St. Felicitas

St. Felicitas, 35" x 60," Oil on Panel, by Melissa Carmon

St. Felicitas, 35" x 60," Oil on Panel, by Melissa Carmon


To be read side by side, with the poem of St. Perpetua

1. Who keeps watch
over the soul
like a true friend

you had been together
through the hum of days

You couldn’t have said when
it happened that you
became friends

For what is a friend
if not an equal and a servant
each looking after
the interests of the other
—though you would not
have said it so

To see her go without you
you could not do
for there is a friend who
sticks closer than a brother

Who keeps watch
by the bedside
like a true friend? 
through terrors, and
sickness, labor and fear,
and morning breakfast,
and days that
stretch on like a green meadow

2. What has a servant girl
to say to an emperor?

her gentleness shouts, 
her pale form in the field
disturbs his dreams
her tenderness
arouses regret
in a gore-hungry crowd
from the parapet of her innocence
she lays waste the mighty

the strength of her sweetness
finds no comprise
in her humility, her service
she never bends


From the crest of ocean waves
she twinkles merrily
in a land of sunbeams
she sits in a garden, with Perpetua,
and they converse with dignity
and laugh over an old joke

While below, her infant son
toddles to the arms of a foster mother
and grows up steadily
into a fine young man


Historical Background: 

Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas are always commemorated together, in part because they were best friends in a way that defied class boundaries, but most notably because they were killed together in the arena.  This happened early in the third century C.E., and they were killed as part of a celebration of the emperor's birthday.  Either could have potentially escaped an early death, but only at the cost of betraying their own convictions.  Felicitas was actually Perpetua’s slave, however, class boundaries were  discarded. The two young women were best friends, and both of them were pregnant at the time they were arrested.  When it was still unclear whether their imprisonment would end in death, Perpetua had a vision of a beautiful garden.  She interpreted this to mean that they would die and be in heaven afterward.  St. Felicitas was nearly excluded from the execution because she was still pregnant, but gave birth in prison.  She was killed with Perpetua and several of their companions.