Saint Perpetua

Saint Perpetua


St. Felicity and Perpetua were Christian martyrs who lived during the early persecution of the Church in Africa by Emperor Severus. Unlike most early Christian martyrs we have great detail of the life of the two women because we have the writings of Perpetua herself, her teacher, and a few other companions that tell their story. It is known as “ The Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions.” It was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies. In 203 Perpetua decided to follow her mother and become a Christian. This angered her father who was a pagan and he tried everything to convince her as he knew this would mean her death.  Perpetua was only 22 at the time and was still nursing her son. But she responded by asking her father "See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?"

Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian." This angered him further and he attacked her. Perpetua left and it was at this time she was arrested with four other catechumens, including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, and Saturninus and Secundulus. Their instructor in the faith, Saturus, chose to share their punishment and was also imprisoned. Just before she was taken to prison she was baptized and Perpetua was said to be known for the gift of the “Lord’s Speech”. While in prison they were kept in the worst quarters. It was constantly dark and so crowded. The heat was oppressive and St. Felicity suffered terribly as she was pregnant. Two deacons that ministered to them were finally able to get them moved to a better area of the prison. There Perpetua’s mother and brother were able to come and bring her baby to visit. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her she recalled, "my prison suddenly became a palace for me."  

Meanwhile, Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom and her companions would go on their journey without her. Her friends also didn't want to leave a "good a comrade" behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena, another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage. Perpetua and Felicity stood side by side and were killed by sword at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. Sts. Perpetua and Felicity are the patron saints of mothers, expectant mothers, ranchers and butchers. Their feast day is celebrated on March 7.

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