Today, March 7, is the Commemoration of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity.
Perpetua and Felicity were catechumens in the Church in Carthage, north Africa, and martyred in the year AD 203. Perpetua was a well-educated, married mother of an infant son. Felicity was a slave and pregnant. They and three other catechumens, Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus, were arrested for the crime of being Christians. The two women and three men were imprisoned while they awaited their trial.
While in prison, Perpetua was visited by her pagan father, who begged her to deny her faith in order to live. Perpetua refused, choosing instead to sacrifice all, her family and her son, to be faithful to Christ. When her father attempted to persuade her to reject her faith, she replied that she was “unable to call myself anything except what I am, a Christian.”
During their time in prison, Felicity, eight months pregnant, was anxious that she would not join her fellow catechumens when the time came to face martyrdom because she was pregnant. She and her confreres prayed that the Lord would deliver her, and He did. Felicity gave birth to a daughter, who was adopted and raised by a sister in the faith. The five soon to be martyrs were baptized while in prison.
Secundulus died in prison, but the other four met their fate before the wild beasts. Revocatus was killed by a leopard and a bear. Saturninus was first attacked by a wild boar, then killed by a leopard. Perpetua and Felicity were set upon by “a most ferocious cow,” who injured but did not kill them. They were then cut down by the sword, Perpetua guiding the hand of her executioner to her neck.
The link above is to an account of their martyrdom by a contemporary witness. Part of the account includes the entries of Perpetua’s diary. It is the oldest extant first-hand account of a Christian martyrdom. Take the time to read it. It isn’t long, and it will inspire your faith.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity are the patron saints of mothers, expectant mothers, ranchers and butchers. They are often held up as an inspiration for racial unity, because Perpetua was white and Felicity was black, and they together for Christ.
Father, your love gave Saints Perpetua and Felicity courage to suffer a cruel martyrdom. By their prayers, help us to grow in love of you. Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.