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Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs
March 7, 2020
Image: Mary and Child with Saints Felicity and Perpetua (Sacra Conversazione) | Anonymous
Saints Perpetua and Felicity
Saint of the Day for March 7
Saints Perpetua and Felicity’s Story
“When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel—waterpot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.’”
So writes Perpetua: young, beautiful, well-educated, a noblewoman of Carthage in North Africa, mother of an infant son and chronicler of the persecution of the Christians by Emperor Septimius Severus.
Perpetua’s mother was a Christian and her father a pagan. He continually pleaded with her to deny her faith. She refused and was imprisoned at 22.
In her diary, Perpetua describes her period of captivity: “What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby…. Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but I obtained leave for my baby to remain in the prison with me, and being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.”
Despite threats of persecution and death, Perpetua, Felicity–a slavewoman and expectant mother–and three companions, Revocatus, Secundulus and Saturninus, refused to renounce their Christian faith. For their unwillingness, all were sent to the public games in the amphitheater. There Perpetua and Felicity were beheaded, and the others killed by beasts.
Felicity gave birth to a girl a few days before the games commenced.
Perpetua’s record of her trial and imprisonment ends the day before the games. “Of what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will.” The diary was finished by an eyewitness.
Persecution for religious beliefs is not confined to Christians in ancient times. Consider Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who with her family, was forced into hiding and later died in Bergen-Belsen, one of Hitler’s death camps during World War II. Anne, like Perpetua and Felicity, endured hardship and suffering and finally death because she committed herself to God. In her diary, Anne writes, “It’s twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God.”
Saint Felicity is the Patron Saint of:
Mothers of Deceased Sons
Saint of the Day
Information: Sts. Perpetua & Felicity
Feast Day: March 7
Died: 7 March 202 or 203, Carthage, Roman Province of Africa
Patron of: Mothers, Expectant Mothers
Wednesday, March 7
Liturgical Color: Violet
St. Thomas Aquinas died on this
day in 1274. He was one of the
greatest theologians in Church
history and his writings are still in
use today. In 1880, Pope Leo
XIII named him the patron saint
of Catholic schools, colleges and
Lent: March 7th
Optional Memorial of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs
March 07, 2018 (Readings on USCCB website)
O God, at the urging of whose love the Martyrs Saints Perpetua and Felicity defied their persecutors and overcame the torment of earth, grant, we ask, by their prayers, that we may ever grow in your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Old Calendar: St. Thomas Aquinas, confessor and doctor ; Other Titles: St. Felicitas
The account of the martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity forms one of the finest pages of the history of the first centuries of the Church. It shows us clearly the wonderful sentiments of these two women when they heard that they had been condemned to the wild beasts. Knowing their own weakness but relying on the strength of Christ, who was fighting with them, they went to their martyrdom as to a triumphant celebration, to which they were invited by Christ. They were exposed to the fury of wild beasts in the amphitheater at Carthage, A.D. 203, and finally killed by the sword. Their names are still mentioned together in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas which is now celebrated in the Ordinary Form on January 28.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity
Vibia Perpetua, a well-to-do young woman and mother, and Felicitas, a slave who gave birth to a child three days before suffering a martyr’s death, were catechumens. Against such prospective converts the persecution of Septimius Severus was particularly severe. These two holy women suffered death on the seventh of March in Carthage. The Breviary relates the following touching episode:
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 (Martyrology).
Finally, on the seventh of March, these heroic women were led into the amphitheatre and severely scourged. Then they were tossed about by an exceptionally wild cow, gored, and thrown to the ground.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Perpetua — Cattle, death of children, martyrs. Felicity — Death of children; martyrs; sterility; to have male children; widows.
Symbols: Perpetua — Wild cow; spiked ladder guarded by a dragon. Felicity — Seven swords; cauldron of oil and sword; sword with seven heads; eight palms.
Things to Do:
The story of the sufferings of today’s saints is preserved for us in authentic “Acts of the Martyrs” that were composed partly by the saints themselves, and partly by eyewitnesses (perhaps Tertullian). The account may be classed with the most beautiful portions of ancient Christian literature that have come down to us. Read from this account here.
The Station, at Rome, is in the church of St. Sisto Vecchio. It was built in the 4th century, and was one of the first parish churches in Rome and was known as the Titulus Crescentianae. Tradition claims that it was founded by Pope Anastasius I.
Meditation: Matthew 5:17-19
Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs (Optional Memorial)
I have come . . . to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus clarified it for his disciples: he had not come to abolish the Law or the prophets. He did not want to get rid of anything. He came to fulfill. Let’s pray today and thank Jesus for the ways he brings everything to fulfillment:
“Jesus, thank you that you came to fulfill the Law! You were flawless in the way you loved God and loved your neighbors. You loved so deeply that you offered yourself on a cross so that we could be reconciled with our Father in heaven.
“Thank you, Lord, that you didn’t stop there. You also showed us how to follow the heart of the Law. Every one of your teachings showed us how we could love God and love our neighbors just as fully as you did. You healed and forgave, you reached out to the outcasts, you obeyed your Father’s will. You fulfilled the Law, and you taught us how to do it too.
