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Perpetua and Felicity

October 21, 2012

Stained glass window of Felicity (kneeling) and Perpetua (standing). Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always been curious about Perpetua and Felicity. I knew they were martyrs, I knew they were women, I knew they were always included in the litany of saints, and I knew their names were always together. That was about it.

Last week in class, we studied the early Christian martyrs, and I was pleased to see that we were going to study Perpetua and Felicity as exemplars, reading the 3rd century account of their martyrdom. Except, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to reading the text itself, because who wants to read about martyrdom, right? Pain, suffering, death, possibly with gory details, ew.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity is a beautiful, joyful, and moving text. Really. I entirely see why the early church treasured it and passed it down to us.

After the somewhat wordy introduction, the text describes Perpetua’s arguments with her father over her faith, her time in prison along with Felicity and several Christian men, their trial, and their death. It includes a large section that, scholars believe, really was written by Perpetua herself, while she was in prison awaiting her sentencing and death: which makes this the earliest record of a Christian woman’s voice that we have.

Read the rest over at Gaudete Theology.

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