“I realized that it was not with wild animals that I would fight but with the Devil, but I knew that I would win the victory.”
Soon after writing these words, the young noblewoman Vibia Perpetua of Carthage would enter the gladiators’ arena and offer up her life for the Faith.
A wife and the mother of an infant son, she was martyred in the early 3rd century alongside several others, including another young wife and mother, the slave St. Felicity. We honor them together on this day.
St. Perpetua chronicled the days of her imprisonment in a document that is now known as The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. It is an extraordinary piece of literature, both in terms of its age and its unique character as the diary of an early Christian martyr.
In Perpetua’s account, she speaks of her interactions with her family, particularly of the conflict with her father who tried to convince her to renounce her faith. She writes of incredible visions that she had in prison, including one in which she ascended a ladder to Heaven, treading on the head of a dragon.
In another vision, seen the day before her martyrdom, she fought (and defeated!) the Devil—who took the form of a fearsome Egyptian fighter—before she received a branch of victory. The words quoted at the top of this article pertain to this vision.
As Perpetua’s narrative concludes, it is taken up by an unknown editor who gives us more information about St. Felicity, and writes of the martyrdom of the two saints and their companions and their joy in offering their lives for Christ. We read of their suffering at the mercy of wild animals and their ultimate death by the sword.
At the very last moment of Perpetua’s life, the young gladiator whose task it was to deal the fatal blow struck her once—but his hands were trembling so much that Perpetua had to guide his sword to her throat for the final blow.
Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Truly are you called and chosen for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord!
—From the final lines of The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity
Certainly Saints Perpetua and Felicity are inspiring role models for young women today. Like St. Perpetua, they can pick up the pen and chronicle their thoughts as a way of recounting the graces of God and drawing closer to Him. Our Joy Devotional Journal isn’t just a blank book. Through Scripture-based meditations, crafting, coloring, and creative writing, this inspiring journal draws a young heart into personal prayer with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A beautiful and uplifting gift for a young lady in your life. Available today at The Catholic Company!