Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

3/7/2012 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With the gifts of the Holy Spirit, our human nature is elevated, which empowers us to act in ways proper only to God

Fortitude enables one "to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause" (CCC 1808). Yet the gifts of the Holy Spirit elevate us further, and give to us the power and ability required in order to readily sacrifice our life as a gift of self to Christ.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Perpetua and Felicity were given a share in actions proper only to God, and thus were enabled to freely offer their life for the love of the Son of God.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Perpetua and Felicity were given a share in actions proper only to God, and thus were enabled to freely offer their life for the love of the Son of God.

Highlights

By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/7/2012 (4 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Perpetua, Felicity, Saints and Martyrs, the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity, gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts of grace, grace, infused grace, F. K. Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- There is a most beautiful account of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity's deaths by martyrdom extant in The Story of the Death of the Holy Martyrs of Carthage, of which an excerpt is found in the Liturgy of The Hours for the Lenten Season (see also New Advent). It begins with these sublime words: "The day of the martyrs' victory dawned. They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing. If they trembled it was for joy and not for fear."

Here we immediately get a sense of a moment in time in which two of God's precious children, infused by supernatural grace and burning with charity, met with astounding courage and fortitude circumstances that would normally strike paralyzing terror into the hearts of men. Rather than fear, these saints were filled with joy; in contrast to hesitation and the instinct to flee in the face of death, they marched forward in eager anticipation of an approaching, violent demise.

Imprisoned and sentenced to death by wild beasts at Carthage during the persecution of Septimus Severus, Sts. Perpetua and her slave Felicity, along with three of their companions, perhaps endured their greatest torments in the days preceding their martyrdom. It is impossible to comprehend what it would be like to await such a death. There could be no escape for the victims; their long days of imprisonment in dark and dank quarters were surely filled with horrifying thoughts and images of what lie before them: the devastating claws and teeth of bears and leopards; the angry snorts of boars, and the deadly horns of wild cows.

Perpetua was a young mother who had recently given birth to a son. The dark cell forced upon her as her uncomfortable residence, combined with the savagery of the prison guards, must have thrown her into misery. Further, who can imagine the indescribable pain inflicted upon a mother's heart at the thought of leaving her young child behind? Also, Felicity was pregnant at the time, and gave birth to her daughter -- later adopted by a Christian woman -- only two days prior to her martyrdom.

These courageous women and their three companions were sentenced to suffer unimaginable deaths because they refused to apostatize: they would not trade the Christian faith and the promise of an eternal life immersed in Love Itself for the pagan practice of sacrificing to the gods.

Rather than forgo that incomparable Beauty and boundless Love we call God, Perpetua, Felicity and the others marched with certainty of faith and hope into the arena as if into heaven itself. "Perpetua was the first to be thrown down, . . . She got up and, seeing that Felicity was prostrate, went over and reached out her hand to her and lifted her up. . . ."

Ordered to the gate called Sanavivaria, Perpetua was welcomed there "by a catechumen named Rusticus. Rousing herself as if from sleep (so deeply had she been in spiritual ecstasy), she began to look around. To everyone's amazement she said: 'When are we going to be led to the beast?' When she heard that it had already happened she did not at first believe it until she saw the marks of violence on her body and her clothing."

Having survived the wild beasts, the onlookers demanded that the saints be led to the middle of the amphitheater, where they would be slain by the sword. Perpetua had to be helped along the way due to her broken body. After the kiss of peace, Perpetua, "that she might experience the pain more deeply, . . . guided the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman -- one before whom the unclean spirit trembled -- could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it."

Infused Grace: Supernatural Gifts Which Elevate and Perfect Human Nature

We might ask, how could anyone endure such horror with such joy? We might find within ourselves the natural ability to suffer for some desired concrete reward. But would we do so joyfully? That is doubtful. Further, while most of us would find the strength to die in order to save our own child, is it within our human power the ability to die for something invisible, something promised by faith that we have neither seen nor heard? Is it within our natural human power to offer our life with joy in order to obtain an abstract good?

What gives to us the power -- what adds to what is naturally possible for the human person -- necessary to face our own death with great courage and determination as did Sts. Perpetua and Felicity? In order to accomplish such a feat, we need something that will elevate our human nature and therefore enable us to achieve that which was formerly beyond our capability. Obviously, we are speaking about something we cannot acquire for ourselves; thus it must be a free gift. And since it is not natural to us, it is by definition a supernatural gift: a gift from God. It is only with such a gift that we can possess the power to confidently withstand the extreme tension involved in the type of deaths these martyrs endured with joy.

Here we arrive at the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see CCC 1831). First received in the sacrament of Baptism and later strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit elevate and perfect the acquired and infused cardinal virtues (see CCC Article 7); in fact elevate our nature in such a way as to give us a share in actions proper only to God. In virtue of these gifts, Perpetua and Felicity were aided supernaturally as they shared in God's own divine life. Therefore they embraced the wild cow's horns with a fortitude that was beyond strictly human power.

But even before we can speak of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we first must speak of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, in which all human virtues are rooted (CCC 1812), and which are themselves gifts. It is by faith that Perpetua and Felicity believed in God and all that he has said and revealed through the Church; it is by hope that they desired heaven and eternal life as their happiness, and trusted in Christ's promises and his power to see them safely along their journey to its sublime end; and it is by charity that they were given the ability to love God "above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (see CCC 1814 ff.).

