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Perpetua and Felicity

Meet two of the most popular saints in the early Church

Feast: March 6 d. 203 A.D.

Claim to fame:

Perpetua and Felicity were two of the most popular saints in the early Church. Vivia Perpetua was a 22-year-old matron, and the mother of an infant. Felicitas (Felicity) was a pregnant slave. Both were catechumens. Both were arrested for being Christian. They were imprisoned with three fellow catechumens. Their catechist, Saturus, voluntarily joined them in jail and they were martyred in 203 A.D. as part of the gladiatorial games in Carthage.

Words to live by:

Perpetua wrote a moving prison account. Her father, a pagan, tried to convince her to recant her faith. Perpetua replied, “Father, do you see this vessel – water pot or whatever it might be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? … So also can I not call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.”

Dream a dream:

While in jail, Perpetua had a vision that she would ascend a golden ladder to heaven and would suffer martyrdom. She saw her catechist, Saturus, waiting for her at the top of the ladder.

Let the “games” begin:

After confessing their Christianity to the judge Hilarion, Perpetua and Felicity were beaten on the face and then kept for the gladiatorial shows. Felicity gave birth while imprisoned, and her baby daughter was immediately adopted by other Christians. At the games, the women were first attacked by a mad heifer, which injured them, but did not kill them. Inexperienced gladiators were dispatched to kill them, and Perpetua had to guide the sword of her nervous executioner to her own throat.

Best-loved saints:

Perpetua and Felicity were universally honored and their names occur in the canon of the Mass from early Church history. By the fourth century, their Acts were read publicly in the churches of Africa and were so popular that St. Augustine, as bishop of Hippo, had to protest that they should not be ranked with sacred Scripture.

The Second Commandment:

These laywomen were living witnesses to the Second Commandment, suffering martyrdom rather than renouncing the name of God.