Perpetua and Felicity: Empowered by The Holy Spirit for Martyrdom
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
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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
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