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08/14/2023 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Saints Perpetua and Felicity came into the world from very different backgrounds but left as equals. Despite their differences, they departed this life as fellow mothers, friends, sisters in Christ, and ultimately, martyrs.

In the early third century in North Africa, 22-year-old Perpetua was a well-educated noblewoman with a baby son. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she chose to follow Christ, well aware of the risks that would come from the Romans – namely Emperor Septimus Severus. Under his rule, it was forbidden to convert to Christianity, and converts were often subject to public executions by wild animals.

Unlike Perpetua, Felicity was a young slave. At the time of her arrest, Felicity was eight months pregnant. These women’s testimonies were recorded in a diary that Perpetua kept while she and her fellow sisters in Christ lived in a dungeon, awaiting execution for their faith. Accounts of this nature are rare for this period, but even more so from women. Perpetua’s account was prefaced and completed by a firsthand witness.

Leading up to her death, Perpetua was allowed to bring her infant into the dungeon with her. This allowed her to care for and wean him so that she could safely give him to her family upon her execution. In light of Perpetua’s looming execution, her father pleaded with her to renounce her faith, but she remained firm in her convictions.

As for Felicity, during her time in prison, she gave birth to a baby girl who a fellow Christian woman adopted. Amid the throes of labor, a Roman soldier mocked Felicity, questioning her ability to withstand the painful execution to come. Defiant against her captors and faithful unto the end, she replied, “Now it is I that suffer what I suffer; but then there will be another in me, who will suffer for me because I also am about to suffer for Him.”

On the way to their execution, the women entered the amphitheater singing. While the animals failed to kill the women, Felicity was knocked down at one point, and Perpetua grabbed her hand and helped her to her feet. It was eventually decided that the women would be beheaded instead. The witness who concluded the diary entries noted that Perpetua herself helped guide the gladiator’s weapon to her neck as his own hands shook.

These courageous believers set an example of fearless defiance against the tyrannical Roman leaders. They knew that no matter what the Roman guards took from them, from their freedom to their lives, it would all fall short of earning Jesus’ praise, telling them, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

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