I’m traveling to see friends this week, and as I think about the martyrs Perpetua & Felicitas today, I am struck with their friendship. Martyred together, their feast days are forever connected (March 7th). Saints Felicity & Perpetua—you don’t have one without the other. Perpetua was a 22-year-old noblewoman and Felicity her servant. Despite the gap in social location, you have the impression reading their passio that they cared deeply for one another. They died for their shared faith, but they shared so much more: prison, childbirth, dreams, prayers, a last meal… and all of this occurs without any mention of their children’s fathers. Where were the men in their life? It didn’t matter because they had each other.
My seminary friends have a yearly “Dress Like Jesus [Or Other Religious Figure] Party,” and last year my friend Keri & I became “mindful rather of modesty” and dressed like our favorite 2nd/3rd century martyrs:
And so when I think of the bond of Perpetua and Felicitas, I think about my seminary friends (the ones I’m leaving for the week on break), my four-year college roommate (the one I’m staying with now), my other college friends (two of whom I am seeing this week), high school friends (yep, also hanging out with one of them), and my friends through the Methodist connection, whether in Nicaragua or work for women’s rights in the church (guess what? I am seeing them this week too!).
Perpetua was first thrown, and fell upon her loins. And when she had sat upright, her robe being rent at the side, she drew it over to cover her thigh, mindful rather of modesty than of pain. Next, looking for a pin, she likewise pinned up her dishevelled hair; for it was not meet that a martyr should suffer with hair dishevelled, lest she should seem to grieve in her glory. So she stood up; and when she saw Felicity smitten down, she went up and gave her her hand and raised her up. And both of them stood up together and the (hardness of the people being now subdued) were called back to the Gate of Life.*
The two women are thrown down together, and then they reach out and grab each other’s hand. They raise each other up and stand together, faithful. May we do the same.
*For more, please see the Medieval Sourcebook for “The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity”: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/perpetua.html