Saints Perpetua and Felicity were Christian martyrs born in the 2nd Century in Carthage, North Africa.
They were killed and died as martyrs in 203 AD aged 20–22 in Carthage during the Christian persecutions by the brutal Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus.
We celebrate their feast day on March 7 every year in the Catholic Church.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs are the Patron Saints of
|Saints Perpetua and Felicity Biography
|Date of Birth
|Place of Birth
|Carthage, Tunisia in North Africa
|Christian and Martyrs
|Place of Work
|Carthage, North Africa (modern-day Tunisia)
|Date of Death
|Place of Death
|Carthage, North Africa (modern-day Tunisia)
|Patron Saint of
Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs Life History
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were Christian martyrs who lived during the early persecution of the Church in Africa by the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus
In 203 AD, Vivia Perpetua, an educated woman of noble birth, chose to embrace Christianity, despite knowing that it could result in her execution during the persecutions mandated by Emperor Severus.
Her surviving brother (one of her brothers had passed away at age seven) followed her lead and also became a catechumen, meaning he would receive guidance from a Catechist in the Catholic Christian beliefs and be prepared for Baptism.
Perpetua’s father, who adhered to a pagan faith, was extremely anxious and attempted to dissuade her from her choice.
At the age of 22, Perpetua was a vivacious, educated woman who had many compelling reasons to live, including a young son who she was still nursing.
Although we are aware that she was married, her husband is not mentioned in any accounts, leading several scholars to speculate that she was already a widow.
Perpetua responded to her father’s concerns in a straightforward and unambiguous manner. She directed his attention to a water jug and posed a question, “Do you see that container over there? Can you refer to it using any other name than the one that it is?”
In response to her question, Perpetua’s father replied, “Certainly not.” To which Perpetua replied, “Just like that pot, I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.”
Perpetua’s reply agitated her father, and he physically assaulted her. Perpetua recounted that she was relieved to be apart from him for a few days following the incident, even though it was due to her detention and confinement.
Perpetua, along with four other catechumens, including Felicity and Revocatus, who were slaves, and Saturninus and Secundulus, were apprehended and taken into custody.
Saturus, their mentor in the faith, opted to join them in their punishment and was also detained.
Perpetua was baptized before being imprisoned. She was renowned for her ability to communicate the words of God and receive divine messages.
Perpetua recounted that during her baptism, she received guidance to pray for nothing but perseverance during her tribulations.
The prison was extremely overcrowded, causing the air to become stiflingly hot. The lack of light was so complete that Perpetua reported she had never encountered such profound darkness before.
The soldiers who took them into custody and watched over them treated them harshly, pushing and jostling them without any consideration.
Perpetua acknowledged that she was deeply frightened, but in the midst of all the turmoil, her greatest agony stemmed from being separated from her infant baby.
The young slave, Felicity, had an even more difficult time than Perpetua, enduring the oppressive heat, severe overcrowding, and rough treatment despite being eight months pregnant.
Two deacons who provided assistance to the prisoners offered payment to the guards in exchange for relocating the martyrs to a more favorable section of the prison. In that location, Perpetua’s mother and brother were allowed to visit her and bring her baby to her.
Upon receiving consent for her baby to remain with her in prison, Perpetua declared that “my jail instantly became a palace for me.”
Her father returned to her once again, imploring her to relent, kissing her hands, and falling at her feet. She replied, “We do not depend on our own power, but on the power of God.”
As she and her companions were taken to face questioning and judgment, her father followed, beseeching both her and the judge.
Despite the judge’s compassion and attempts to persuade Perpetua to alter her stance, she remained steadfast, and she and the others were condemned to be thrown to wild animals in the arena.
Perpetua recounted how her brother addressed her, saying, “Sister, you are now greatly honored, so much so that you may pray for a vision to reveal whether you will suffer or be released.”
Perpetua, who frequently conversed with the Lord, informed her brother that she would report what occurred the following day.
During her prayer, Perpetua saw a vision of a golden ladder of great height reaching up to heaven. The ladder was surrounded by swords, lances, hooks, and daggers, and anyone who did not climb while looking up to heaven would be wounded.
At the foot of the ladder, there was a large dragon trying to frighten people from ascending away from heaven.
Perpetua first saw Saturus go up. After he reached the top of the ladder he said, “Perpetua, I wait for you, but take care that the dragon does not bite you.” To which she replied, “In the name of Jesus Christ, he will not hurt me,” and the dragon put his down his head.
Perpetua then began to ascend the ladder. She was wearing a delicate tunic, which blew about her as she climbed higher and higher.
At the top of the ladder, she saw a great expanse of greenness, and in the midst of it was a white-haired man wearing a shepherd’s garb. He was surrounded by thousands of other people, and he welcomed Perpetua and Saturus with a smile.
Perpetua and Saturus were then taken to a place where they saw a man with a milking pail, who welcomed them to a table covered with all kinds of delicacies.
But they refused to eat, saying that they were waiting for their friends. Finally, all of the martyrs appeared, and they were transformed into angels.
They were dressed in white and their faces shone with light. They began to sing praises to God, and Perpetua said that she had never heard such sweet music in all her life.
This vision gave Perpetua the strength to face her martyrdom with courage and joy. She knew that even though she would die a painful death, she would go to heaven and be with God forever.
Perpetua and her brother understood that their dream was a sign that they would face martyrdom, and they embraced it with a sense of peace and acceptance. Her brother was also strengthened by Perpetua’s faith and courage.
Perpetua wrote in her diary, “After I had seen the vision in which Saturus spoke to me, I knew that I must fight, not with beasts but against the devil himself.”
She believed that her ultimate battle was not against the physical beasts in the arena, but against the spiritual forces of evil.
Perpetua and her companions were led to the amphitheater where they were scourged, and then thrown to a fierce boar.
The crowd was amazed to see that the boar charged towards them but stopped short of attacking them. They were then thrown to wild beasts, and Perpetua and Felicity were torn apart by a mad heifer.
Despite her injuries, Perpetua guided the executioner’s sword to her own throat, as the law prohibited women from being killed by beasts.
The bravery and steadfastness of Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions inspired many Christians and non-Christians alike.
They became celebrated as martyrs and saints, and their story has been passed down through the centuries as an example of faith and courage in the face of persecution.
Today’s Catholic Prayer
May Saints Perpetua and Felicity offer their prayers for the protection of mothers and children who have been separated due to conflict or oppression, and may they give particular attention to those mothers who are detained, leading them to imitate their model of bravery and faith. Amen.
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