In 181AD Perpetua was born into a noble family in ancient Carthage, in north Africa. 22 years later – after Perpetua had married and given birth to her first-born, a son – she was arrested and imprisoned along with a few others for converting to Christianity. The small band of criminal converts included two freemen, Saturus, and Seculdulus; two slaves Revocatus and 8-month expectant Felicity and Perpetua herself.
The diary was Perpetua’s – and starts with her arguing with her father over her recent conversion. He wants her to recant and deny her faith – but Perpetua refuses and is quickly baptized on her way to prison. The guards are bribed and Perpetua moves to a better part of the prison and is allowed to keep her son with her – which leads her to declare that she’d rather be in prison with her son than anywhere else in the world.
Most heart-rending of Perpetua’s diary are her father’s and the Roman governor’s pleas that she renounce her faith. “Daughter, have pity on my grey head – have pity on me your father, if I deserve to be called your father … Do not abandon me to be the reproach of men. Think of your brothers, your mother and your aunt, think of your child!” Hilarianus, the governor presiding over the case states – “Have pity on your father’s grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors” Hilarianus even has Perpetua’s father beat in an attempt to force her re-conversion.
Perpetua’s response – as well as that of her fellow inmates – is “I will not”
On March 7th, 203 Perpetua and her friends paid the highest price for their faith. That this happened 1810 years ago – seems impossible – but I am in awe of their courage.