Saint of the week
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Saints Perpetua and Felicity
“Memorial of the holy martyrs Perpetua and Felicity, arrested in Carthage under the emperor Septimus Severus together with other young catechumens; of these, Perpetua, a married woman about twenty years of age, was a mother with an infant at the breast; while Felicity was a serving girl, who, since she was pregnant, was granted a respite, in accordance with the law, until she was delivered. Though she suffered in giving birth, when thrown to the wild beasts she rejoiced. They processed from prison into the amphitheatre with happy faces, as if looking to heaven.”
From the Roman Maryrology.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity (believed to have died 203) are Christian martyrs of the 3rd century. Perpetua was a married noblewoman, said to have been 22 years old at the time of her death, and mother of an infant she was nursing. Felicity, a slave imprisoned with her and pregnant at the time, was martyred with her. They were put to death along with others at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.
“The Passion of Saint Perpetua, Sant Felicitas, and their Companions” is one of the oldest and most notable early Christian texts. It survives in both Latin and Greek forms, and purports to contain the actual prison diary of the young mother and martyr Perpetua. Scholars generally believe that it is authentic although in the form we have it may have been edited by others. The text also purports to contain, in his own words, the accounts of the visions of Saturus, another Christian martyred with Perpetua. An editor who states he was an eyewitness has added accounts of the martyrs’ suffering and deaths.
According to The Passion, a slave named Revocatus, his fellow slave Felicitas, the two free men Saturninus and Secundulus, and Perpetua, who were catechumens, that is, Christians being instructed in the faith but not yet baptized, were arrested and executed at the military games in celebration of the Emperor Geta’s birthday. To this group was added a man named Saturus, who voluntarily went before the magistrate and proclaimed himself a Christian.
The illustration above is a tempra panel on wood, showing Mary with Child, flanked by Saints Felicity and Perpetua, by an unknown artist c 1520. It is on display in the National Museum in Warsaw.