“Not only that, Lord, but you perfectly fulfilled the words of the prophets. You are the yes to every one of God’s promises. You are Emmanuel, God with us, conceived by the Virgin. You are the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, who comes to bring an eternal kingdom of peace. You are God’s chosen servant, who brings justice and healing to all!
“Jesus, you even came to fulfill me! Thank you that you made me with awesome potential. You have given me the capacity to know you; you have given me specific gifts and talents to glorify you. You help me each day to discover them, and you teach me how to develop them. You help me overcome sin so that I can see your gifts in other people. You teach me how to pray and love God so that I can grow to be the person you made me to be.
“Jesus, I give you thanks and praise! You have come to fulfill—everything. Thank you that you have gone so far as to promise to fulfill me as well. You have made me. You love me. You long for me to be all that you made me to be!”
“Lord, I want to find my fulfillment in you!”
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Psalm 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
Marriage = One Man and One Woman Until Death Do Us Part
Daily Marriage Tip for March 7, 2018:
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were wives and mothers martyred for their faith. These strong women are great role models for all married women and mothers; today, ask these heavenly saints for help in living your vocation.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I journey through Lent I have a great desire to be close to you. I know that I am your creature and that I owe you all glory and homage. I want to glorify you by following your teaching. I need you to help me see clearly the truth of your teaching and to love you in return. Here I am Lord, hungry for you alone. I know that you will not turn me away empty-handed.
Petition: Lord, teach me what it means to fulfill the law.
The Spirit Fulfills the Mere Letter: We can speak of fulfilling the law in two ways: by doing everything that is asked or by completing that which is missing. Jesus completes the law of the Old Testament with the new law of love – to love one another as he has loved us. Jesus fulfills the law not by simply fulfilling each of the many precepts, but by showing where all of the precepts have their end: in loving God above all things. When we obey the law of love we are fulfilling all of the laws – we are bringing them to their natural end.
The All-Encompassing New Law: The law of love reaches to the ends of the earth. There is no created being in the universe that is outside the law of love that Jesus has come to teach us. There is no being, not even the smallest, that escapes the demand of this law. When Jesus uses the metaphor, “the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter,” he is showing us the completeness of this law. Love and its demands reach to the farthest ends of the universe, to the smallest created being, and to the end of time. Am I convinced in my heart and in my actions that the law of love asks me to love all people – not just my family, friends and those who rub me the right way?
Seeking Perfection: The commandments of the old law as exemplified in the Ten Commandments (e.g. Thou shall not kill; Thou shall not commit adultery; etc.) are grave transgressions but easy to define, referring as they do to external actions. Christ’s commandments (e.g. to not show anger; to not lust in the heart; to forgive our enemies; etc.) have more subtle expressions, and because of this often times they are more difficult to obey. Living these commandments with the proper motivation and a considerate, dedicated attitude is what makes a person great. Having love as the motivation of all of our actions not only helps us make it to heaven, but also will win us a greater share in God’s happiness and glory there.
Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for this time of prayer. Do not let me be content simply to do the minimum that my faith asks of me. Do not let me be content simply with avoiding grave sin. Help me to live the fullness of the law of charity. I want this Lent to be a time of growth in love.
Resolution: When I am obeying the laws of the Church I will stop to reflect how they fit into the greater law of love.
“Take Care and Be Earnestly on Your Guard”
March 7, 2018
After successfully delivering the Ten Commandments to his people, Moses tells them:
(T)ake care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.
Many centuries later, Christ in today’s Gospel tells his disciples at the Sermon on the Mount that he has not come to abolish the Mosaic law, but rather to fulfill it.
Thanks to the grace extended by Christ’s death and Resurrection, we as Catholics do not observe the fully elaborate codes set down by Moses; we are not bound to make burnt offerings, for example. The holy blood shed in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice eliminates the need for these.
Even so, Jesus reinforces the design of the Ten Commandments when he says,
“(W)hoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Infused with the radical mercy brought by Jesus, the laws on the stone tablets are vivified and given a deeper meaning. More than a moral code enforced to keep society in line, they now open the door to contemplation of the “why” behind each commandment.
Why should we not steal?
Why should we honor our parents?
Why should we not kill?
Why should we not covet?
And what is our responsibility to those who break the commandments? We do not shun then; we do not stone them. We try to teach them and lift them up, through the mercy and forgiveness conveyed by Christ’s example, so they may sin and hurt no more.
Art above: Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law by Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Homily of the DayMarch 7, 2018
Both readings speak of the value of obedience to the norms and laws given by Yahweh: those who keep these laws and teach others to obey these laws will be greatly rewarded. The people of Israel are truly privileged in their special relationships with God who has given them the commandments: “Is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this Law which I give you today?”
Jesus tells his disciples that he has come not “to remove the Law and the Prophets” but “to fulfill them.” For Israel the “Law and the Prophets” include the commandments given to Moses. In addition many other procedural and external practices have been added. Jesus wished to teach and stress the essentials of the Law.
May the Lord grant us the grace, wisdom and strength to fulfill this great responsibility of living according to God’s laws and norms and of teaching and leading others under our care to do the same. May we also be able to discern and recognize what is essential and what is merely procedural and external.
One Bread, One Body
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