St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

A group of Christian men and women were martyred under the Emperor Severus in the Roman province of Africa (modern Tunisia) by order of the governor Hilarianus in 203AD. Among them were a noblewoman, Perpetua, and a slave-woman, Felicity. Their story is preserved in The Passion of Saints Perpetua & Feleicity, which was likely written by Perpetua herself. The martyrs were tortured and mutilated by various wild beasts, according to their sex; and then executed. These methods of execution were designed both to humiliate the victims, and to demonstrate the Roman Empire’s power over life and death. 

Perpetua, whose family were Roman citizens and of the nobility, had many advantages. But as woman of rank, she was also expected to conform to certain social norms, such as obedience to parents and to the governing authority. Perpetua’s pagan father repeatedly ordered her to renounce her faith in Christ, but she refused. She and her companions also refused to submit to the will of the Roman governor. Though both Perptetua and Felicity had recently borne children, this did not deter them from choosing death rather than renounce Jesus Christ.

The story of Perpetua & Felicity demonstrates that union with Christ in faith trumps all other identities & loyalties. This is the all more significant in light of the Fifth Commandment, for Jesus 
tells us: He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (St Matthew 10:37-38) Though we are to obey the powers that be, yet we are to obey to God and His Word rather than man. (Romans 13:1; Acts 4:19)Perpetua and Felicity may have been of vastly different social standing, but in Christ, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)