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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Harvey

Saints Perpetua & Felicity: Role Models for Putting God First

saints perpetua and felicity

Eucharistic Prayer I. (Roman Canon) is that lengthier prayer during the Liturgy of the

Eucharist at Mass that mentions several saints. Some parishes do not use it as often since it is lengthier and when it is used it is usually recognized as different from what such parishioners are used to. As we honor two saints on March 7th, it is not my hope to examine the differences between the Eucharistic Prayers beyond the mentioning that the seven Roman saints and martyrs listed in the Roman Canon include Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Their names are found during a time when the priest prays that we may be given the mercy to share in their fellowship and live eternally as saints in heaven. The women mentioned at this moment of the prayer include Perpetua and Felicity, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, and Anastasia. Since Perpetua and Felicity are important enough to be mentioned in the Roman Canon and set before us at Mass as models of holiness, then their optional memorial on March 7th is of no little importance.

Saint Perpetua lived in Carthage in North Africa prior to the legalization of Christianity within the Roman Empire. She came from a noble family and was well educated. Her father was a pagan and her mother a Christian. Eventually, Saint Perpetua found Christ and began the process of entering the Catholic Church. During a time of persecution and because she refused to renounce Christ, even against the wishes of her father, Saint Perpetua and others were arrested and sentenced to death in the “games” for being a Christian and refusing to put family or government above God. She was still nursing her child while in prison. Her diary detailing the events leading up to her death is the earliest Christian text written by a woman.

It is because of her writing that we know more about Saint Perpetua, but we know less of the life of Saint Felicity. She was a pregnant slave that was imprisoned at the same time and died with Saint Perpetua and the others. She gave birth only a few days before her execution/martyrdom. Her child was then raised by members of the Church. This emotional narrative can be found in the Liturgy of the Hours from the martyrology: 

Now the day had arrived when they were to be thrown to the wild beasts. Felicitas began to be sorrowful because she feared she would have to wait longer than her companions. For eight months she had been pregnant and therefore, according to Roman law, could not be executed before the birth of the child. But the prayers of her fellow sufferers hastened her time and she gave birth to a baby girl. 
While she was suffering from the pains of childbirth, one of the guards called out to her, "If you are suffering so much now, what will you do when you are thrown to the wild beasts?" "Now I suffer," she answered, "but there Another will be in me, who will suffer for me, because I will suffer for Him." When she was in travail she had sorrow, but when she was set before the wild beasts she rejoiced.

 These two saints have grown (or regrown) in popularity among many Catholics, especially young girls. While an animated film and many books exist promoting their heroic virtue to youth, they witness to an important and difficult truth for all of us. Christ is to be chosen above anything else. Period. These young mothers gave up a life of walking alongside their children on earth in order to remain faithful to their God and true King. While still loving their children from heaven, they sacrificed much as mothers. This moves me to ponder: 

  • Do I love God and seek to follow him more than I love my wife and kids? 

  • Do I put my trust in God more than the government? 

  • Do I seek God more than earthly pleasures and comfort? 

  • Do I pursue God more than praise from peers? 

  • Do I keep God as cental to my day and week or do I simply fit God in? 

  • Am I willing to act like a Christian in public? 

I hope in God’s mercies and in the prayers of Saints Perpetua and Felicity that I, and all of you, may become more faithful to God in what I say, what I think, and in all I do.

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