From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The real feast of these two illustrious heroines of the faith is to-morrow, which is the anniversary of their martyrdom and triumph; but the memory of the angel of the schools, St. Thomas of Aquin, shines so brightly on the seventh of March, that it almost eclipses the two glorious stars of Africa. In consequence of this, the Holy See orders the Church to anticipate their feast, and keep it to-day. We at once offer to the Christian reader the glorious spectacle of which Carthage was the scene in the year 203. Nothing could give us a clearer idea of that spirit of the Gospel, according to which we are now studying to conform our whole life. Here are two women, two mothers; God asks great sacrifices from them; He asks them to give Him their lives, nay, more than their lives; and they obey with that simplicity and devotedness which made Abraham merit to be the father of believers.
Their two names, as St. Augustine observes, are a presage of what awaits them in heaven: a perpetual felicity. The example they set of Christian fortitude, is, of itself, a victory, which secures to the true faith a triumph in the land of Africa. St. Cyprian will soon follow them, with his bold and eloquent appeal to the African Christians, inspiring them to die for their faith: but his words, grand as they are, are less touching than the few pages written by the hand of the brave Perpetua, who, though only twenty-two years of age, relates, with all the self-possession of an angel, the trials she had to go through for God; and when she has to hurry off to the amphitheatre, she puts her pen into another’s hand, bidding him go on where she leaves off, and write the rest of the battle. As we read these charming pages, we seem to be in the company of the martyrs; the power of divine grace, which could produce such heroism amidst a people demoralized by paganism, appears so great that even we grow courageous; and the very fact that the instruments employed by God for the destruction of the pagan world were frequently women, induces us to say with St. John Chrysostom: ‘I feel an indescribable pleasure in reading the “Acts of the Martyrs”; but when the martyr is a woman, my enthusiasm is doubled. For the frailer the instrument, the greater is the grace, the brighter the trophy, the grander the victory; and this, not because of her weakness, but because the devil is conquered by her, by whom he once conquered us. He conquered by a woman, and now a woman conquers him. She that was once his weapon, is now his destroyer, brave and invincible. That first one sinned, and died; this one died that she might not sin. Eve was flushed by a lying promise, and broke the law of God; our heroine disdained to live, when her living was to depend on her breaking her faith to Him who was her dearest Lord. What excuse, after this, for men, if they be soft and cowards? Can they hope for pardon, when women fought the holy battle with such brave, and manly, and generous hearts?’
The lessons appointed to be read on this feast will be found in the Supplement. The following passage from the account written by Perpetua herself, which used to be read at Matins, will make some readers long to read the whole of what she has left us. They will find it in our first volume of the ‘Acts of the Martyrs.’
Severo imperatore, apprehensi sunt in Africa adolescentes catechumeni, Revocatils et Felicitas conserva ejus, Saturninus et Secundulus: inter quos et Vivia Perpetua, honeste nata, liberaliter instituta, matronaliter nupta, habens filium ad ubera. Erat autem ipsa annorum circiter viginti duorum. Hæc ordinem martyrii sui conscriptum manu sua reliquit. Quum adhuc, inquit, cum persecutoribus essemus, et me pater avertere, pro sua affectione, perseveraret: Pater, inquio, aliud me dicere non possum, nisi quod sum Christiana. Tunc pater, motus in hoc verbo, misit se in me, ut oculos mihi erueret. Sed vexavit tantum; et profecfcus est victus cum argumentis diaboli. In spatio paucorum dierum baptizati sumus: mihi autem Spiritus dictavit nihil aliud petendum in aqua, nisi sufferentiam carnis. Post paucos dies, recipimur in carcerem: et expavi, quia nunquam experta eram talea tenebras. Mox rumor cucurrit ut audiremur. Supervenit autem et de chvitate pater meus, consumptus tædio; et ascendit ad me, ut me dejiceret, dicens: Miserere, filia, canis meis; miserere patri, si dignus sum a te pater vocari. Aspice ad fratres tuos, aspice ad matrem tuam: aspice ad filium tuum, qui post te vivere non poterit. Depone animos, ne universos nos extermines. Hæc dicebat pater pro sua pietate: se ad pedes meos jactans, et lacrymis non filiam, sed dominam me vocabat. Et ego dolebam canos patris mei: quod solus de passione mea gavisurus non esset de toto genere meo. Et confortavi eum, dicens: Hoc fiet quod Deus voluerit. Scito enim nos non in nostra potestate esse constitutos, sed in Dei. Et recessit a me contristatus.
