Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

3/7/2012 (2 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 (2 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More Christian Saints & Heroes

Saint Teresa of Avila: Virgin and Doctor of Prayer Watch

Image of St. Teresa of Avila

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

St. Teresa's whole life is one of simple beauty and fervent purpose; it is a life contained in Christ. She shows us how to live the same way through Prayer.On reading from St. Teresa, a deep feeling of her love for His Majesty envelops us; we begin, in a very real, ... continue reading


Femine Genius, Holiness and St. Teresa of Avila Watch

Image of Teresa of Avila was a mystic as well as an active and effective disciple of Jesus Christ. She demonstrates that the two expressions of the one Christian Way of Life can and should work together in our own experience - no matter what out vocation or state in life. This insight lies at the heart of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council's on the Universal Call to Holiness.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his ... continue reading


From St Francis of Assisi to the Faithful: We Must be Simple Watch

Image of St. Francis of Assisi

By St. Francis of Assisi

We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all ... continue reading


St Therese of the Child Jesus: In the Heart of the Church I Will Be Love Watch

Image of Perhaps one of the most beloved saints of the Catholic Church,Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873-1897) had wisdom beyond any formal learning which came from the depth of her interior life

By St Therese of Lisieux

O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its ... continue reading


The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels and Powerful Spiritual Allies Sent by Love and for Love Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us - The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). Charged by God to ... continue reading


Pope Cornelius and Bishop Cyprian are Examples for this Age of Martyrs Watch

Image of The blessed Cyprian suffered martyrdom on 14 September, under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, but in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory for ever. Amen.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

God and his angels look down upon us; Christ, who looks on as we do battle in the contest of faith. What great dignity and glory are ours, what happiness to struggle in the presence of God and to be crowned by Christ our judge. Let us be armed with a great ... continue reading


Feast of St Augustine of Hippo: Defender of Truth Watch

Image of St. Augustine:

By F. K. Bartels

If there is any message which can be drawn from St. Augustine's life, and there are many, it is the message of repentance and conversion. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear today. It is one of heartfelt dedication to Christ as Master, Teacher and ... continue reading


Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Reminds Us that 'Love Is Sufficient of Itself' Watch

Image of Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the ... continue reading


Saint Clare Shows Us How The Path of Simplicity Can Lead To A Greater Love for Christ

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

We learn from St. Clare both the importance of giving one's life to Christ as well as the sublime, eternal rewards of doing so. When we leave the fleeting, temporary created objects of the world behind, no longer placing our trust in them or seeing them as inordinately ... continue reading


Fr. Paul Schenck on Edith Stein: Daughter of Israel, Daughter of the Church Watch

Image of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz: Throughout her life, Edith never renounced or denounced her Jewish identity. Rather, as demonstrated in her memoir, her participation in Jewish customs at home, her letter to the Pope and in her correspondences, she spoke of her Jewish roots as intrinsic to her self-identification, to her views and even to aspects of her vocation

By Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck

August 9 is the Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz. In this sketch, Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, Jewish born priest and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center (Washington, DC), examines the ... continue reading


All Christian Saints & Heroes News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16
1 Once the king had settled into his palace and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
2 for you have said: love is built to last for ever, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 16:25-27
25 And now to him who can make you strong in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 21st, 2014 Image

St. Peter Canisius
December 21: In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter