november 8. Perpetua, who was martyred alongside her slave and/or lover
Patron of mothers, expectant mothers, ranchers, and butchers
Perpetua was a matron of 22, mother to a tiny baby, and a writer who penned an account of her own martyrdom. Perpetua's prison diary is the oldest preserved written work by a Christian woman. According to one chronicler, the Microsoft Word font called Perpetua was named for her.
When she came out as Christian to her father, he threw himself on Perpetua "as if he would pluck out [her] eyes" but in the end God vanquished him. Shortly after her baptism, she and four other Christians (including a pregnant slave and future saint named Felicitas) were captured and made prisoner. After days of anxiety, Perpetua was permitted to keep her baby with her in prison. She writes in her prison diary, "my prison suddenly became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else."
PROPHETIC MILK CURDS
At her brother's urging, Perpetua prayed for a vision to show whether suffering or release was in store for her. God complied and she had the following vision: a long golden ladder reached into heaven, but it was so narrow that only one person at a time could ascend it. Swords, lances, hooks, daggers, and other weapons were fastened to the sides of the ladder so that anyone who climbed up in haste or without looking skywards would ribbon their flesh. A dragon was in wait at the ladder's foot. A fellow prisoner was the first to ascend, and he turned to warn Perpetua to avoid the dragon's bite. Brave Perpetua then trod on the dragon's head. At the top of the ladder, she saw a vast garden. In the midst of it all was a white-haired man in shepherd's clothing. Surrounded by thousands of others in white, the man called Perpetua my child and offered her curds from the sheep he was milking.
Perpetua woke up with the taste of the curds on her lips. She told her brother their fate was to suffer.
On the day of their execution, Felicitas and Perpetua held hands. In response to the prisoners' prayers, Felicitas gave birth to her daughter prematurely, and she rejoiced to be killed with her companion. "They marched from their cells to the amphitheater as if into heaven. [ . . .] If they trembled it was for joy and not fear." According to one blogger, some Christians consider Perpetua and Felicitas to be lesbian saints and call them the patronesses of same-sex lovers. Another blogger states that this is inaccurate; instead their relationship was that of a master and slave.
When it came time for Perpetua to denounce her faith, her father came forward with her son, begging her to forget her pride, but she refused and declared herself a Christian. In prison that night, God ordered that her son would no longer need to nurse, and Perpetua's milk ceased to incommode her. That same evening, the tortures commenced, and Perpetua received a beating on her face.
The next day, the five prisoners were brought to the arena to be mauled by wild animals before a jeering crowd. Each prisoner came to the arena with a distinct martyrdom fantasy, and God made their wishes come true. Perpetua and Felicitas were exposed to a mad heifer, who tossed them about and injured them. In ecstasy, the each felt uninjured despite being gouged. After a time, the heifer was led away and the bruised pair gave each other a parting kiss. Perpetua had to guide the sword of the nervous executioner to her throat.