Alio die, quum prande remus, subito rapti sumus ut audiremur: et perveninius ad forum. Ascendimus in catasta. Interrogati cæteri confessi sunt. Ventum est et ad me. Et apparuit pater illico cum filio meo: et extraxit me de gradu, et dixit supplicans: Miserere infanti. Et Hilarianus procurator: Parce, inquit, canis patris tui, parce infantiæ pueri: fac sacrum pro salute imperatorum. Et ego respondi: Non facio: Christiana sum. Tunc nos universos pronuntiat et damnat ad bestias: et hilares descendimus ad carcerem. Sed quia consueverat a me infans mammas accipere, et mecum in carcere manere, statim mitto ad patrem, postulans infantem. Sed pater dare noluit: et, quomodo Deus voluit, neque ille amplius mammas desideravit neque mihi fervorem fecerunt. Atque hoc scripsit beata Perpetua usque in pridie certaminis. Felicitas vero, quæ prægnans octo jam mensium fuerat apprehensa, instante spectaculi die, in magno erat luctu, ne propter ventrem differretur. Sed et commartyres ejus graviter contristabantur, ne tam bonam sociam in via ejusdem spei relinquerent. Conjuncto itaque gemitu, ad Dominum orationem fuderunt ante tertium diem muneris. Statim post orationem dolores eam invaserunt. Et quum in partu laborans doleret, ait illi quidam ex ministris: Quæ sic modo doles, quid facies objecta bestiis, quas contempsisti quum sacrificare noluisti? Et illa respondit: Modo ego patior quod patior: illic autem alius erit in me qui patietur pro me; quia et ego pro illo passura sum. Ita enixa est puellam, quam sibi quædam soror in filiain educavit.
Illuxit dies victoriæ iliorum: et processerunt de carcere in amphitheatrum, quasi in cœlum, hilares, vultu decori: si forte, gaudio paventes, non timore. Sequebatur Perpetua placido vultu, et pedum incessu ut matrona Christi dilecta: vigorem oculorum suorum dejiciens ab omnium conspectu. Item Felicitas, salvam se peperisse gaudens, ut ad bestias pugnaret. Illis ferocissimam vaccam diabolus præparavit. Itaque reticulis in dutæ producuntur. Inducitur prior Perpetua. Jactata est et concidit in lumbos: et ut conspexit tunicam a latere discissam ad velamentum femorum adduxit, pudoris potius memor quam doloris. Dehinc requisita et dispersos capillos infibulavit. Non enim decebat martyrem dispcrsis capillis pati: ne in sua gloria plangere videretur. Ita surrexit; et elisam Felicitatem quum vidisset, accessit et manum ei tradidit, et sublevavit illam. Et ambæ pariter steterunt: et populi duritia devicta, revocatæ sunt in portam Sanavivariam. Illic Perpetua, quasi a somno expergita, adeo in spiritu et extasi fuerat, circumspicere cœpit: et stupentibus omnibus, ait: Quando producimur ad vaccam illam, nescio. Et quum audisset quod jam evenerat; non prius credidit, nisi quasdam notas vexationis in corpore et habitu suo recognovisset. Exinde accersitum fratrem suum, et catechumenum Rusticum nomine, allocuta est eos, dicens: In fide state, et invicem omnes diligite; et passionibus nostris ne scandalizemini.Secundulum Deus maturiore exitu de sæculo adhuc in carcere evocaverat. Saturninus et Revocatus leopardum experti, etiam ab urso vexati sunt. Saturus apro oblatus est; deinde ad ursum tractus, qui de cavea prodire noluit: itaque bis illæsus revocatur. In fine spectaculi, leopardo objectus. de uno morsu ejus tanto perfusus est sanguine, ut populus revertenti illi secundi Baptismatis testimonium rcclamaverit: Salvum lotum, salvum lotum. Exinde jam exanimis, prosternitur cum cæteris ad jugulationem solito loco. Et quum populus illos in medium postularet, ut gladio penetrante in eorem corpore, oculos suos comites homicidii adjungeret; ultro surrexerunt, et se quo volebat populus transtulerunt: ante jam osculati invicem, ut martyrium per solemnia pacis consummarent. Cæteri quidem immobiles et cum silentio ferrum receperunt: multo magis Saturus, qui prior reddidit spiritum. Perpetua autem, ut aliquid doloris gustaret, inter costas puncta exululavit; et errantem dexteram tirunculi gladiatoris ipsa in jugulum suum posuit. Fortasse tanta fernina aliter non potuisset occidi, quia ab immundo spiritu timcbatur, nisi ipsa voluisset.
