The martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity is one of the most heroic stories of early Christians defying the world. Perpetua was a Cartheginian noblewoman and Felicity was her slave. Yet, they were both catechist in the Church and shared a sisterly bond that went beyond social status. Both were new mothers at the time they were thrown to wild beast and embraced death for their Christian beliefs despite pleas from thier families to comply to Roman demands. Some in Punic culture prefered death than to be subject to Roman authority. These women of faith embraced the promise of God’s eternal kingdom rather than an earthly empire.
More than likely, Christians will not face persecution to that level in America. But, our society constantly makes demands and distractions that weaken our devotion to the Lord and live to our calling. Our hyper-polarized political climate makes it hard to see and accept the legitimacy of someone else’s point of view. There are movie and television channels aimed at nearly ever interest and taste with round the clock programing. We spend quite a bit of time communing to and from workplaces where any sign of being unproductive is measured and quantified. Our consumer driven economy constantly encourages us to keep up with and exceed the Jones’s. Third century Rome was far more brutal to Christianity. Twenty-first century America distorts and markets our faith to be an accessory to whatever lifestyle we choose. A renunciation of our world can be done by deliberately and consistently making time for prayer.
When I say, “prayer,” I don’t mean a few quick sentences mummbled under one’s breath while swallowing a sausage biscuit heading off to work (which does have some value). Nor is it limited to telling Jesus about our troubles. Saint John Chrysostom gives us a greater purpose: “We pray not to inform or instruct God, but to be intimate with Him.” This purpose is not gained as an afterthought or only in times of crisis. Only by sacrificing minutes of attention can we have the sort of prayer that helps us overcome sins, increase virtues, and grow closer to God.
“How many minutes?” “When should I make the sacrifice?” Consulting an experienced spiritual father (or mother) is a good first step. As a general rule, start where you can and when you are most alert. Some of us are early birds, others are night owls. Wake up a little earlier, or stay up a little later as need be. One may not need to give up a favorite TV show or other entertainment. Consider cutting out other programs. The Bible is essential reading and there is a wide variety of helpful books on the market. Sharing with a reliable guide is the best way to find titles and topics to best suit your needs . Two young mothers gave their lives for the faith against an anti-Christian empire. Who are we not to give a few extra minutes in a confused society as ours.