March 7: Feast Day of Perpetua and Felicity

Perpetua was a 22 year old married Christian woman who lived in Carthage (modern day Tunisia) during the first century. She had given birth to a son a few months before she was arrested for her faith, under the persecutions of Septimus Severus.

Excerpt from Perpetua’s diary:

While we were still under arrest (she said) my father out of love for me was trying to persuade me and shake my resolution. ‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?’

‘Yes, I do’, said he.

And I told him: ‘Could it be called by any other name than what it is?’

And he said: ‘No.’

‘Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.’

A pregnant slave, Felicity, with her husband Revocatus and six other African Christian men were also arrested. The group were kept together in a house for several weeks, during which time Felicity had her baby. Around this day in 202, they were gathered together and taken to the games. Contemporary accounts say they left joyfully ‘as though they were on their way to heaven’.

The group were all killed by wild animals in front of the crowds. Perpetua and Felicity are said to have clung to each other and prayed so much that they became unaware of what was happening to them. Both were mauled by a heifer. The men were killed by leopards and bears. Perpetua had her throat cut by a gladiator.

The feast of these martyrs soon became very famous throughout the Christian world. It was recorded in the Roman and Syriac calenders as well as in the Martyrology of St Jerome. In 1907 an inscription in their honour was discovered in Carthage in the Basilica Majorum where they were buried.