During the reign of the Emperor Severus, several catechumens were apprehended at Carthage, in Africa. Among these were Revocatus and his fellow-servant Felicitas, Saturninus and Secundulus, and Vivia Perpetua, a lady by birth and education, who was married to a man of wealth. Perpetua was about twentytwo years of age, and was suckling an infant. She has left us the following particulars of her martyrdom. ‘As soon as our persecutors had apprehended us, my father came to me, and out of his great love for me, he tried to make me change my resolution. I said to him: “Father, I cannot consent to call myself other than what I am, a Christian.”At these words, he rushed at me threatening to tear out my eyes. But he only struck me, and then he left me, when he found that the arguments suggested to him by the devil, were of no avail. A few days after this, we were baptized; and the Holy Ghost inspired me to look on this Baptism as a preparation for bodily suffering. A few more days elapsed, and we were sent to prison. I was terrified, for I was not accustomed to such darkness. The report soon spread that we were to be brought to trial. 'My father left the city, for he was heartbroken, and he came to me, hoping to shake my purpose. These were his words to me: “My child, have pity on my old age. Have pity on thy father, if I deserve to be called father. Think of thy brothers, think of thy mother, think of thy son, who cannot live when thou art gone. Give up this mad purpose, or thou wilt bring misery upon thy family.” Whilst saying this, which he did out of love for me, he threw himself at my feet, and wept bitterly, and said he besought this of me not as his child, but as his lady. I was moved to tears to see my aged parent in this grief, for I knew that he was the only one of my family that would not rejoice at my being a martyr. I tried to console him, and said: “I will do whatsoever God shall ordain. Thou knowest that we belong to God, and not to ourselves.” He then left me, and was very sad.
‘On the following day, as we were taking our repast, they came upon us suddenly, and summoned us to trial. We reached the forum. We were made to mount a platform. My companions were questioned, and they confessed the faith. My turn came next, and I immediately saw my father approaching towards me, holding my infant son. He drew me from the platform, and besought me, saying: “Have pity on thy babe!” Hilarian, too, the governor, said to me: “Have pity on thy aged father, have pity on thy babe! Offer up sacrifice for the emperors.” I answered him: “I cannot; I am a Christian.” Whereupon, he sentences all of us to be devoured by the wild beasts; and we, full of joy, return to our prison. But as I had hitherto always had my child with me in prison, and fed him at my breasts, I immediately sent word to my father, beseeching him to let him come to me. He refused; and from that moment, neither the babe asked for the breast, nor did I suffer inconvenience; for God thus willed it.’ All this is taken from the written account left us by the blessed Perpetua, and it brings us to the day before she was put to death. As regards Felicitas, she was in the eighth month of her pregnancy, when she was apprehended. The day of the public shows was near at hand, and the fear that her martyrdom would be deferred on account of her being with child, made her very sad. Her fellowmartya, too, felt much for her, for they could not bear the thought of seeing so worthy a companion disappointed in the hope, she had in common with themselves, of so soon reaching heaven. Uniting, therefore, in prayer, they with tears besought God in her behalf. It was but three days before the public shows. No sooner was their prayer ended, than Felicitas was seized with pain. One of the gaolers, who overheard her moaning, cried out: 'If this pain seem to thee so great, what wilt thou do when thou art being devoured by the wild beasts, which thou pretendedst to heed not when thou wast told to offer sacrifice.’ She answered: ‘What I am suffering now, it is indeed I that suffer; but there, there will be another in me, who will suffer for me, because I shall be suffering for him.’ She was delivered of a daughter, and one of our sisters adopted the infant as her own.
