During the first several centuries of Christianity there were many martyrs who gave their lives for the faith. Most of them were adults, but some where children.
According to various legends, St. Prisca was one of these child martyrs who remained steadfast in the faith, even under intense persecution.
When St. Prisca would not sacrifice to the Roman gods, she was reported to the local authorities and taken into custody.
She was given another chance to make a sacrifice to the gods, but she again refused, even in the presence of the Emperor.
Eventually she was led to the arena and was to be fed to the wild beasts of the amphitheater.
Author Abbie Farwell Brown narrates what happens next in her book, The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts:
Then the keeper opened the grated door of a den at the end of the arena, and out stalked a great yellow lion. With a dreadful roar he rushed into the centre of the circle, and stood there lashing his tail and flashing his big yellow eyes all about the place. Then suddenly he spied the little girl standing quietly at one side with her hands clasped in front of her, looking at him without fear. And the great beast strode gently up to her on his padded paws. He bent his head and licked her little bare feet, and then he crouched down by her side, as a Saint Bernard dog might place himself to guard his little mistress.
St. Prisca then spoke to the beast, saying, “My good friend! you will not hurt me, I know, for the Lord has closed your mouth, just as he did the mouths of the lions into whose den Daniel was thrown by wicked men. These cruel men will put me to death, but you are kinder than they.”
This soothed the lion, as he “looked up in her face as though he understood, and growled softly. He was quite gentle with her, but when the keeper came towards them he roared and bristled and showed his great teeth, so that for a long time no one dared to come near.”
However, this enraged the Roman guards, who eventually beheaded her, as the lion was not going to kill her.
St. Prisca is venerated as a child martyr on January 18.