Saturday, March 7, 2009


“Sts. Perpetua and Felicity”
Artist and Date UNKNOWN


Biographical Information about Saints
Perpetua and Felicity[1]

Readings for the Memorial of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity

Readings and Commentary:

Romans 8:31b-39

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
As it is written:

For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Commentary on
Rom 8:31b-39

St. Paul bursts into a hymn proclaiming the victory over death and suffering experienced by the faithful, lifted up by God in Christ. The premise that the love of God assures salvation to the faithful is strengthened as the evangelist asks the rhetorical question “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” Over all obstacles (human, physical, and metaphysical – “height and depth” probably referred to ancient astrological terms indicating the closest proximity and the most distant star from the zenith), is the love of God expressed in Christ as the unshakable foundation of Christian life and hope.

The Apostle quotes Psalm 44:23 as his song denies that even death is a barrier between the faithful and God’s love. No earthly or spiritual force can stand against such love as that shown in Christ Jesus.

CCC: Rom 8:31 2852; Rom 8:32 603, 706, 2572; Rom 8:34 1373, 2634
Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7-8

R. (7) Our soul has escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Had not the LORD been with us
when men rose up against us,
Then would they have swallowed us alive,
when their fury was inflamed against us.

R. Our soul has escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept
the raging waters.

R. Our soul has escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Commentary on
Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7-8

The psalm is one of thanksgiving to the Lord for his gift of salvation – salvation from physical enemies; salvation from nature’s fury. The song thanks God who rescues us if we but reach out to him.

CCC: Ps 124:8 287
Matthew 10:34-39

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man 'against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of his household.'
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Commentary on
Mt 10:34-39

The final remarks of Jesus to the Apostles as they go out to preach and heal are given in this passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. He reminds them that even though the word they spread reflects God’s love, they will be received badly by many, dividing households and families.

He goes on to tell them that those who will fully accept him and his word will undergo persecution because of him and, even if they lose their lives on His account, they will be saved. The reward given to those who accept this word and follow in his way will be great in heaven.

This discourse, recalled many years after Christ’s death and resurrection has the advantage of seeing the persecution of those who spread the word in the early Church and embodies a fuller understanding of the meaning of Christ’s teaching.

CCC: Mt 10:37 2232; Mt 10:38 1506

There is an interesting relationship between suffering for one’s faith in Christ and the joy experienced in the sure and certain knowledge that Christ’s gift of himself brings us peace and hope. It is an inverse relationship! That is, the greater the amount of suffering for the faith the steadfast Christian does, the greater the hope they experience as a consequence of their faith.

This relationship is brilliantly expressed by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. He poetically expresses this relationship with the rhetorical questions: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And then again: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” He enumerates the possible threats to life and faith quoting the psalms that describe death at the hands of enemies. He offers all manner of possible barriers that might be attempted between the faithful and the love of Christ. None of these can stand.

Ironically, the “Good News” from the Gospel of St. Matthew actually promises that these obstacles will be encountered by those who proclaim their faith in words and actions. Speaking to the Apostles as Jesus prepares them to go into the world, he emphatically tells them that the word they speak will bring contention to those who hear and believe.

As an exclamation point to the promise of the Gospel, we are provided with the examples of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. With their companions early in the third century (203 A.D.) they faced the persecution of Septimius Severus and were tortured and killed.
Accounts of this event are available and describe in detail their heroic virtue in the face of everything St. Paul could conceive.

Their example, coupled with the words of faith we hear in scripture, serves to strengthen us in our own faith. As we walk in this hostile world, we are fortunate to have such examples of courage and faith. We are also forewarned that the love of Christ we bring to a hateful and cruel people will be rejected and we along with it. At these times of testing (and we will be tested) comes St. Paul’s questioning words: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And the great hope of: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?”


[1] The icon is “Sts. Perpetua and Felicity” Artist and Date UNKNOWN
[2] Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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