Lent: March 7th
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent; Optional Memorial of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs
Other Titles: St. Felicitas
Jesus’ condemnation of religious externalism, hypocrisy and vanity is not meant to correct only the Pharisees of his time. It is also directed at us. We should look into our Lenten practices of piety and works of charity and see whether they are tainted with hypocrisy. During the celebration that follows, Christ, the servant of Yahweh, will increase in us the spirit of human service.
The “phylacteries” mentioned in the gospel were bands of parchment enclosed in small boxes worn on the forehead and left fore-arm where they were fixed by straps. On these bands were inscribed the most important texts of the Law. The “fringes” were the tassels which the Law required to be worn at the four corners of the cloak. By wearing broad phylacteries and long tassels the Pharisees intended to show clearly their fidelity to the Law. —St. Andrew Missal
The Church celebrates the Optional Memorial of Saints Perpetual and Felicity (d. 203). The account of their martyrdom 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.
Meditation—The Narrow Formalism of the Pharisees
The excessive formalism of the Pharisees led of necessity to pride. Being themselves the authors of many precepts, they believed themselves to be equally the authors of their own sanctity. They were the "separated," the pure, untouched by untying unclean. Hence what had they wherewith to reproach themselves? were they not perfectly "correct" in every way? Therefore they had the utmost esteem for themselves. Their overweening pride urged them "to love salutations in the market-place, and the first chairs in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts."
The Savior's extraordinary condescension towards publicans and sinners, rejected by them as unclean, His independence in regard to the Law of the Sabbath, for He said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath, the miracles whereby He drew the people to Him could not fail to disquiet them. the people to Him could not fail to disquiet them. the people to Him could not fail to disquiet them.
Throughout the Gospel we see them full of hatred against Jesus, striving to destroy His authority with the multitude, to turn His disciples away from Him and to deceive the people in order to hinder Him from fulfilling His mission of salvation.
—Dom Columba Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries
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 Parsch
Patronage: Perpetua—Cattle; ranchers; death of children; martyrs; married women; Carthage, Tunisia; Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, Catalonia, Spain
Felicity—Cattle; ranchers; death of children; martyrs; sterility; to have male children
Symbols and Representation: Perpetua—cow; woman with a sword beside her; woman with a bull, ox, leopard or lion in an amphitheater; Seven swords; cauldron of oil and sword; sword with seven heads; eight palms
Felicity—bull; cow; pregnant woman holding a cross; woman with a sword by her; woman with a bull or ox in an amphitheater
Highlights and 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.
- Read about the locations of their relics.
- Read more about Sts. Perpetua and Felicity:
- Watch Sts. Perpetua and Felicity.
- Listen to Catholic Culture's Way of the Father's podcast, Ep. 15—Perpetua: A Rare Female Voice from Antiquity by Mike Aquilina.
- Listen to Catholic Culture's Audiobook Tertullian—The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity by James Majewski.
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Station with Santi Cosma e Damiano (Sts. Cosmas and Damian):
The Station is at the church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, physicians. These martyrs were twin brothers originating from Arabia. They practiced medicine in Aegea, Cilicia, but accepted no money from the poor. Their beautiful Christian lives edified the pagans and converted many to the Faith. They were arrested in the persecution of Diocletian, subjected to torture, and finally beheaded.
For more on Santi Cosma e Damiano, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.