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The Life of St. Perpetua
Vibia Perpetua was a courageous, compassionate, and spirited soul. Called Perpetua by most, she and I had been friends from when we were born just a month apart in 181 to her recent repose. We were both brought up in noble families and we never had to worry about much. Everything we’d ever wanted or needed was provided for us, and the future was looking great for the both of us. That is until around the year 202 when we were about 22 years old. Perpetua’s husband had just died and she was left to care for their child who was just a baby at the time. She was not discouraged though, for she had found the new love of her life. Perpetua had discovered Christianity.
Whenever we were together, she would talk on and on about the wonders of Christ, the miracles he performed, and the good news that he proclaimed. Most of all, she would talk about his death. She marveled at his courage to suffer for his Father and die for our sake. Although she was excited about her newfound faith, I began to worry. The Romans, who currently had control of our city of Carthage, did not like Christians. The new anti-Christian edict of 202 allowed Roman soldiers to arrest any Christians they found. After they were arrested, they could face torture, even execution. I feared for my dear friend, and I was not the only one. Perpetua’s father, who was pagan, was especially worried. He tried to talk her out of it, but it was no use. As much as I love Perpetua, I must admit: that girl was too stubborn for her own good.
Things grew worse when she met some new friends who were also Christian. Among them were Felicity, a married slave who was pregnant, and three men, Saturninus, Secundulus, and Revocatus. Perpetua was so delighted to have friends who were as excited about Christ as she was. She begged me to join them, but I would not take the risk. Although I was secretly amazed by the stories of Jesus that Perpetua told me, I stayed away from all things Christian. I feared the Romans’ promise of punishment, so I obediently followed their religion and worshipped their gods. Perpetua and her new friends were not as careful as I. They refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and openly professed their faith and so, one day, they were arrested. My best friend of all time was taken away from me. She was a criminal.
At first, they were kept in a private house so I could not visit them. Once they were moved to the public prison I came to them every day. Perpetua told me they had been baptized in the private house and she was ecstatic. Even though the conditions were awful Perpetua and her companions felt honored to be persecuted for Christ. They were always cheerful. One day, they were taken to trial. If they didn’t sacrifice to the Roman gods they would be condemned to be thrown in with the beasts at the games on March 7, the feast of Geta Caesar. Perpetua’s father tried to dissuade her once again, but, unsurprisingly, she held her ground. The group was sentenced to be killed and my worst fears and worries had become reality.
That day I went home and cried. I was so distraught that I didn’t visit Perpetua for a whole month. I couldn’t face my friend knowing that soon she would die. When I did finally return to see her, I learned that Secundulus had died and Felicity had had her child. Perpetua also told me she had been having visions. In one she defeated a dragon to reach the Lord in Heaven. In another she saw her brother (who died when he was seven) in torment, so she prayed for him and, a few days later, saw him again in happiness. The day before the tournament, she had a vision of victory in the amphitheater, but not victory over the beasts. She saw victory over the devil.
At the games, they walked in looking triumphant and cheerful. They were happy to suffer as a sign of faith. As I watched in horror, Perpetua and Felicity were thrown in with a mad cow. When they were tossed in, Perpetua saw Felicity on the ground and helped her up. After being torn up and tossed around by the cow, they were allowed to walk out for a moment. Then Perpetua said, “When are we to be thrown in with the cow?” only to look down at her cuts and scrapes and realize they had already been thrown in. I was amazed. It was as if someone else had been living through her… someone like Christ.
Perpetua and two of her friend survived the games and so they were to be beheaded the same day, March 7. This I could not watch. Later I was told that when the executioner came to Perpetua, he missed her neck. Then Perpetua did a most shocking thing, she took his hand and guided to the right spot. This time he was right on target. My best friend was dead.
After she died, I converted to Christianity and now practice my faith in secret with other Christians I have met. Although I miss her dearly, I know that she would not want me to be sad. She would want me to remember her life and be happy. Perpetua would tell me to never give in, to stand up for myself and for Christ. Most of all, she would tell me to have courage and to live my faith in happiness, not fear.
I chose St. Perpetua as the saint whom I would like emulate and take the name of on my confirmation day. Her tenacity and courage amaze me, and I admire her cheerful willingness to serve the Lord. I hope that one day, if my faith is ever tested, I will have half as much strength as Perpetua to stand up for our Lord. Perpetua was a strong, compassionate, and daring young woman. She is my inspiration in faith and I will always strive to be like her. I want to take her name so that I may always be reminded of Perpetua and her life’s message. The picture in the top right is an icon of St. Perpetua by the hand of Fr. Andrew Tregubov.
Icon of St. Perpetua by Andrew Tregubov used under Public Domain
Article posted January 24, 2012 at 12:07 PM •
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