Faithful Heroes: Saint Perpetua

We have been taking a look at those mentioned in the Hall of Faith, found in Hebrews 11. We began with those Paul mentioned by name, moved to those he described and finished with the faithful in the New Testament who deserved to be in the Hall of Faith.

We are now moving through history to those who are considered Heroes of the Faith. We will explore these through the end of 2018. I will be calling these individuals our Faithful Heroes at times.

To bridge the gap between the Hall of Faith and the Heroes of the Faith, I thought we would begin by looking at some of those individuals who reached the status of Sainthood.

 

We will begin with one of the early Christian martyr’s.

Perpetua was a Christian martyr, believing to have died in 203AD, along with her slave, Felicity.

Vibia Perpetua is said to have been a twenty-two year old nursing mother at the time of

Stained-glass window of St Perpetua of Carthage (church of Notre-Dame of Vierzon, France, 19th century): martyrdom of St Perpetua and her fellows in the stadium of Carthage; Saint Felicity on her left from Wikipedia

her death. She was a married noblewoman, a social class right below royalty, and put to death with others in the province of Carthage, Africa where she lived.

Perpetua’s account begins with a conflict between her and her father, who wishes for her to recant. Not being a believer, he continues to beg her to renounce her faith. She refuses and is baptized. She is moved to a better portion of the prison, to nurse her child, who is in the charge of her mother, a believer, and brother.

Her brother encourages her to ask for a vision, which she does. She realizes the martyrs will suffer.

“Perpetua was baptized before taken to prison. She was known for her gift of “the Lord’s speech” and receiving messages from God. She tells us that at the time of her baptism she was told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.”

The Passion of Saint Perpetua, Saint 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.

Painting showing the martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus, from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD) from Wikipedia

“According to the passion narrative, 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 Septimus Severus’s birthday. To this group was added a man named Saturus, who voluntarily went before the Magistrate and proclaimed himself a Christian.”

Felicity is said to have a baby girl just days before her death.

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.

The text of the Passion describes a very painful and terrible death for the Christians. For the unwillingness to renounce their faith, the five Christian were sent to the public games in the amphitheater.

Their feast day is March 7.

For her willingness to stay firm in her belief and die for Christ, Perpetua and her group are faithful heroes.

 

 

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