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A Lesson from Carthage

Matthew Harrison

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Today in the liturgical calendar the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Felicity and Perpetua. These two women were martyred at Carthage, in Northern Africa in 203.
Their names may sound familiar as they’re mentioned in the Roman Canon at Mass. ("For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs, with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatious, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia...")
What’s particularly interesting about their story is that there is a reliable written account of their martyrdom. (which is also available online, click HERE for that)
Felicity and Perpetua, along with other Christians, were led out to the amphitheatre, scourged, attacked by wild animals, and then put to death by the sword. But before the execution, they kissed each other so that they may consummate their martyrdom with the kiss of peace.
Perpetua is also recorded to have encouraged the fellow Christians to: “Stand fast in the faith, and love one another, all of you, and be not offended at my sufferings."
Felicity and Perpetua were brutally put to death -- they remained courageous and steadfast in their faith. As much as their family begged them, as terrifying it must have been to be surrounded by thousands of people crying for their blood -- they would not deny Christ.
I’m afraid that I can’t say the same. In my sin, I deny Christ everyday. I am weak and cannot rely on myself. But that’s the secret to the martyrdom of Saints Felicity and Perpetua. That’s the secret to my life and to your life. On our own, we can do nothing. We need God by our side.
My Lord and my God, without You I am nothing.
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