Empowered by Love to Live in New Ways: Right Here, Right Now

Perpetua and Felicity's wondrous story of martyrdom, in which we learn of the inexpressible beauty of the supreme gift of self to Christ, remains meaningful and relevant for us today. How so? While we may not be required to shed our blood upon the tips of raging animal's horns, nor find it fitting to guide the executioner's sword to our throats, we nevertheless are called to a type of martyrdom in which we freely give of our life in order to defend the teaching of our Savior, living according to his law of love as true disciples.

Further, the true disciple defends and upholds with charity and tenderness the teaching of holy mother Church unceasingly, whether at home or at work or at social gatherings or in the public square, for she is Christ's Bride whose life was gained at the cost of our Savior's sacrificial death on the Roman cross. It is through the Church, the sacrament of salvation, in which we receive the sacraments of life and the words of truth so crucial to living a fully human life.

It is unnecessary to list the many and varied elements, perhaps inspired diabolically by the Father of Lies, of today's society which undermine the very foundation of what we believe and know to be true as Christians. It is enough to say that the threatening wild cow of the present, whose horns are indeed set to impale us, is the anti-gospel of which Blessed John Paul II warned.

Let us beg for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then rely on them in hope; let us live according to the Spirit's tender and compassionate love; and let us forever keep our eyes fixed on Christ and the wondrous salvific plans of the Father. Then, let us go forth empowered by grace to act in ways proper only to God, that we may live and die as Christians. Let us follow in the example of Perpetua and Felicity.

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:10).

-----

F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2016
Universal:
Human Solidarity: That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find-even within the huge cities of the world-opportunities for encounter and solidarity.
Evangelization: Seminarians and Novices: That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.



Comments


More Christian Saints & Heroes

St Irenaeus of Lyon Teaches Us How to Know God Watch

Image of Irenaeus of Lyon wrote these words - The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason, God-who cannot be grasped, comprehended, or seen-allows Himself to be seen, comprehended, and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy His goodness.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

This great defender of the faith insisted on the central claim of Christianity: God can be known and loved-indeed, that is why He came into our midst in the person of His Son; so that through a  relationship with Jesus Christ, man could participate in the ... continue reading


Here's 3 reasons why the canonization of Mother Teresa matters to you Watch

Image of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an example for all to follow, even the nonbeliever.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Her canonization is an important event for Catholics and all people around the world. Here's 3 reasons why. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When Mother Teresa is ... continue reading


Bet you didn't know these 10 things about St. Patrick and Ireland!

Image of Saint Patrick in blue vestments.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The most kids know of St. Patrick 's Day is that you must wear green or you'll get a pinch from your friends. Adults see the day as an occasion to celebrate, sometimes with green beer and other assorted alcoholic beverages. However, few really know what they are ... continue reading


After the Corned Beef: St. Patrick Challenges Modern Christians to be Missionaries

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to learn a lesson from this great missionary. He saw what was good in the culture and "baptized" what could be redeemed. He respected the civil order, but never compromised the faith. Then, he went for the next generation with all his efforts, preaching the ... continue reading


Who was the man named Saint Patrick?

Image of Saint Patrick not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, but it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites.

By Catholic Online

Saint Patrick - remembered with parades, the wearing of green and feasts throughout the world wherever there are people of Irish descent, or wish to be -- was the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland who is credited with bringing Christianity to the country. ... continue reading


Pope Francis continues tradition of blessing two lambs in memory of St. Agnes Watch

Image of St. Agnes is honored with the blessing of two lambs (Wordpress).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On Thursday Pope Francis celebrated St. Agnes' feast day in the Vatican by continuing the centuries-old tradition of blessing two lambs in her honor. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Traditionally, the lambs blessed on January 21 are under a year old and their first ... continue reading


Jennifer Hartline: Trying to Learn Humility From St. Therese Watch

Image of St. Therese of Lisieux

By Jennifer Hartline

St. Therese helps me understand: "the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the ... continue reading


Saints and Heroes of the Faith: Fr Dwight Longenecker On The Day I Met St Therese Watch

Image of St. Therese

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

I was an Anglican priest the summer I met St Therese of Lisieux. I was living in England and had three months free between jobs, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was going to hitch hike and stay in monasteries and religious houses on the way. ... continue reading


Vocation to Love. Memorial of Saint Theresa of The Child Jesus, Virgin

Image of St. Theresa died on September 30, 1897. As a result of her sanctity and the many miracles which were accounted to her intercession, the cause for her canonization was introduced only seventeen years later.

By F. K. Bartels

The Little Flower of Jesus sacrificed her life for love of souls. She saw the magnitude of her Beloved's love for them. She offered herself for the building up of the Church, the People of God and the Mystical Body of Christ. That is truly a ... continue reading


A Promise to God: St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle Watch

Image of Michael is also represented in icons as standing on a horizontal body and with his left arm held high, holding a small image of a

By Youngsun Jun

Though I am not strong enough to hold the suffering souls in my arms and carry them home, I can do one thing: I can pray for the deliverance of the souls who are in the darkness. I can request help from the angels for them. I can make a 911 call for them. So again, I ... continue reading


All Christian Saints & Heroes News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • 'I especially loved watching the baby walking himself out of the ...
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: God, Thank you for keeping me together
  • Shoulder Wound of Christ HD Video
  • St. Innocent I: Saint of the Day for Thursday, July 28, 2016
  • Why don't people like Hillary Clinton? Yale researchers have an answer!
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, July 28, 2016
  • Blessing of an Automobile HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be a man of strife and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence save me.3 ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 27th, 2016 Image

St. Pantaleon
July 27: St Pantaleon came from Nicomedia, near the Black ... Read More