St. Perpetua and Her Companions are some of the most well-known martyrs of the early Church. Their feast day is next Thursday March 7th. Their story is touching and heroic. The main character in the martyrdom is St. Perpetua; she was a young woman from a wealthy family, a recent widow, and a new mother. Her companions were Felicitas (a slave), Revocatus (a slave), Saturninus, and Secundus. Their story is important and remembered because of Perpetua’s visions leading up to her martyrdom. She was given visions of her martyrdom including her fight with Satan in the arena and a vision of heaven. Perpetua was also only a catechumen (not baptized) at the time of her arrest.
After sometime in prison, they were brought before the court for a hearing. Perpetua’s father was there and pleaded with her to denounce Christ and come home. She refused to give up her faith and left her future up to God. After this meeting she was given a vision of her younger brother who died unbaptized at the age of seven. She was that he was doing well and his disfigurement was reduced to a scar. Before meeting with her father she was given a vision telling her she would be martyred. Later she was also given another vision of her fighting with an Egyptian in the arena. She interpreted this vision as meaning; she would not fight only with the wild beasts in the arena, but with Satan, but she would overcome him. This was important for future generations of martyrs and Christians.
Felicitas was pregnant at the time of her imprisonment and was worried she might not be martyred because she was pregnant. However, the day before the others were to be martyred she gave birth and was able to join them. So this situation is extremely foreign to much of the Christian world today. The idea that someone would be worried about not being martyred is so odd to our culture. The virtue of martyrdom has been quite downplayed in our culture. We might hear about martyrdom and persecution somewhere else, but we do not experience it in a real way. Remembering the martyrdoms of the past and being informed about the martyrdoms happening right now might help us with this. Also knowing how the ancient church viewed, discussed, and theologized martyrdom is important now, it reminds us what the cost of following Christ can really be.
I would suggest going back and reading my posts on Imitators of Christ, which I posted in May of 2012. They will help you understand how the early Church viewed martyrdom and why it was and is so important.