Perpetua and Felicity – February 26, 2014

This week, February 26, 2014, we remember Perpetua and Felicity, daughters of Africa who, along with several companions, were martyred for the Christian faith in Carthage in 207.  Their story is preserved in an account written in part by Perpetua and in part by an anonymous narrator. Many believe the narrator was a man named Tertullian. He, too, was an African, a brilliant lawyer and passionate defender of Christianity. History tells us that Perpetua and others were arrested during a persecution under the emperor Septimius Severus. Perpetua was a catchumen (i.e. a convert not yet baptized), well-educated and from a prosperous family. She was about 22 years old, married and apparently recently widowed. She was still nursing her child, and had two brothers. Her parents were still living, though her father was not a Christian. Felicity was a slave woman, eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest. Others arrested included Revocatus, also a slave, Saturninus, and Secundus. Because it was against Roman law to execute a pregnant woman, Felicity and her companions prayed that she would be able to deliver her child. She did not want to die alone, or with a group of criminals. She wanted to die with her comrades. She soon gave birth to a girl, who was raised by fellow Christians.

Here is a prayer for these brave souls whose feast day is celebrated on March 7th: O God the King of saints, who strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicity and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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