Sts. Perpetua and Felicity
"When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, 'Do you see this vessel—waterpot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?' 'No,' he replied. 'So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.'"
So writes Perpetua, young, beautiful, well-educated, a noblewoman of Carthage in North Africa, mother of an infant son and chronicler of the persecution of the Christians by Emperor Septimius Severus.
Despite threats of persecution and death, Perpetua, Felicity (a slavewoman and expectant mother) and three companions, Revocatus, Secundulus and Saturninus, refused to renounce their Christian faith. For their unwillingness, all were sent to the public games in the amphitheater. There, Perpetua and Felicity were beheaded, and the others killed by beasts.
Perpetua's mother was a Christian and her father a pagan. He continually pleaded with her to deny her faith. She refused and was imprisoned at 22.
In her diary, Perpetua describes her period of captivity: "What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby.... Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but I obtained leave for my baby to remain in the prison with me, and being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else."
Felicity gave birth to a girl a few days before the games commenced.
Perpetua's record of her trial and imprisonment ends the day before the games. "Of what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will." The diary was finished by an eyewitness.
Persecution for religious beliefs is not confined to Christians in ancient times. Consider Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who, with her family, was forced into hiding and later died in Bergen-Belsen, one of Hitler's death camps during World War II. Anne, like Perpetua and Felicity, endured hardship and suffering and finally death because she committed herself to God. In her diary Anne writes, "It's twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God."
Perpetua, unwilling to renounce Christianity, comforted her father in his grief over her decision, "It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly we depend not on our own power but on the power of God."
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
Dear Lord as I come to you today
Lord, may I never take the gift
Help me Lord to be more conscious of your presence. Teach me to recognise your presence in others. Fill my heart with gratitude for the times Your love has been shown to me through the care of others.
The Word of God
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted friend to another.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit. (Psalm 51:19)
Have you ever tried to poke a plastic drinking straw through a raw potato? There's a trick to it. In order to get the straw to penetrate the surface, you have to imagine that you are aiming for the space on the other side of the potato. You have to focus your energy on the goal, not the "obstacle" of the potato; then you'll be able to pierce the tough exterior. If you focus on the outside of the potato, the straw will only hit the surface and bend or barely go in. It won't work unless you intentionally "think beyond the potato."
This idea of focusing intently on the other side can help illustrate a central point in today's readings: when you do something sacrificial for the Lord, keep your eyes on the goal, not the sacrifice itself.
In the first reading, the prophet tells us that God doesn't like it when his people fast for a few days but then fight as soon as the fast is over. It's clear that their hearts have not been changed. They were fasting only because it was required, not because they wanted to draw closer to the Lord. He explains that fasting has value only if it results in a greater concern for the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. Likewise, in Psalm 51, David acknowledges that God loves the "sacrifice" of a contrite heart more than a "burnt offering" made out of duty or obligation. And finally, Jesus tells his opponents that fasting is appropriate only when we are far from him, the "bridegroom," and want to come closer to him.
Clearly, God wants us to keep our fasting in perspective. He wants us to keep the goal in the forefront of our minds. He knows that if we lose sight of the goal, we will be like the straw bending and breaking at the first contact with the potato.
So as you fast and give up things this Lent, keep your eyes focused on the transformation that God wants to do in your heart. Keep envisioning the person he wants you to become, and you'll find your way through to the other side.
"Lord, use this season to help me grow closer to you. Jesus, I want to embrace your plans for my life!"
Isaiah 58:1-9; Matthew 9:14-15
Allow me to translate today's 5minutos:
"If you let yourself be open to, if you pray, if you love, you will go dying to self, dying the death of Christ, that will go on living in you. And no longer will you go on living, it will be Christ who will go on living in you. To convert yourself is to Christify yourself. Review this whole week of Lent. More frequent failures that we should avoid:
-We are not poor, nor austere, but very consuming, very fitted; we can fall into greed.
- We are not humble, we like to prevail, stand out, compete; that is why we can fall into envy and in the comparative eagerness.
-We are not merciful, more like insensible, intolerant; we can fall into the hardness of heart.
-We are not in solidarity, nor generous ("each one to their home, and God in all"), nor do we know how to share; we can fall into injustice.
-We are not peaceful nor peacemakers, we arrive easily to violence, in words and attitudes, we don't even know how to make peace, it results as a risk; we can fall into cruelty.
- We do no know how to pray, we live superficially, dumped to the outside, doing our will; we can fall into distancing from God.
- We do not know how to love, we love self excessively, we are selfish, we do not love one another like Jesus taught us; we can fall into a spiritual death. "
These first 3 days of Lent are the first 3 steps we've taken on the journey together. If you have goofed on your sacrifice, take heart, baby steps lead to better walking, and we are speaking about walking closer to God to holiness. Today and tomorrow you will do better and walk better. Because some may have given up something but still went for it, whether that sweet cake or that sweet temptation, to fall into sin. What you have to envision is a life without it, without you giving into self but giving to Him. That is what the first Holy Scripture spoke of and in few words, Jesus fulfilled in the Holy Gospel. The Psalms combine with our prayer "A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn". This is what is all about. Imagine, for lent, you took on the normal so called sacrifice and that is a cloak you wear over your head. Sure it shows God you are doing "what you are supposed to do" but then, after lent, you take off the cloak and what? Back to your old self? "Hey guys I'm back! Let's party!". LOL, no, that's not what this journey is about. If anything we should come out ready to serve more and in new ways, because this is what happened to our Master on his 40 day journey...soon after He was ready to serve self over and over, and over again to the point of serving His own body and blood. This is the self-serving we are intended to be and to do, serve self to others, not serve things to yourself! If anything, we shan't wear a cloak, but show ourselves in full to the world, beaming as if to say "this is who God wants me to be and I'm doing it"! This is the light that the Holy Scripture said today "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn...". Only then will you cry for help and you will hear the words "Here I Am". The very words we were to have said to Him first! It is said that the closer we come to God, the closer He comes to us. It is truth, and that is the purpose of our journey. What God really wants, we really need to consider to give. Does He want your sweet cake? Or does He want your heart? Does He want your words? Or does He want your actions? Does He want you to act like Jesus, or does He want you to actually be Jesus? Because what He wants was said in the Holy Scriptures. "Why do we fast and ya'll don't" they asked the Son of Man, the reason for fasting! You see, it's like going to Church, just out of habit and not realizing the whole reason for being there. That being said, let your sacrifices lead you to Christ. Today we abstain from meat, and He offers His instead, food for thought, but more...food for souls. I say this because this lent, I'm doing what you are doing, but spiritually, I want Christ to live in body and blood, in front of your face...in the flesh