What Happened to Saints Perpetua and Felicity?
Written by Sr. Christina Marie Neumann of the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen (www.ndfranciscans.org)
Although they died in the early centuries of the Church (over 1,800 years ago), we actually know quite a bit about Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicty and the final days of their lives. There are firsthand records from the pen of St. Perpetua, as well as from her instructors and others, recorded in a document chronicling their persecution and death. Perpetua was 22 years of age at the time.
Both Perpetua, a well-educated noblewoman, and Felicity, a slave, were from Carthage in North Africa, where they were martyred, along with three companions, in 203 AD. These five were catechumens together (studying the faith in preparation for baptism).
Perpetua, who we know more about, had a baby boy, while Felicity was pregnant at the time of their imprisonment. Felicity’s pregnancy would have been an impediment to her martyrdom due to laws prohibiting such treatment of women who were with child; however, she gave birth to her little girl before her death. She was the wife of another slave, but her newborn child was adopted by other Christians.
To her comfort, St. Perpetua was eventually allowed to keep her small baby with her in prison. There, she is said to have experienced visions, convincing her of the necessity of giving up the joys of this world for those of heaven. She, as well as Felicity and their companions, were martyred as a public spectacle. The two mothers were beheaded while their companions were thrown to beasts.
Saints Felicity and Perpetua have long been honored as martyrs in the church’s calendar and liturgy. Their names, in fact, are included in the Roman Canon (first Eucharistic Prayer).
The gift they leave for us is not so much in what they did, but in their steadfast fidelity to Christ. Their love for their children, even amidst their own trials is also an inspiration. Their names reflect beautifully the legacy they leave us, almost two millennia later: joy in suffering (Felicitas) and steadfastness in faith leading to eternal joy (Perpetua).
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity are available as charm selections for our Custom Saint Necklace, Custom Saint Bracelet, and Floral Cross & Saint Necklace
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