> Commemoration: Saint Perpetua and Her Companions
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Annually on March 7
Martyrs at Carthage
d. 203 A.D.
Icon retrieved from "a pilgrim's progress".
PRAYER (traditional language):
O God the King of saints, who didst strengthen thy 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
While in prison, Saint Perpetua's Wrote:
"After a few days there was a report that we were to have a Hearing in court. And my father came to me from the city, worn out with anxiety. He came up to me, that he might cast me down, saying: 'Have pity, my daughter, on my grey hairs. Have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be called a father by you. If with these hands I have brought you up to this flower of your age, if I have preferred you to all your brothers, do not deliver me up to the scorn of men. Have regard to your brothers, have regard to your mother and your aunt, have regard to your son, who will not be able to live after you. Lay aside your courage, and do not bring us all to destruction; for none of us will speak in freedom if you should suffer anything.' These things said my father in his affection, kissing my hands, and throwing himself at my feet, and with tears he called me not Daughter, but Lady. And I grieved over the grey hairs of my father, that he alone of all my kindred would have no joy in my death."
Vibia Perpetua was a young widow, mother of an infant and owner
of several slaves, including Felicitas and Revocatus. With two
other young Carthaginians, Secundulus and Saturninus, they were
catechumens preparing for baptism.
Early in the third century, Emperor Septimius Severus decreed that all persons should sacrifice to the divinity of the emperor. There was no way that a Christian, confessing faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ, could do this. Perpetua and her companions were arrested and held in prison under miserable conditions.
In a document attributed to Perpetua, we learn of visions she had in prison. One was of a ladder to heaven, which she climbed to reach a large garden; another was of her brother who had died when young of a dreadful disease, but was now well and drinking the water of life; the last was of herself as a warrior battling the Devil and defeating him to win entrance to the gate of life. “And I awoke, understanding that I should fight, not with beasts, but with the Devil ... So much about me up to the day before the games; let him who will write of what happened then.”
At the public hearing before the Proconsul, she refused even the entreaties of her aged father, saying, “I am a Christian.”
On March 7, Perpetua and her companions, encouraging one another to bear bravely whatever pain they might suffer, were sent to the arena to be mangled by a leopard, a boar, a bear, and a savage cow. Perpetua and Felicitas, tossed by the cow, were bruised and disheveled, but Perpetua, “lost in spirit and ecstasy,” hardly knew that anything had happened. To her companions she cried, “Stand fast in the faith and love one another. And do not let what we suffer be a stumbling block to you.”
Eventually, all were put to death by a stroke of a sword through the throat. The soldier who struck Perpetua was inept. His first blow merely pierced her throat between the bones. She shrieked with pain, then aided the man to guide the sword properly. The report of her death concludes, “Perhaps so great a woman, feared by the unclean spirit, could not have been killed unless she so willed it.”
To learn more about the saints martyred in Carthage, click the links below.