St. Perpetua and St. Felicity

Beloved in Christ,
In the first centuries of the Faith,  Christians were often fed to the lions and other wild animals in the coliseum, to the cheers of bloodthirsty crowds. Two such great martyrs are Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, whom we remember today.  They were beautiful girls, who were the best of friends; Perpetua was 22 years old, with long hair; Felicity was younger. Together they wanted to serve Christ, and be great Christian women.

Perpetua was her father’s favorite, and she also had a little baby;  but her father, a pagan, often tried to get her to give up her Faith. Well one evening, while they were eating supper,  there was a knock on the door. It was the imperial guards.  The two girls were summoned to be interrogated.

News spread quickly, and a vast crowd gathered. The girls were seated on a platform before the judge. Perpetua wrote this in her diary:   ‘They first questioned others about their Faith.  When it was my turn, my father came to the front and held up my baby;  he said, ‘Have pity on your child, and give up this religion.’  It hurt me to see this.

I was finally asked, ‘Are you a Christian.’ And I answered ‘Yes I am.’   ‘I was sad for my father, because he would have no joy when I became a martyr. Then the judge passed sentence on us, and condemned us to the wild beasts.  That night in prison, I had a dream,  and I saw that the next day, victory would be mine.’  In the morning, on the greatest day of their life,  the girls woke up with excitement  and marched to the Coliseum as if in a procession to heaven;  they were singing.

Entering the arena, the roar of the crowd was deafening.  The first attack came from a savage bull.  Perpetua was tossed by the bull’s horns into the air, and thrown to the ground; there she was seen calmly pinning up her hair, in a state of happiness.  When she was told of the attack, she could hardly believe it,  until she saw the wounds on herself.  She seemed to be in an ecstasy.  With a smile she reassured the others saying, ‘Stand fast in the Faith.’

As she went to the aid of Felicity, who had also been tossed,  the crowd began demanding their death; after giving each other the kiss of peace, they were killed by the gladiators.  Perpetua was still alive after the first blow of the sword,  and so she helped the nervous executioner, guide the sword to her own throat.

A witness to these things states:  ‘That day a good many came to believe in Christ,  for they had never seen so great a Christian woman, as Perpetua.’
No saints are more uniformly honored in the early calendars of the Church, than saints Perpetua and Felicity.

Fr. Luke Winkelmann

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