Diary of a Martyrdom
Ss. Perpetua, Felicity and their companions
Commemorated by the Orthodox Church on February 1
This is a short account of the martyrdom of a group of Christians from the third century. It took place in Carthage, a Roman province in North Africa. This account is based on the written account, the diary of Perpetua, one of the martyrs. This is one of the greatest treasures of martyr literature, a document that preserves the actual words of the martyrs and their prison experience. The final details of the martyrdom were written by a Christian witness to their deaths in the arena. St. Perpetua’s diary is a historic record and the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman.
Perpetua was a 22 year old mother with a son a few months old. In her martyrdom, she was accompanied by her servant, Felicity, who was pregnant, and three others, including her teacher, Saturus. Perpetua was from a noble family and as a convert to Christianity, she, along with her companions, were imprisoned in the year 203AD. Their crime was defying the Emperor Septimus Severus who decreed that all imperial subjects were forbidden under severe penalties to become Christians or Jews. While in prison, Perpetua’s father, who was not a Christian, begged her to deny her faith, but she would not. Knowing that they were to suffer and die for Christ, Felicity, desiring to be martyred with her companions, but unable because she was carrying a new life in her womb, gave birth to her child in prison and the child was given into the care of another Christian, in order that the companions might die together. The night before their martyrdom, they partook of an agape meal or meal of love in the Christian tradition and they went to their deaths in the arena the next day with radiant faith.
The faithful lives of these Christians brought about the conversion of their jailer, Pudens, and many witnesses. Even to this day, those reading of these holy martyrdoms receive the witness of faith and may yet be converted to Christ on the basis of this ancient diary of an early Christian woman and her companions who put nothing in this world before their faith in Christ.
Read St. Perpetua’s diary here: http://www.amyrachelpeterson.com/Groups/1000004968/Saint_Perpetua/Perpetua_The_Martyr/Read_Perpetuas_Prison/Read_Perpetuas_Prison.aspx
An historical production of the lives and martyrdoms of this group of Saints has been produced on DVD by Christian History Institute/Torchlighters. It is called “The Perpetua Story.” This DVD is excellently done and worthy of viewing! There are two versions of the account on the DVD, a 30 minute or so animated version (for a younger crowd) and the other is a documentary which runs about an hour. The documentary follows Perpetua’s written diary and was filmed in Tunisia where the martyrdom took place. This version is more suitable for teens/adults. Visit www.torchlighters.org and you will find some audio downloads available. The DVD is distributed by Vision Video and you can also find a digital download of the movie by visiting their site www.visionvideo.com and typing in Perpetua Story.
Torchlighters produces a number of fine videos focusing on the courage and Christian witness of well-known Protestant Christians as you will see by the other DVD’s they have available. Noting what a wonderful job they did with The Perpetua Story, we can pray that they might be inspired to further investigate the lives of early Christian martyrs and produce other inspiring programs based on those witnesses.