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Saint of the Day - Saints Perpetua and Felicity (March 7)

Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity and their Companions were second and third century Christians who were martyred during the persecution of the Church in Africa. Their stories, weaved together, are nothing short of authentically Christian. Join me as we delve into their stories as best we can!

Image retrieved from Used as being in the public domain.

Septimius Severus, who was the Roman emperor in the second century, ordered the persecution of all Christians and Jews in the year 201. In the year 203, two young Christian mothers found themselves imprisoned because they refused to renounce their faith in the One True God. Though they found themselves imprisoned together and for the same reason, their stories could not be any different.

Saint Perpetua was born into a wealthy noble family in Carthage (which is now located in Tunisia). Saint Felicity was a slave.

In 201, Septimius Severus started enforcing the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In the year 203, the Governor of Carthage, Hilarian, followed his lead and started persecuting converts to Judaism and Christianity in Northern Africa.

As a young mother, Saint Perpetua found herself drawn to the Christian faith. There was allegedly a conversation with her father wherein Saint Perpetua pointed to a water jug and asked if he could call it anything other than what it was. When he replied in the negative, Saint Perpetua told him that, like the water jug, she could not be called anything other than what she was - a Christian.

So, in 203, Saint Perpetua, as a young mother, found herself arrested for being a Christian. She was reportedly baptized on her way to prison (note: I di=on't see how that is possible as anyone baptizing her would have been arrested as well). Saint Perpetua was thrown into a prison where she was soon joined by four men and a lady who was eight months pregnant - Saint Felicity, the young slave girl.

Saint Perpetua received visits from her father to attempt to get her to renounce her Christian , to no avail.

While she was in prison, Saint Perpetual spent much of her time writing in her diary and in prayer. On one day, she wrote: “(w)hat a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby.” In addition to the things that she saw and experienced, Saint wrote about her prophetic visions. She had a vision of her own death in the arena.

When Saint Felicity's child was born, she became very happy. Under Roman law, pregnant women could not be killed in the arena. They had a different, more tortuous death for pregnant women. After the birth of her child, Saint Felicity could die in the arena with those she had been imprisoned with. This was recorded in Saint Perpetua's diary.

On there eve of their execution, Saint Perpetua handed her diary over to another Christian and begged him to record everything that happened in the execution. Her final diary entry read, “(o)f what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will."

This Christian man recorded everything that happened in the arena the next , including how Saint , Saint Felicity and their companions (the four men) were trembling from joy in the Holy Spirit as they entered the arena. St, Perpetua, Saint Felicity and the men were first scourged. After the , the soldiers released wild animals to attach Saint Perpetua, ?Saint Felicity and their companions. These animals were a boar, a leopard, and a bear for the men; and a wild cow for the women.

When the animals tore apart her tunic, Saint Perpetua tried to cover herself and even asked for a pin for her hair. “It was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder,” said Saint Perpetua. After the animals had severely wounded the six, the guards were to behead them.

“She took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though such a great woman, feared by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she were willing,"{ according to the man who finished her diary.

Saint Perpetua's diary was posthumously published under the title of The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. It has since become an important document in understanding the ways of the early Church. It was even an influential document after its publication in forming early Christian communities.

The book was completed with a statement that truly honored Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity. “Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Embrace your calling and election for the glory of our Lord, Christ Jesus! And any man who exalts, honors, and worships His glory should read for the consolation of the Church these new deeds of heroism, which are no less significant than the tales of old," said the man who finished her diary.

Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity were canonized by popular acclaim, as they were declared to be saints prior to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for such great role models of the Church that You started with Your death and resurrection. Grant us the grace to never deny our faith in You. Amen.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us!


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