Lent: March 7th
Optional Memorial of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs
Previous 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.Stational Church
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 amphitheater 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 ParschPatron: 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.
- Watch Sts. Perpetua and Felicity.
Saturday of the First Week of Lent, Station with San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter's in the Vatican): The Station is in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, where the people would assemble towards evening, that they might be present at the ordination of the priests and sacred ministers. This day was called Twelve-Lesson-Saturday, because, formerly, twelve passages from the holy Scriptures were read, as upon Holy Saturday. The original basilica was built by Constantine in 323 over the place where St. Peter was buried.