I have a big soft spot for the martyrs Perpetua and Felicity whose feast day it was yesterday. These women, mistress and slave, sisters in Christ and mothers, were arrested, imprisoned and then martyred in the gladiatorial ring, as entertainment for the people and as celebration of the Emperor Geta’s birthday. A culture that celebrates life with death is in deep trouble, as history would soon show.
Strangely despite the cultural blood lust, the Roman’s still had some respect for infants and the unborn. Felicity was in prison awaiting trial and execution, and she was heavily pregnant. Perpetua had been separated from her baby, which must have been an astonishing suffering.
The guards were bribed and Perpetua’s pagan father was allowed to bring the child to be breast fed each day. She wrote all that happened including her father’s desperate attempts (and emotional blackmail) to get her to renounce Christ and behave like a sensible Roman matron should. She resisted the temptation. This is easy to write, but the idea of having your child removed each day after being fed, and the knowledge that you are going to die a horrible death, must have been atrocious.
Today many mothers long for a home birth, where they can feel safe and where there is privacy for the birth and initial bonding. Giving birth in hospital can be down right unpleasant for many mothers. Felicity delivered her child in prison. A few days later on the 7th March 203 the mothers and fellow Christians were taken out and killed by the half-starved wild beasts that were let loose on them.
It’s very easy for mothers to forget to put God first. Our children take up so much of our lives, especially if we are home educating, that they can easily become not just important, but too important.
Both these women faced astonishing temptation to put their children before God and they didn’t. While our culture will sacrifice children for the needs of adults- shunting them aside and leaving them to be brought up by their peers; these two mothers went to their death putting God first and shedding their blood with an eye to their children (and in Perpetua’s case her brother’s) salvation.
Motherhood is considered a totally unimportant role today. Care of children is a job for those who can’t get a “proper job”. When things get difficult and we feel isolated and utterly shattered – we can ask Perpetua and Felicity to put a word in for us. SS Perpetua and Felicity ora pro nobis.