The day of their victory dawned. They left their prison for the amphitheatre, cheerful, and with faces beaming with joy, as though they were going to heaven. They were excited, but it was from delight, not from fear. The last in the group was Perpetua. Her placid look, her noble gait, betrayed the Christian matron. She passed through the crowd and saw no one, for her beautiful eyes were fixed upon the ground. By her side was Felicitas, rejoicing that her safe delivery enabled her to encounter the wild beasts. The devil had prepared a savage cow for them. They were put into a net. Perpetua was brought forward the first. She was tossed into the air, and fell upon her back. Observing that one side of her dress was torn, she adjusted it, heedless of her pain, because thoughtful for modesty. Having recovered from the fall, she put up her hair which was dishevelled by the shock, for it was not seemly that a martyr should win her palm and have the appearance of one distracted by grief. This done, she stood up. Seeing Felicitas thrown down she went to her, and giving her hand to her, raised her from the ground. Both were now ready for a fresh attack; but the people were moved to pity, and the martyrs were led to the gate called Sana Vivaria. There Perpetua, like one that is roused from sleep, awoke from the deep ecstasy of her spirit. She looked around her, and said to the astonished multitude: ‘When will the cow attack us?’ They told her that it had already attacked them. She could not believe it, until her wounds and torn dress reminded her of what had happened. Then beckoning to her brother, and to a catechumen named Rusticus, she thus spoke to them: ‘Be stanch in the faith, and love one another, and be not shocked at our sufferings.’God had already taken Secundulus from this world; for he died while he was in the prison. Saturninus and Revocatus were exposed first to a leopard, and then to a bear. Saturus was exposed to a boar, and then to a bear, which would not come out of its den; thus was he twice left uninjured; but at the close of the games, he was thrown to a leopard, which bit him so severely, that he was all covered with blood, and as he was taken from the amphitheatre, the people jeered at him for this second Baptism, and said: ‘Saved, washed I Saved, washed!’ He was then carried off, dying as he was, to the appointed place, there to be dispatched by the sword, with the rest. But the people demanded that they should be led back to the middle of the amphitheatre, that their eyes might feast on the sight, and watch the sword as it pierced them. The martyrs hearing their request, cheerfully stood up, and marched to the place where the people would have them go; but first they embraced one another, that the sacrifice of their martyrdom might be consummated with the solemn kiss of peace. They all received the fatal stroke without a movement or a moan; Saturus being the first to expire. Perpetua was permitted to feel more than the rest. Her executioner, who was a novice in his work, thrust his sword through her ribs: she slightly moaned, then took his right hand, and pointing his sword towards her throat, told him that that was the place to strike. Perhaps it was that such a woman could not be otherwise slain than by her own consent, for the unclean spirit feared her.
The Holy See has approved of the three following hymns composed in honour of our two martyrs. We unite them under one conclusion.
Christi sponsa piis laudibus efferat
Binas impavido pectore feminas:
In sexu fragili corda virilia
Hymnis pangat ovantibus.
Ad lucem genitæ sole sub Africo,
Nunc ambæ pugiles actibus inclytis
In toto radiant orbe: micantibus
Fulgent tempora laureis.
Exornat generis Perpetuam decus;
Sponso connubiis juncta recentibus
Clarescit; sed honor hanc trahit altior:
Christi fœdera prætulit.
Se Regia famulam libera profitens,
Dum servile jugum Felicitas subit;
Ad luctam properans gressibus æmulis,
Palmas ad similes volat.
Frustra Perpetuam fletibus et minis
Impugnai genitor: quæ simul angitur,
Errantem miserans. Oscula filio
Lactenti dedit ultima.
Terris Eva parens quæ mala contulit,
Horum sentit onus Felicitas grave;
Nunc et passa sibi parturiens gemit,
Mox passura Deo libens.
Cœli Perpetuæ pan ditur ostium;
Inspectare datur: jam sibi prælia
Exortura videt; sed requiem Deus
Post certamina conferet.
Tangit scala domos aurea cœlitum:
Ast utrumque latus cuspidibus riget;
Lapsos terribilis faucibus excipit
Hanc infra recubans draco.
Ascendas, mulier, nec draco terreat;
Contritumque caput sit tibi pro gradu,
Per quem sidereos incipias pede
Orbes scandere concito.
Hortus deliciis jam patet affluens,
In quo mulget oves pastor amabilis:
Huc optata venis, filia: sic ait,
Hanc dulci recreans cibo.
