let her alone; she has never spoken an evil word, she does but adore her GOD ."

The great courage of the young girl had so much effect on the people, that they began to wish to know the GOD of the Christians, and many believed and turned to JESUS.

Then the Christian Bishop of the city who had fled with those of his people that had gone off to hide in the rocks, had a dream in which he seemed to see the young girl suffering. He felt that he ought to leave his refuge and go to her. The Bishop had a good mother, who was full of joy when she heard that her son was about to return to his post of duty in the city. She knew that the Christian soldiers and leaders, like the soldiers and leaders in an earthly army, must never shrink from danger; and though she saw that he might be going forth to meet his death, she urged him to make no delay,

St. Faith was firm to the end. When the wicked Dacian found that no torture would lead her to swerve one inch from the path of truth, he ordered her head to be struck off. Rightly had she been named Faith—she was "faithful unto death."

The Bishop was soon called on to suffer, too, with many more brave believers in the Saviour.

The example of the holy child was like a bright star which cast its beams of light around, and led her fellow Christians to follow in its track. She was held in honour in England, as well as all over her own land of France for ages, and the quiet old chapel called "S. Faith's under St. Paul's," in our cathedral in London, was so named in memory of this brave young girl.