Saints of the Canon – Saints Felicitas and Perpetua

Saint PerpetuaThese two young women suffered death for the faith in the Amphitheatre at Carthage during the fifth persecution of Christians. Septimus Severus was emperor.

Perpetua was of noble birth. Felicitas or Felicity was a slave, and not yet baptized. Both were married. Perpetua had an infant eight months old. Felicitas gave birth to a child while in prison. The father of Perpetua, a wealthy pagan, frequently visited his daughter in prison, promising her everything his wealth could buy, if she would only be sensible, and sacrifice to the gods. Her reply was to cheer up her prison companions. In the Acts of Saint Perpetua, part of which is autobiographical, and part written by an eye-witness, we have detailed accounts of the prison life, and of the martyrdom.

Perpetua and Felicitas, with three companions, were first scourged, then a boar, a bear, and a leopard were set at the men, and a fierce cow at the women. Gored by the wild animals, they gave each other the kiss of peace and were put to the sword. The year was 203.

When the judge told them that they were to be thrown to the wild beasts, Perpetua, Felicitas, and their three companions began to sing with joy, that at such a price were they to purchase heaven. To accept crosses cheerfully, and to impose penances on oneself joyfully are never easy, but that is the spirit we must seek in our Masses, so that we may attain to that “perpetual felicity,” which the names of these two saints suggest.

– from The Saints of the Canon, by Monsignor John T. McMahon, M.A., Ph.D; Australian Catholic Truth Society, 1958