Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity: The Most Touching Martyrdom

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs

In 203 a persecution by the emperor Severus reached Carthage, where it found five catachumens, including Perpetua and her slave girl Felicity. Perpetua was a young nursing mother, and Felicity was eight months pregnant. There is no more poignant martyrdom than that described in Perpetua's own account, supplemented by eyewitnesses.

Her captors used every form of psychological torture against her, including visits by her pagan father begging her to save her life on account of her baby. Felicity almost missed being martyred with her mistress so close to the fatal date did she give birth. A guard mocked her labor pains by reminding her of the pain of the arena.

They were kept in stocks for days to be gawked at. When the day came they were scourged, then exposed to wild beasts. The crowd was temporarily moved to pity by the spectacle of the two young mothers, but the cruel games and bloodlust took their course. After being violently tossed by a wild cow, it is recorded that Perpetua took care to rearrange her clothing and hair in an effort to preserve her dignity.

The young soldier assigned to dispatch her was so nervous he botched the job over several attempts, adding to Perpetua's suffering. She finally took the sword blade in her own hands to guide the fatal thrust.

The ancient martyrs like Perpetua, Felicity and their companions still have power to move and inspire. We belong to the same Church, and they radiantly intercede for us before God. Today is their feast day.

You can read their remarkable and authentic acts here.

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