In circum rapitur: fœdus et horrida
Occurrit specie vir gladium vibrans:
Dejectus teritur femineo pede.
Victrix, suscipe præmia.
Luxit clara dies, vincere qua datur
Athletis Domini. Pergite martyres:
Omnis Perpetuam curia cœlitum,
Et te, Felicitas, cupit.
Quassat Perpetuæ membra tenerrima,
Elidit sociam bellua. Te soror
Stans, o Felicitas, ad nova prælia
Erectam reparat manu.
E cœlo pugilum respiciens Deus
Certamen, geminas ad bravium vocat.
Effuso properet sanguine spiritus,
In Christi remeans sinum.
Optatus penetrat corpora martyrum
Lictoris gladius: sed trepidam manum
Fortis Perpetuæ dextera dirigit,
Præbens guttura cuspidi.
Nunc, o magnanimæ, gaudia quæ manent
In Sponsi thalamo carpite jugiter.
Vos exempla dedit: præsidium potens
Vestris ferte clientibus.
Laus æterna Patri, laus quoque Filio;
Par individuo gloria Flamini;
In cunctis resonet Christiadum choris
Virtus martyribus data.
Let the Church, the bride of Christ,
celebrate in holy praise, the two dauntless women;
and sing, in joyous hymns,
how the weaker sex had here two manly hearts.
Both were born in Africa’s sunny land;
and now both shine throughout the whole world
as the two glorious combatants,
wearing bright laurels on their brows.
Perpetua is honoured by her fellow-citizens
as being of high birth, and had but recently contracted
an honourable marriage. But there was an honour
far higher, in her eyes, the love and service of Christ.
Felicitas, though she served an earthly master,
was free in this, that she was a servant of the great King.
Like Perpetua, she thirsts for battle;
and like her, she culls a palm.
In vain did Perpetua’s father strive, by tears and threats,
to make her deny her faith. She, on her side was full of grief,
and pity at seeing him a victim of error. Her babe was taken from her;
she kissed him and was content.
Felicitas begins her sufferings by those cruel pangs which Eve,
our mother, brought upon the earth.
Now, in child-birth, she suffers for herself, and she moans;
but, in her martyrdom, she suffers for her God, and she rejoices.
The gate of heaven is thrown open to Perpetua,
and she is permitted to look within.
She there learns that a contest awaits her,
but that, after the battle, God will grant her repose.
She sees a golden ladder reaching to the palace of heaven;
but both its sides are armed with spikes,
and at its foot lies an angry dragon,
which devours them that fall.
Ascend, Perpetua! fear not the dragon.
Trample on his head, and make it a steppingstone,
whereby thou mayst quickly mount
to the starry land above.
There shalt thou find a paradise of delights, where the loving
shepherd caresses his sheep. 'Thou art welcome here, my daughter!’
Thus did he address the martyr,
and then gave her to eat of sweetest food.
In another vision, she thought she was hurried to the amphitheatre.
There she was met by a man, whose face was swarth and terrible to look at.
He brandished his sword. She encountered him, threw him on the ground, and trampled
on his head. A cry was heard: 'Thou hast conquered! Come, take the prize!’
But at length came the glorious day
of victory for the soldiers of Christ.
On, martyrs, to the field! Perpetua and Felicitas!
the court of heaven is longing to receive you!
The wild beast rushes upon them, tossing,
tearing, and wounding their tender limbs.
See, Felicitas! thy sister’s hand
emboldens thee to renew the fight.
God looks down from heaven on the two brave combatants,
and calls them to the prize.
Their blood streams from the wounds,
and their spirits speed their way to the bosom of Christ.
The sword, the welcome sword, is thrust;
the martyrs die, all save Perpetua;
bravely she takes the trembling lictor’s hand,
and offering him her neck, tells him his surest aim is there.
Go now, brave-hearted ones, to him who is your Spouse,
and there eternally enjoy the bliss he has in store for you.
He gave you to us as models;
Oh, show your power, and help us your clients.
Eternal glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the coequal Spirit!
And let every choir in Christian lands sound forth its praise
to the grace bestowed on the martyrs.
