St. Felicitas

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

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

ST FELICITAS

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

who keeps watch
over the soul
like a true friend

together—
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 thought 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

what has a servant girl
to say to an emperor?

her gentleness shouts, 
her pale form in the field
disturbs his dreams
unexpectedly
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:  St. Felicitas was the slave of St. Perpetua, but both became Christians, and their friendship defied class boundaries.  They were martyred together in the arena, as part of a celebration of the emperor's birthday, during a persecution of people with Christian beliefs.  Either could have escaped martyrdom, but only by electing to betray their own values.  Both were forced to leave behind infant sons, and  St. Felicitas was nearly excluded from the execution because she was still pregnant.  Felicitas gave birth in prison, and was martyred with Perpetua and several of their companions.   

Melissa Carmon