Daily Reading for March 7 • Perpetua and her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 202
While we were still under arrest, my father out of love for me was trying to persuade me and shake my resolution. “Father,” said I, “do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?”
“Yes, I do,” said he. And I told him: “Could it be called by any other name than what it is?” And he said: “No.”
“Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.”
At this my father was so angered by the word “Christian” that he moved towards me as though he would pluck my eyes out. But he left it at that and departed, vanquished along with his diabolical arguments.
For a few days afterwards I gave thanks to the Lord that I was separated from my father, and I was comforted by his absence. During these few days I was baptized, and I was inspired by the Spirit not to ask for any other favour after the water but simply the perseverance of the flesh. A few days later we were lodged in the prison; and I was terrified, as I had never before been in such a dark hole. What a difficult time it was! With the crowd the heat was stifling; then there was the extortion of the soldiers; and to crown all, I was tortured with worry for my baby there.
Then Tertius and Pomponius, those blessed deacons who tried to take care of us, bribed the soldiers to allow us to go to a better part of the prison to refresh ourselves for a few hours. Everyone then left that dungeon and shifted for himself. I nursed my baby, who was faint from hunger. In my anxiety I spoke to my mother about the child, I tried to comfort my brother, and I gave the child in their charge. I was in pain because I saw them suffering out of pity for me. These were the trials I had to endure for many days. Then I got permission for my baby to stay with me in prison. At once I recovered my health, relieved as I was of my worry and anxiety over the child. My prison had suddenly become a palace, so that I wanted to be there rather than anywhere else. . . .
The day before we were to fight with the beasts I saw the following vision. Pomponius the deacon came to the prison gates and began to knock violently. I went out and opened the gate for him. He was dressed in an unbelted white tunic, wearing elaborate sandals. And he said to me: “Perpetua, come; we are waiting for you.”
Then he took my hand and we began to walk through rough and broken country. At last we came to the amphitheatre out of breath, and he led me into the centre of the arena. Then he told me: “Do not be afraid. I am here, struggling with you.”
From the prison diary of Perpetua, quoted in The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, texts and translation by Herbert Musurillo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972).