Sts Perpetua and Felicity were early Christian martyrs who lived in the second and early third centuries, when Emperor Severus persecuted the Church in Africa.
Who Were Saints Perpetua and Felicity?
Vivia Perpetua was a young mother and noblewoman, 22 years of age, and in AD 203 she converted to the Catholic Faith, following the example of her mother.
Emperer Severus was already persecuting the Church at this time, executing many Christians, so her decision was in full knowledge that she could face martyrdom.
Perpetua’s father opposed her conversion; he remained non-Christian and worried for her life.
Perpetua responded by pointing to a water jug and saying: “See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?”
Her father said, “Of course not.”
Perpetua replied, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am: a Christian.”
The authorities arrested Perpetua along with four other converts, including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, and Saturninus and Secundulus.
Saturus, the man who had been catechizing all of them, voluntarily went to prison to join them in their suffering.
Prior to being taken to prison, Perpetua was baptized. God told her that she should pray for the grace to endure her suffering.
Perpetua and Felicity were harshly treated by the prison guards, and the conditions were cramped and brutally hot. Felicity was eight months pregnant.
Two deacons of the Church bribed the guards so that the Christian prisoners would be put in a better part of the prison; they did so, and Perpetua’s mother and brother visited her, bringing her baby with them.
Her father also visited her, but he wanted her to renounce her faith, which she refused to do.
The judge condemned them to being torn apart by wild animals.
Perpetua was given a vision of a golden ladder with sharp weapons along the sides, indicating that one must keep one’s eyes fixed on Heaven or risk spiritual death. A dragon was at the bottom for all who turned away from Heaven.
Perpetua saw her catechist Saturus ascend the ladder. He reached the top and encouraged her to follow and not look back.
When Perpetua climbed the ladder, she saw a tall shepherd with white hair in a lovely garden. He was milking sheep and gave her curds and milk, which tasted sweet to her.
When Perpetua awoke from the vision, the taste was still in her mouth, and she shared the vision with her brother. They both realized it meant they must suffer and die.
Felicity went into a difficult labor just days before the execution date was set.
She gave birth to a daughter, who ultimately was adopted by a Christian family in Carthage.
Perpetua and her fellow Catholic prisoners entered the arena with peaceful countenances.
The authorities unleashed bears, boars, and leopards upon the men.
The women were attacked by an angry cow but did not die. So gladiators were sent in and killed the Christians.