Ss Perpetua & Felicity
Feast Day March 7th
Perpetua and Felicity young mothers were two noble matrons who suffered martyrdom in Carthage in 202A.D. They were condemned with a number of Christian slaves to the wild beasts and died finally by the sword.
“‘Do you see this vessel, water pot, or whatever it may be?
Can it be called by any other name than what it is? ‘No’, he replied.
So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.”
In the ancient city of Carthage, North Africa in the year 203, Perpetua, a young married lady and the mother of an infant son, and Felicita, a pregnant slave girl found themselves in a dark dungeon.
With them were Felicita’s fellow slave Revocatus and two free men Saturninus and Secundulus. Another, Seturus, who declared himself a Christian before the judge, joined them – he was probably Perpetua’s husband.
The first five were catechumens and were imprisoned for violating the decree issued by Emperor Septimus Severus forbidding any one from becoming a Christian. They were baptized before being incarcerated.
Perpetua, who was of a patrician family and well educated, left an amazing chronicle of their ordeal up to the day before their martyrdom. Her father was a pagan and her mother a Christian. Her father repeatedly pleaded with her to give up her faith for the sake of her family and infant son.
In her account she writes: “When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel, water pot, or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? ‘No’, he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.’”
Later, in prison she recounts: “What a day of horror! Terrible heat on account of the crowd! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby…” But Pepetua’s mother was able to bring her child to her to suck, which relieved her “…and being relieved of my…anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.”
In prison Perpetua and Saturus were given visions foretelling their martyrdom and their entrance into heaven. Felicita was anxious that being pregnant she would not be able to suffer martyrdom with her companions, as Roman law forbade the execution of expectant mothers. But two days before their martyrdom she gave birth to a little girl who was adopted by a Christian woman. Secundulus died in prison. The account of the martyrdom of the five holy confessors comes to us through an eye-witness.
The martyrs suffered as part of the games for the Emperor’s birthday on March 7, 203. The pagan mob first demanded they be scourged. Then a boar, a bear and a leopard were set on the men.
The two women were thrown before a raging bull which wounded them. Then they were put to the sword.
Before dying Perpetua made a profession of faith: “For the sake of this cause, we came willingly into prison, that our liberty may not be obscured. To this Christian cause have we devoted our lives.”
Grant unto us, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, to venerate with unceasing devotion the triumphs of Thy holy Virgins and Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity, that though we cannot celebrate them worthily, we may at least present unto them our humble service, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
A thought for the Day
From ‘The Following of Christ’ by Thomas A. Kempis
For it thou wouldst in truth taste of delight and be abundantly comforted by Me, behold, in the contempt of all things worldly, and in cutting off of every sordid gratification, shall thy blessing be, and consolation most abundant be rendered to thee.