Perpetua! Felicitas! O glorious and prophetic names, which come like two bright stars of March, pouring out upon us your rays of light and life! You are heard in the songs of the angels; and we poor sinners, as we echo them on earth, are told to love and hope. You remind us of that brave woman, who, as the Scripture says, kept up the battle begun by men: The valiant men ceased: who will follow them? A mother in Israel. Glory be to that almighty power, which loves to choose the weak things of the world that it may confound the strong! Glory to the Church of Africa, the daughter of the Church of Rome; and glory to the Church of Carthage, which had not then heard the preachings of her Cyprian, and yet could produce two such noble hearts!
As to thee, Perpetua, thou art held in veneration by the whole Christian world. Thy name is mentioned by God's priests in the holy Mass, and thus thy memory is associated with the sacrifice of the Man-God, for love of whom thou didst lay down thy life. And those pages written by thine own hand, how they reveal to us the generous character of thy soul! How they comment those words of the Canticle: Love is strong as death! It was thy love of God that made thee suffer, and die, and conquer. Even before the water of Baptism had touched thee, thou wast enrolled among the martyrs. When the hard trial came of resisting a father, who wished thee to lay down the palm of martyrdom, how bravely didst thou triumph over thy filial affection, in order to save that which is due to our Father who is in heaven! Nay, when the hardest test came, when the babe that fed at thy breast was taken from thee in thy prison, even then thy love was strong enough for the sacrifice, as was Abraham’s, when he had to immolate his Isaac.
Thy fellow-martyrs deserve our admiration; they are so grand in their courage; but thou, dear saint, surpassest them all. Thy love makes thee more than brave in thy sufferings, it makes thee forget them. ‘Where wast thou,’ we would ask thee in the words of St. Augustine, ‘where wast thou, that thou didst not feel the goading of that furious beast, asking when it was to be, as though it had not been? Where wast thou? What didst thou see, that made thee see not this? On what wast thou feasting, that made thee dead to sense? What was the love that absorbed, what was the sight that distracted, what was the chalice that inebriated thee? And yet the ties of flesh were still holding thee, the claims of death were still upon thee, the corruptible body was still weighing thee down!’ But our Lord had prepared thee for the final struggle, by asking sacrifice at thy hands. This made thy life wholly spiritual, and gave thy soul to dwell, by love, with Him, who had asked thee for all and received it; and thus living in union with Jesus, thy spirit was all but a stranger to the body it animated.
It was impatient to be wholly with its sovereign Good. Thy eager hand directs the sword that is to set thee free; and as the executioner severs the last tie that holds thee, how voluntary was thy sacrifice, how hearty thy welcome of death! Truly, thou wast the valiant, the strong woman, that conqueredst the wicked serpent! Thy greatness of soul has merited for thee a high place among the heroines of our holy faith, and for sixteen hundred years thou hast been honoured by the enthusiastic devotion and love of the servants of God.
And thou, too, Felicitas! receive the homage of our veneration, for thou wast found worthy to be a fellow-martyr with Perpetua. Though she was a rich matron of Carthage, and thou a servant, yet Baptism and martyrdom made you companions and sisters. The lady and the slave embraced, for martyrdom made you equal; and as the spectators saw you hand in hand together, they must have felt that there was a power in the religion they persecuted, which would put an end to slavery. The power and grace of Jesus triumphed in thee, as it did in Perpetua; and thus was fulfilled thy sublime answer to the pagan, who dared to jeer thee: that when the hour of trial came, it would not be thou that wouldst suffer, but Christ who would suffer in thee. Heaven is now the reward of thy sacrifice; well didst thou merit it. And that babe, that was born in thy prison, what a happy child to have for its mother a martyr in heaven! How wouldst thou bless both it and the mother who adopted it! Oh, what fitness, in such a soul as thine, for the kingdom of God! Not once looking back, but ever bravely speeding onwards to Him that called thee. Thy felicity is perpetual in heaven; thy glory on earth shall never cease.
And now, dear saints, Perpetua and Felicitas, intercede for us during this season of grace. Go, with your palms in your hands, to the throne of God, and beseech Him to pour down His mercy upon us. It is true, the days of paganism are gone by; and there are no persecutors clamouring for our blood. You, and countless other martyrs, have won victory for faith; and that faith is now ours; we are Christians. But there is a second paganism, which has taken deep root among us. It is the source of that corruption which now pervades every rank of society, and its own two sources are indifference, which chills the heart, and sensuality, which induces cowardice. Holy martyrs! pray for us that we may profit by the example of your virtues, and that the thought of your heroic devotedness may urge us to be courageous in the sacrifices which God claims at our hands. Pray, too, for the Churches which are now being established on that very spot of Africa, which was the scene of your glorious martyrdom: bless them, and obtain for them, by your powerful intercession, firmness of faith and purity of morals.
