July 10, 2017

⛪ Saint Felicity and Her Seven Sons

Saint of the Day : July 10

Mother of seven sons, all of whom were martyred :

Alexander, Felix, Januarius, Martialis, Philip, Silvanus, Vitalis

Felicity, a wealthy widow, had dedicated herself to raising her sons, praying and charity. When her example convinced friends and neighbors to become Christians and stop honoring the Roman gods, the priests of the Roman Forum complained to Emperor Antonius Pius (138-161).

Although Antonius disliked Christians and did order the deaths of St. Polycarp and 11 followers in Smyrna, Felicity and her sons survived until Marcus Aurelius (161-180) was in power.

Eventually, they were brought before the magistrate Publius, who warned Felicity of serious consequences for her sons unless she made the sacrifices.

“Do not threaten me,” she said. “The spirit of God is with me and will overcome every assault you make.”

Publius told her that, if she wanted to die, she should do so, but to think of her sons. Felicity replied, “My young children will live forever.”

They were given another chance the next day. They again refused and Felicity said, “Children, look up to heaven where Jesus Christ with his saints awaits you.” Publius had her beaten and taken away. He then promised each son freedom if he made the sacrifice. When all refused, he had them imprisoned.

The next day, as Felicity watched, they were killed, starting with the eldest. Januarius was whipped. Felix and Phillip were beaten to death. Silvanus was drowned in the Tiber. Then Alexander, Vitalis, Martial and Felicity herself were beheaded.

While this account was accepted for years, recent scholarship has raised questions. It’s now thought that six of the seven men were murdered in three locations, all away from Felicity, and that only one was related to her: Silvanus. And that’s only because the two were buried near each other. In addition, the church for centuries has celebrated the martyrdom of the seven men on July 10, while Felicity is remembered in November.

Regardless, it remains a strong story of faith.

Nor should this Felicity be confused with the third century North African martyrs Perpetua (a noble woman) and Felicity (her slave).

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