Tag Archives: Saints Perpetua and Felicity

Mothers who are Saints

May 11, 2018

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Mothers’ Day is a beautiful occasion to give tribute to mothers, each person’s own mother, for all of the love she has shared, and all mothers, for all they contribute to the wellbeing of the family and society. It is a day set aside to give special praise and thanks to those mothers who are alive and to honor the memory of those who have passed away. Spiritually, it is an opportunity to highlight mothers who are saints, because their good and holy lives can serve as an inspiration to the mothers of today.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity (180-203) are two great mothers of the Early Church. They lived in Carthage, a city in North Africa. Both were catechumens, baptized, and then arrested for their Christian faith. Perpetua gave birth to a son while under house arrest, and Felicity, her servant, gave birth to a daughter in prison. Aware of their impending deaths, they entrusted their children to other Christians so they would be raised in the faith. They were martyred on March 7, 203, both heroic witnesses to their children.

Sts. Constantine and Helena

St. Helena (255-330). She was the mother of Constantine, a Roman general who eventually became the Roman emperor. She converted to Christianity in 318 at the age of 63, and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land c. 320. She discovered the True Cross, and with the authorization of her son, who by then was a catechumen, had the Temple to Venus over Calvary demolished, and shrines were built to honor Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Churches were also built on the Mount of Olives to honor the Ascension and in Bethlehem to honor the Nativity. As a mother, she had a strong spiritual influence on her son, both in the construction of churches and in his baptism which he accepted shortly before his death.

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373). She was the mother of eight children, four boys and four girls. She dutifully raised her children as Christians, but she suffered bitter disappointments because her oldest daughter married a bad husband and her youngest son died in 1340. She served in the court of King Magnus II and Queen Blanche, and she tried to exert a positive spiritual influence upon them. She founded religious institutes for women and men, called for an end to the Avignon Papacy, and moved to Rome to minister to the sick and poor. She made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1371 and took three of her children with her, her sons Charles and Birger, and her daughter Catherine who was later named a saint. She had many visions and is famous for the way that she challenged sinners to reform their lives.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton (1774-1821). She was born in New York City, married at the age of 19, and was the mother of five children. Her husband William became sick with tuberculosis, the she moved the family to Pisa, Italy, for a warmer climate and to get help from his family, but he died six weeks later. Elizabeth was Episcopalian, and she stayed with William’s Catholic family in Italy and prayed with them every day in their family chapel. She decided to convert, and did so upon their return to New York. She attended daily Mass and prayed the Memorare, and she taught her children the importance of prayer. She was also a strong believer in the value of education, and she provided for the education of her own children. She opened a boarding school in New York, and later moved to Maryland with her family in 1808, established a school, and founded a community of religious sisters to teach and serve the poor, and later founded other schools and orphanages in Philadelphia and New York.

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Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs

February 28, 2018

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Saints Perpetua and Felicity

March 7 is the memorial of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, two courageous women who were martyred, along with three heroic men, Saturus, Saturninus, and Revocatus, as part of the persecution of Septimus Severus, the Roman emperor from 193 to 211 AD. Their deaths took place on March 7, 203, in Carthage, a city in North Africa located in the modern country of Tunisia. Perpetua and Felicity are held in such high esteem that they are two of only seven women on the second list of saints in the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I.

Perpetua was born in approximately 180 AD. She came from a family of nobility, was a catechumen, and at the age of twenty-two, was married and recently had given birth to a baby boy. Felicity, also a catechumen, was Perpetua’s servant. She was also married and late in her pregnancy. Perpetua and Felicity were apprehended because of their Christian faith and held under guard in a private home. Perpetua’s elderly pagan father came to the place and tried to convince her to repudiate her Christian faith, but she flatly refused. The two catechumens were baptized, and shortly thereafter they were transferred to prison.

Perpetua prayed for a vision to see if she would suffer or be released, and she was shown a golden ladder of great length that reached up to heaven. There was a huge dragon at the bottom which tried to frighten anyone from making the ascent, and there were dangerous weapons on the side that would mangle those who climbed carelessly or without looking upward. The vision confirmed her upcoming martyrdom, but also her final glorious destination.

Felicity gave birth to a girl in prison. The guard tried to persuade her to avoid martyrdom and save her life so she could take care of her newborn child by renouncing her faith. The guard’s plea fell on deaf ears. Her child was adopted by a fellow Christian.

All five were brought before Hilarion, the procurator of the province, interrogated, convicted as Christians, and sentenced to a gruesome death, to be killed by wild animals before a large crowd of spectators during the games in the amphitheater. As they were led to the arena, they went joyfully with cheerful looks and a graceful bearing, as if they were going to heaven.

The three men were mauled by ravenous leopards, bears, and wild boars. Saturus perished almost instantly, while Saturninus and Revocatus, both bleeding profusely, still were breathing. Meanwhile, Perpetua and Felicity were attacked by a savage cow with sharp, curved horns. The heifer charged them, gored Perpetua, and crushed Felicity. Perpetua was in a state of spiritual ecstasy, and although wounded, she was oblivious to her pain. Seeing the others covered in blood, she exhorted them, “Stand firm in faith, love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our sufferings.”

The sadistic and bloodthirsty crowd shrieked for more. The four were led to the middle of the amphitheater where they gave each other the kiss of peace. Gladiators advanced toward them, drew their blades, and thrust them through, to the crowd’s frenzied delight. Perpetua’s gladiator was inexperienced and his blow missed the mark, so she guided his knife to her throat herself. They “defied their persecutors and overcame the torment of death” (Collect). Saints Perpetua and Felicity are both buried in the basilica in Carthage.

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