At the recent revision of the Breviary the office of this feast was changed, and the following lessons were appointed to be read at Matins:
Perpetua et Felicitas, in persecutione Severi imperatoris, in Africa, una cum Revocato, Saturnino et Se cundulo comprehensæ sunt, et in tenebricosum carcerem detrusæ, quibus ultra adjunctus est Satyrus. Erant adhuc catechumenæ, sed paulo post baptizatæ sunt. Paucis diebus interjectis, e carcere ad forum deductæ cum sociis, post gloriosam confessionem, ab Hilarione procuratore damnantur ad bestias. Inde hilares descendunt ad carcerem, ubi variis visionibus recreantur, et ad martyrii palmam accenduntur. Perpetuam, nec patris senio pene confecti iteratæ preces et lacrymæ, nec erga filium infantem pendentemad ubera maternus amor, nec supplicii atrocitas, a Christi fide dimovere unqaam potuerunt.
Felicitas vero, instante spectaculi die, cum octo jam menses prægnans esset in magno erat luctu, ne differetur; leges quippe vetebant prægnantes supplicio affici. At precibus commartyrum acœlerato partu, enixa est filiam. Cumque in partu laborans doleret, ait illi quidam de custodibus: Quæ sic modo doles, quid facies, objecta bestiis? Cui illa: Modo ego patior, illic autem alius erit in me, qui patietur pro me, quia et ego prò illo passura sum.
In amphitheatrum, toto inspectante populo, producuntur tandem generosæ mulieres, Nonis Martii, ac primum flagellis cæduntur. Tunc a ferocissima vacca aliquamdiu jactatæ, plagis concisæ et in terram elisæ sunt: demum cum sociis, qui a variis bestiis vexati fuerant, gladiorum ictibus conficiuntur. Harum sanctarum Martyrum festum Pius Decimus Pontifex Maximus ad ritum duplicem pro universa Ecclesia evexit, ac diei sextæ Hartii adsignari mandavit.
Perpetua and Felicitas were arrested during the persecution of the Emperor Severus, in Africa, together with Revocatus, Saturninus, and Secundulus, and were cast into a darksome dungeon, where Satyrus was added to their company. They were as yet catechumens, but a short while after they were baptized. After a few days, they, with their companions, were led forth from their prison to the court, and, after a glorious confession, were condemned by the procurator Hilarion to be thrown to the beasts. Thereupon they went down to their prison rejoicing, and while there were refreshed with divers visions, and fired with a longing for the martyrs palm. Neither the repeated prayers and tears of Perpetua's father, a man almost decrepit with old age, nor her motherly love for her baby son, still at the breast, nor the horror of the penalty, could avail at all to shake her faith in Christ.
But Felicitas, when the day of the spectacle drew nigh, was in great grief lest it should be put off, seeing that she was eight months with child: for the law ordained that no woman with child should be put to the torture. But at the prayer of her fellow-martyrs her delivery was hastened, and she gave birth to a daughter. While she was groaning amid the pains of childbirth, one of the gaolers said to her: 'What wilt thou do when thou art thrown to the beasts, if thou groanest thus now?' She replied: 'Now it is I who suffer, but then Another will be within me who will suffer on my behalf, seeing that it is for Him that I am to suffer.’
At length the noble-hearted women were brought into the amphitheatre, in the sight of all the people, on the Nones of March (March 7). They were first beaten with scourges. Then they were tossed for some time by a ferocious cow, torn with wounds, and dragged on the ground; and lastly, together with their companions, who had been attacked by divers wild beasts, they were slain by the sword. Pope Pius X. raised the feast of these holy martyrs to the rank of a double for the Universal Church, and ordered it to be kept on March 6.
 Homil. de diversis novi Testamenti locis.
 Judges v. 7.
 1 Cor. i. 27.
 Cant. viii. 6.
 Sermon for the feast of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas.
 Prov. xxxi. 10.
 St. Luke ix. 62.