Sts. Perpetua and Felicity are among the martyrs of the early Christian Church, having been executed in AD 203 in Carthage, North Africa, present day Tunisia. It was during the reign of Emperor Severus who had forbidden anyone to be baptised to become a Christian that these two young women were executed because of their loyalty to their faith in Jesus Christ.
Very often, legends and traditions surround the lives of saints and martyrs who lived so many years ago. However with these two martyrs, we have the oldest and most reliable information from a diary that Perpetua kept during her last days before she was executed, including an eyewitness account of her death.
Perpetua was a twenty-two-year-old noblewoman who was still nursing her baby son. Felicity was her slave woman, eight months pregnant.
They were catechumens, studying the Christian Faith in preparation to be baptised. In fact, Perpetua and her friends were baptized secretly in prison before their execution. Together with four other catechumens they were tried and sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Perpetua’s mother had brought her son to the prison so that she continued to nurse him until her death, when the boy was taken to be raised by her family.
Felicity gave birth to a baby girl, before her execution. The girl was then adopted and raised by a Christian family.Both saints are honoured by the Catholic Church as they are not only included in the Liturgical Calendar but also in Liturgical Prayers.