9 – 12 year-olds – Perpetua and Felicity

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CNAf0903PerpetuaFelicityPerpetua and Felicity are believed to have died on March 7, 203.  These women were bound together as master and slave.  Perpetua was a noble woman who lived in Carthage (modern day Libya).

It was still very illegal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire and many were arrested and used as used as “warm-up” acts for gladiatorial shows.  This was the case with Perpetua and Felicity.  They were arrested along with four others to be used as part of military games celebrating the Emperor’s birthday.  Perpetua’s father tried to get her to recant her faith on four different occasions.

In one of the visits Perpetua asks her father a question.  ‘See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what its?”

Her father says, “Of course not.”

Perpetua responds, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.

The prison was horrible. Deacons from the church paid the guards to move the Christians to a slightly better part of the prison where there were windows for ventilation and fewer people were put in the cells.  Perpetua’s brother and mother were allowed to bring her baby to her for a visit.

Felicity was eight months pregnant, and it was against the law to put a pregnant woman in the arena.  Felicity gave birth to a girl on March 5th. The baby was reared by members of the church.

On the birthday of the Emperor the group was led into the Carthaginian Circus.  It is noted in both Greek and Latin accounts that they went in happily.  The men went first and wild beasts, boars, bears, and a leopard, were put in the arena to kill them.  When it was the women’s turn, the governor tried to have the women dressed up as popular goddesses. They said, “We are dying so we don’t have to worship your gods.”  They were allowed to face their death in their own clothes. The women were attacked by a wild, crazed cow and gored. Novice gladiators were sent into the arena to kill them.   Perpetua had to help one of them actually kill her.

Perpetua and Felicity are wonderful examples of how Christianity turns the traditional roles of women, ideas of race,  and social roles on their heads.  Perpetua and Felicity are treated as equals even through one was the master and one was the slave.

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One thought on “9 – 12 year-olds – Perpetua and Felicity

    EV responded:
    March 10, 2014 at 2:35 am

    One of our mom’s expressed concern for her son’s compassionate temperament in relation to the story. Here are my thoughts:

    You frame it in deep sadness from the beginning. “I have a heavy story for you today. It is a sad story. People once took pleasure in hurting others for sport. Not just hurting, but even killing people. This story is about a time 150 years after Jesus’ resurrection and it takes place in northern Lybia in a city called Carthage. During this time it was illegal to be a Christian. That in and of itself is deeply sad. But, Christians would often be captured so they could be killed in front of crowds. That is deeply deeply sad. But that isn’t the end of the sadness in this story. The deepest sadness in this story is that the Christians that were captured were preparing for Confirmation – so they hadn’t yet had communion. We remember two of these Christians who were women. There is some beauty in this story, too. Beauty that comes into this story comes because of the changes the Jesus makes to our world. You see, these women were very different. Perpetua’s husband owned slaves. She was very wealthy. Felicity was one of the slaves. But because they had accepted Jesus they were the same and were friends. We honor them together. Something else that was beautiful in a Jesus kind of way is that women were property in this time. They were like farm animals or furniture that could be sold at the decision of their fathers or husbands. When you hear the story, think about the way the Jesus allows women to have their own thoughts and make their own decisions. So now are you ready for the whole story about Perpetua and Felicity? . .

    (beginning in the second paragraph) As we said it was illegal to be a Christian in this time . . .

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