FEast: March 7th
mothers, ranchers and butchers, best friends, women's
Sts. Felicity + Perpetua
Perpetua was a noblewoman in Northern Africa in the late 2nd century, and Felicity was her close friend and enslaved servant. Both were studying to become Christians when the Emperor Severus announced that all people would be made to sacrifice to the Roman gods and would be put to death if they did not.
Perpetua, when begged by her father to sacrifice so that she might be spared, famously told him to look at a water jug and ask him if it could be called anything other than what it is - so too, she said, she could only be called a Christian. Some accounts say that, due to his anger over her decision, her father attacked her. She remained steadfast anyways, and they were baptized.
Felicity, Perpetua, and a few other Christian friends of theirs were rounded up and imprisoned, despite Felicity being 8 months pregnant and Perpetua having a young son of her own. Her husband is not mentioned, and neither is Felicity's, and it is assumed that Perpetua at least may have already been a widow.
The two were so close, however, that despite the terrible conditions in the overcrowded prison, which was completely dark and very hot, helped each other remain convinced of their decision and faith. They were handled roughly, and Felicity had to manage physical pain while Perpetua dealt with much anxiety from being separated from her son. Eventually, her brother was able to bring her son to her, and while she had him with her in jail, she wrote in her journal that it was all she could have asked for and that she would not have rather been anywhere else.
While imprisoned, Perpetua had a few dreams - one in which she fought in the Roman arena as a man, and another in which she saw a ladder to Heaven. Because of that dream, she understood she would soon suffer.
Felicity, meanwhile, was afraid she would not give birth before Perpetua and their friends were executed. It was against the law for pregnant women to be killed, but she desired so strongly to die with Perpetua instead of strangers in the next round. She got her wish, with the baby born only 3 days before the scheduled games in which they all had been condemned to die. Some mocked her when she expressed pain during childbirth, asking her how she would soon endure torture. She responded it would be possible because Jesus would be with her, then. He baby was adopted by a Christian woman in Carthage immediately.
On the day of the games, the prison guards tried to dress up the women in the outfits of Roman priestesses, but Perpetua daringly refused. She reminded them "We gave you our lives to not have to worship your gods". She and the others walked proudly to the arena together.
Once inside, the men were attacked by wild animals. Felicity and Perpetua clung to each other, and with a kiss of peace, faced a wild cow. After the cow had charged and severely wounded Perpetua, she took a moment to fix her hair, caring about how she was presenting herself to the audience and to God. The two held on to each other until the end when the gladiators entered the arena and swiftly beheaded them.
This account of their martyrdom is due to Perpetua having kept a journal during their last days of imprisonment, and is in fact the oldest account of martyrdom that we have as a primary source.
Bless all pregnant women, women in labor, and new mothers. Bless women’s relationships and friendships. May all these bonds be as strong as yours: loving and holding these people even to death. May we be as brave and fearless as you to stand with our loved ones anD stand for God and Love.
watch over all separated mothers and children. bring them back together, and comfort them until that day. bless imprisoned women and mothers whose children have been taken away. Bless all bonds between mothers and their children, and between women’s friendships,
These portraits, designed to go together in a two-piece frame, were meant to fit together in other ways as well. One was in using similar colors that I found to be symbolic of their intimate, fiery, and courageous energy. Another was in their police lineup-like poses. Perpetua's hair is somewhat loose and representative of the story of her fixing it. They both wear plain t-shirts, and have expressions as determined as they are saddened to leave their loved ones behind.