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Today is March 7, Feast of St Perpetua & Felicity, young mothers & martyrs, † 203, North Africa

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*†ç Today is the Feast of two young women, two young mothers. One was pregnant and gave birth in prison the day before they were thrown to wild beasts in the circus for the so-called entertainment of the crowd.  Saint Felicity and Perpetua were two early martyrs, two dear friends who supported each other in faith, parenthood and adversity.   perpetua and felicity and babe March-7      
                                               Perpetua and Feclity were an unlikely pair.  While Perpetua was a well-to-do Roman citizen, a noblewomen on the city of Carthage in North Africa,  Felicity was her slave girl and closest friend. Perpetua had been been born to a Christian mother and a pagean father who loved her dearly. She was the young mother of a son, and Felicity was pregnant with a little daughter when the Emperor Septimus Severus started a new wave of Christian persecutions.  Perpetua kept a dairy, which is why we know so many details of her life, her parents, her friendship with her slave girl and the love she had for her baby boy, her life in prison awaiting her execution. Because Felicity was pregnant,  Perpetua and Felicity were thrown to the lions during the circus games the day after Felicity gave birth to a daughter. Perpetua and Felicity eventually died by beheadin, as a gladiator would be send to "finish off" the martyrs after the wild animals had been let lose on them. Perpetua's dairy ends the day before her execution, but eye witnesses wrote of her end and that of Felicity. It is because we have so much documentation of the martyrdom of these young Christian that they are cited first in the Roman canon of the Eucharistic prayer.

So, today, let's remember their story, wo African martyrs, one was a servant and the other her master. When they were imprisoned for their faith, they were preparing for their Baptism. Felicity was pregnant and gave birth in prison. Saints Perpetua and Felicity encouraged each other and their friendship helped them to face torture and death.

Which friend helps you and encourages you in the faith?

Today's first readings is from Isaiah 58:5-9

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

“When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel—waterpot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.’”

So writes Perpetua, young, beautiful, well-educated, a noblewoman of Carthage in North Africa, mother of an infant son and chronicler of the persecution of the Christians by Emperor Septimius Severus.

Despite threats of persecution and death, Perpetua, Felicity (a slavewoman and expectant mother) and three companions, Revocatus, Secundulus and Saturninus, refused to renounce their Christian faith. For their unwillingness, all were sent to the public games in the amphitheater. There, Perpetua and Felicity were beheaded, and the others killed by beasts.

Perpetua’s mother was a Christian and her father a pagan. He continually pleaded with her to deny her faith. She refused and was imprisoned at 22.

In her diary, Perpetua describes her period of captivity: “What 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.... Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but I obtained leave for my baby to remain in the prison with me, and being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.”

Felicity gave birth to a girl a few days before the games commenced.

Perpetua’s record of her trial and imprisonment ends the day before the games. “Of what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will.” The diary was finished by an eyewitness.


Persecution for religious beliefs is not confined to Christians in ancient times. Consider Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who, with her family, was forced into hiding and later died in Bergen-Belsen, one of Hitler’s death camps during World War II. Anne, like Perpetua and Felicity, endured hardship and suffering and finally death because she committed herself to God. In her diary Anne writes, “It’s twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God."

Perpetua, unwilling to renounce Christianity, comforted her father in his grief over her decision, “It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly we depend not on our own power but on the power of God.“
perpetua and felicity and babe
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