Thursday, December 5, 2019

Saints for Today: Priscilla, Evangelist & Martyr (First Century)

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Dr. Jean Lee
Jean M. Lee, M.A., D.Min., is a licensed behavioral health and substance abuse counselor, founding a nonprofit, state-licensed behavior health counseling agency and Christian gift/book store. Volunteer work includes: Jail ministry, Legion of Mary membership, door-to-door evangelization, and writing a weekly newspaper column titled “Faith and Inspiration: Encyclopedia of Saints for Today.” A Catholic revert after 32 years away from the Church, she is devout in the Catholic faith, loves the saints, and lives a deeper spiritual/religious and more joyful life since returning to the Church.

Feast Day: January 18

Priscilla was one of a number of women who played a prominent role in the early church—not simply as “helpers” to the male apostles, but as evangelists and church administrators in their own right.

Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, were Jewish tentmakers living in Corinth. Although they were originally from Rome they had been expelled from the imperial capital, along with all the Jews, by order of emperor Claudius. Paul met them soon after his arrival in Corinth, fresh from his preaching mission in Athens (Acts 18). Their common trade—Paul too was a tentmaker—provided the basis of their acquaintance. But soon, through Paul’s influence, they also shared a common zeal for the gospel. The house of Priscilla and Aquila became Paul’s base of operations in Corinth. Before long they were also serving as evangelists, preaching the gospel to their fellow Jews.

Priscilla and Aquila followed Paul to Ephesus, where they established a church in their home that included Gentile as well as Jewish Christians. It seems they later returned to Rome. They were probably encouraged by news of the installation of a new emperor, Nero, who had no prior record of anti-Christian animus. Once again, their house became the meeting place of the local church. There Paul addressed them in his letter to the Romans: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I am grateful but also all the churches of the Gentiles; greet also the church at their house” (Rom. 16:3-5).

In the end their hope of finding tolerance in Nero’s Rome was mistaken. According to tradition Priscilla and Aquila perished in the general persecution that occurred around the year 64 AD.

The saint’s relics were moved from her tomb in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla to the Church of St. Prisca in Rome. A portion of her house survives adjacent to the catacomb.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Craughwell, Thomas J. “Saints Preserved-An Encyclopedia of Relics.” New York, NY: Image Books, 2011.
Ellsberg, Robert. “All Saints.” New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2010.
Ellsberg, Robert. “Blessed Among Us: Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses.” Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016.

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